Graham Nash

Review & Photos by Jay Skolnick

Graham Nash visits Our House at The Parker in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

As the sold-out crowd at The Parker took their seats on Nov 6th an air of anticipation filled the air. Still a favorite from their generation, a survivor, like them, was about to hit the stage. Many greeted each other with hugs and remembrances of when they first saw Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young so many years ago. Someone mentioned Woodstock, the famous festival in 1969. It was a time when our generation found our music heroes via magazines like Circus and Creem, rare TV appearances, and FM Radio (the underground that exposed us to “album rock” instead of 3-minute pop songs), and live concerts.

At the famous music festival, 1969’s Woodstock, in a breakout performance, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, for many, stole the show. The half a million in attendance knew it and thanks to the blockbuster movie about the festival after, millions more came to the same conclusion.

Hailing from highly successful rock groups in the 60’s, the trio/quartet found they had a unique gift when they sang together, with harmonies to die for. David Crosby (The Byrds), Steve Stills (Buffalo Springfield), Graham Nash (The Hollies), and Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield) were all seasoned stars who found themselves out of their “bands” and on their own. Smartly they decided to call their new collaboration Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young so that no matter what, each individual would always get their due recognition. Their performance at Woodstock catapulted them to new superstar status with their amazing harmonies, sweet songs, and simple stories. They also sang about the concerns of their generation with protests about where the country was going. These protest songs echoed what their generation was thinking, and CSN & Y came to be their voice on this big platform. And to show the musicians were the whole package they could get down and dirty with heavy guitar laden rock riffs still copied to this day.

The thing that endeared them the most, however, was the famous line spoken by Steve Stills at that “break out” moment at Woodstock while the fourof them sat on stools with acoustic guitars. He spoke for the guys,
“This is the second time we’ve ever played in front of people, man, we’re scared shitless.” From that
moment on they had us. Over the last fifty-five years, they performed together, fought, broke up and reunited, performed as duos, and as solo artists, always selling out shows. The catalog grew and those who loved them, loved each one of them.

The 81-year-old Nash was greeted by an enthusiastic audience at The Parker. Clad in a simple outfit, his untucked black shirt with black slacks were highlighted by his amazingly thick flock of silver white hair. The rock icon took the stage with the first of several acoustic guitars and a harmonica, alternating between them and keyboard throughout the night. Looking fit and confident and sounding much younger than his age would imply, strong vocals, as always, set the stage. We were treated to “Marrakesh Express,” “Military Madness,” “Wasted on the Way,” and my favorite, “I Used to be a King.”

As the night progressed, Nash would introduce each song with a little narrative that would produce knowing reactions and sometimes great surprise or laughter from those hearing many of the stories for the first time. The band leader thoughtfully responded to the in-sync energy in the auditorium, “I can see you are fans of this type of music,” and the rousing applause confirmed it.

The memories kept coming with the song, “Bus Stop,” a warm tribute to an old bandmate from the Hollies, Allan Clarke. Nash expressed the joy of reconnecting with Clarke, one of his oldest friends, who after many years away from the business asked him to provide just a couple vocals on his comeback project that led to Nash eventually appearing on ten of his songs. A second Hollies song was introduced as “the song that made me leave the Hollies.” Nash explained comically that the group was so used to top ten hits that when “King Midas in Reverse” didn’t do as well, and “hearing the way David and I sang together,” the decision was made to move to America.

The band leader spoke lovingly of his “brother” and partner, David Crosby, “who we lost earlier this year,” and to break the heaviness in all our hearts, he quickly quipped, “You know, David would be laughing. He always thought he was going to die many years ago.” Nash then introduced a taped version of “Critical Mass” with its intense but perfect blend of harmonies from the two artists with no lyrics, only “dadada dada dadada.” The band picked up live, continuing with “Wind on the Water” and “To The Last Whale,” a wonderful version of one of the most powerful pieces produced by the two. The touring band was showcased, as they were the entire night, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.

The band, consisting of Zach Djanikian (Madolin, Guitar, Sax, Drums, Bass, Vocals), Adam Minkoff (Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals), and Todd Caldwell (Keyboards, Vocals) proved the perfect ensemble to perform all the hits with fresh energy and incredible musicianship throughout the night. Zach and Adam switched off instruments often as Nash gave them each a chance to shine. We’ve never seen a musician play drums and bass at the same time, but Minkoff made it seem almost routine.

Next up was “Marguerita” and “Better Days,” described by Nash as “a tribute to my old girlfriends.” He also told the story about meeting Rita Coolidge at the recording session for Steve Still’s “Love the One You’re With.” The question lingered in the air, was this the moment from which the famous triad was born? A rousing version of that hit followed as the crowd joined in on the chorus and gave Caldwell a chance to let loose on his keyboards.

Nash went on to tell the story about “Immigration Man” and trying to re-enter the U.S from Canada with CSN & Y jokingly saying, “They let Crosby in? They let Stills in? And they even let Neil Young in? But I was the one with the trouble getting in?”

The audience couldn’t get enough of these stories and the soft-spoken way they were delivered. Every time a story began, the packed house was quiet, as no one wanted to miss a word.

A beautiful version of the perfect vocal exercise “Find The Cost of Freedom” showcased the incredible vocal range of this group that Nash put together for this tour.

More stories followed with the acid trip inspired visit to Stonehedge “in a big Rolls Royce.” The “trip” ended at the church and graveyard where he found himself “standing on the grave of a soldier who died in 1799, and the day he died, it was a birthday and I noticed it was mine.” The haunting “Winchester Cathedral” followed.

Another great story, Nash explained, “has two parts.” Part one began with needing some time away from the group and vacationing in Hawaii at his drug dealer friend’s place. The famous songwriter was getting ready to leave and his friend jokingly bet him 500 dollars that he couldn’t write “just a song before you go.” Nash told us how he “asked him to repeat that” and then treated us to one of his most well-known hits, “Just a Song before I Go.” Part two came after another standing ovation. “Many years later at a show a woman handed me an envelope” he said. Nash later opened it to find a check for 500 dollars from the man’s family repaying the lost bet that inspired the song. Lots of laughs erupted from the audience.

A Dylan story followed. Nash explained that while performing at Royal Albert Hall in London, Bob Dylan visited Crosby and him at their hotel room. Dylan asked if they were working on any new material and Nash played him the new song, “Southbound Train.” After he finished, as Nash put it “there was a long deafening silence” as Dylan sat there looking at him and finally, simply asked him to play it again. Nash was of course moved and expressed his fond memory of such a compliment from Dylan.

Nash also spoke lovingly about Joni Mitchell and cheers erupted as he wished her well in her battle with her health issues.

He then spoke of a time when the two of them went into town on a rainy day, and how looking in a store front, Joni saw a vase she liked and bought it. He explained that when they got home he said, “I’ll light the fire while you put the flowers in the vase that you bought today.” The audience, knowing this story well, could not contain their excitement. Everyone sang the song “Our House” with him. A more perfect moment in a show I can’t recall. I lost count on how many standing ovations there were including this one, but it must have been a record.

The last songs included the ever popular protest song “Chicago,” “Teach Your Children,” and the penultimate protest song “Ohio,” which was penned by the on and off again member of the group, Neil Young (the Y in CSN &Y but no less important a member). So many years ago, “Ohio” became an antiwar anthem to a generation. Fifty years later, just as powerful, tears flowed, and the night came to a close
Many cheers of “thank you” were yelled throughout the night. Graham Nash, still a King, let me add mine!

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