Without Crosby and Stills, Nash sparks wonderful nostalgia at Dakota Jazz Club
By Jon Bream - Courtesy of Minnesota Star Tribune
The voice was familiar. So, too, the shock of wavy white hair. And, of course, the songs.
“Our House,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Just a Song Before I Go,” “Carrie Anne,” to name a few.
Seeing rock hero Graham Nash Tuesday night in the intimate confines of the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis was indeed extra-special.
For some of the 275 baby boomers in attendance at the sold-out concert, it seemed to be a spiritual experience, reliving teenage or college years.
The evening featuring two hourlong sets seemed magical because Nash, at 76, performed with youthful enthusiasm, which was apparent in his body language and his ability to summon his full voice when he desired.
Equally important, there were harmonies, courtesy of his two sidemen, guitarist Shane Fontayne and keyboardist Todd Caldwell.
OK, it wasn’t like Crosby, Stills & Nash in their heyday. But there were harmonious connections between Nash and these two players, who also tour with CSN (though the group is on hiatus, with Nash feuding with David Crosby. Read about that in my interview with Nash.).
Their connection was particularly evident when they huddled around a single microphone for Buddy Holly’s “Every Day,” a tune they have used in pre-show warmups.
Guitarist Fontayne -- who worked with a second incarnation of Lone Justice and with Bruce Springsteen during his hiatus from the E Street Band -- was the MVP, adding seasoning to every song from the twang of “Teach Your Children” to the blistering brightness on “Chicago” to a whale noise to close “Wind on the Water.” And his harmonizing with fellow Brit-born Nash on a version of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” gave it credibility and panache.
What elevated the evening was that Nash seemed so invested in all aspects of the performance. Not only was he in good voice (even belting out hits by the Hollies like “Bus Stop” and “On a Carousel”) but he seemed so likable without really trying to turn on the charm.
The Rock Hall of Famer shared some back stories about his songs. For instance, the Hollies’ “Carrie Anne” was written about Marianne Faithfullbut “I didn’t have the balls to call it ‘Marianne.’ You shoulda seen her when she was 17. I’m amazed more songs weren’t written about her.”
He confessed that he wrote “Cathedral” about taking an LSD trip the morning after a CSNY concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. He rented a Rolls-Royce convertible (with a driver) that took him to Stonehenge and Winchester Cathedral.
Nash recalled how he wrote “Immigration Man” on a plane ride to his San Francisco home after he had been stopped at U.S. Immigrations after performing in Vancouver even though Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young all breezed right through customs.
Among the two dozen selections were a few from 2016’s “This Path Tonight,” Nash’s first solo album in 14 years. Some were written with Fontayne, he explained.
One Nash trait that was evident at the Dakota was his tenderness and willingness to show his vulnerability on such numbers as the new “Myself at Last” and CSN’s sweet “Lady of the Island.”
Even though Nash can be outspoken in interviews, in concert he confined his political comments to his songs, inserting references to President Donald Trump in “Military Madness” and “Chicago,” two well-known scorchers from his songbook.
There were playful jokes about Crosby, heartwarming stories about Joni Mitchell (Nash’s old flame whom he reports is doing better) and sing-alongs – didn’t everyone try to harmonize with CSN back in the day?
Yes, it was a wonderful evening of nostalgia for those good ol’ pass-the-joint, sing-along days. But Nash offered a reality check. Nearly one hour into the program, he called for a 20-minute intermission because, he explained, a man of his age has to pee and he wanted the concertgoers to see all the fascinating things he had for sale.
Like handwritten lyrics to some of his songs and a breathtaking photo, taken by him, of Joni Mitchell circa 1969 with light through a window slat illuminating her famous face. These items were signed by him.
Nash will perform again Wednesday night at the Dakota.