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The Morning Call Review: Graham Nash at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem plays what he, and crowd, wants

Graham Nash performs at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem on September 28. (© Brian Hineline / SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL)

Four songs into his concert Wednesday at Musikfest Café at ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, British folk-rocker Graham Nash commented on his set list.

“One of the great things about not playing with David and Stephen and Neil,” his partners in the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, he said, “Is that I can play what the f—k I want.”

But the secret to the success of the Nash’s show was that he also mostly played what the audience wanted, and played it well.

In a show that covered 21 songs in hour and 45 minutes over two sets (plus an intermission), Nash played songs from throughout his 55-year career, including several from the album “This Path Tonight,” released in April as his first solo disc in 14 years.

But what made Nash’s show far better than Crosby’s at the same venue a month ago was that, rather than focus on new or obscure material, Nash’s show was filled with some of the best songs he’s done during that career with The Hollies, CSN&Y, CSN, his earlier albums, and even his duet work with Crosby, with whom he has since had a public falling out.

At 74, dressed in jeans and an untucked shirt, with a shock of white hair, Nash opened with one of his earliest hits – The Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” the 1966 song that was the group’s biggest U.S. hit with Nash – and teased the nearly full audience for its strong response by saying, “I see you’re giving your age away. Goes by fast, doesn’t it?”

 Playing acoustic guitar and keyboard and backed by mostly electric from guitarist Shane Fontayne (who produced the new disc), Nash tended toward more gentle and introspective material, such as the soft and personal “Sleep Song,” a lovely tune from his 1971 solo debut “Songs for Beginners.”  “I Used to be King,” also from that disc, was especially good – sharp vocals over Fontayne’s atmospheric guitar.

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