Crosby, Stills & Nash – review

Royal Albert Hall, London
The vintage rockers are still delivering California sweetness, even if the harmonies waver

It's impossible not to feel apprehensive about seeing Crosby, Stills & Nash, the group who seemed to epitomise the insatiable, sunshine optimism of the late 60s counter-culture, as they head into their dotage in 2013.

The California-based trio were always riven by contradictions. They were the cantankerous hippies who couldn't get on, their history a succession of fall-outs and abandoned albums. Yet compared with fellow west coast baby-boomers the Eagles, who nowadays shuffle round the world's arena circuit going through the motions, they still appear remarkably fresh and vital.

Age has naturally taken its toll. Guitar virtuoso Stephen Stills, barefooted Brit Graham Nash and the rotund David Crosby, his white hair cascading over his shoulders, can no longer hit the meticulous high harmonies that were their trademark. Yet it also enriches them: Crosby's advanced years lend added piquancy to his musings on mortality on What Time I Have.

They were always Laurel Canyon classicists rather than psychedelic experimentalists, and their quicksilver melodies still sound sweet on Stills' Treetop Flyer, a song about Vietnam vets turned dope dealers, and Nash's Beatles-like Our House, a paean to his former domestic idyll with Joni Mitchell. Yet it's Crosby who earns the night's biggest cheer with Almost Cut My Hair, his dogged defence of the hippy dream, and "letting my freak flag fly".

Inevitably there are lulls, but a two-and-a-half hour set climaxes in soulful style with Stills' epic, episodic love song, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. The standing ovation routinely afforded to acts of this vintage is, in Crosby, Stills & Nash's case, entirely merited.

• Did you catch this gig – or any other recently? Tell us about it using #Iwasthere

• This article was amended on 10 October 2013. The earlier version misnamed Graham Nash as Brian Nash.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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