Crosby, Stills & Nash – Trusts Stadium, Auckland March 24, 2012

Thanks to our location on Mother Earth, New Zealanders often get either the beginning of a tour or the tail end. Fortunately for the audience at Trusts Stadium, Crosby, Stills & Nash chose to kick off their tour here. The trio, along with their five-piece band, hit the stage running, with an impassioned version of Carry On, that, um, carried on for eight and a half minutes. It was clear from the start that this was not going to be a night of ageing rock stars going through the motions, but rather a celebration of songs, old and new.

After a sprightly version of Graham Nash’s Marrakesh Express came one of the evening’s early highlights, David Crosby’s Long Time Gone. Crosby himself was in fine vocal form, but it was Stephen Stills and his searing guitar solo that really made the performance special.

Stills seemed rejuvenated tonight. It looks like he has lost a bit of weight, his voice sounded better than it has in years and his guitar playing was on fire. His own Southern Cross was another early favourite.

CSN didn’t stick to the hits, or to their own catalogue. David Crosby turned in another strong vocal performance on Lay Me Down, a song taken from the Crosby & Nash album of 2004. They also premiered a new song, Crosby’s Radio, before playing Graham Nash’s tribute to Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning, Almost Gone, a tune released just last December.

Stephen Stills’ Bluebird followed the lesser-known songs. It proved to be one of the more interesting performances of the evening. When he started the song, Stills raised his hands over his head, urging the crowd to sing along. He didn’t get much of a reaction…then Nash seemed to fluff a vocal line. But Stills and Nash had a brief word with each other and the song took off, ending with another blazing guitar solo from Stills. In the end, they received the first standing ovation of the night for the triumphant performance.

Deja Vu followed, featuring some stunning harmonies, a harmonica solo from Nash and a turn from each of the bandmembers. Then came Wooden Ships to close out the first set, again, Stills led the way with another barn-burner of a guitar solo.

The second half began a bit more quietly with Helplessly Hoping. The semi-acoustic mode continued with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country. It’s a beautiful tune and CSN seemed to be still working their way through the song, although there were some lovely moments.

One of the evening’s most pleasant surprises was a version of Johnny’s Garden, a tune from Stephen Stills’ 1972 Manassas album.

Crosby’s beautiful ballad Guinnevere followed. Graham Nash’s harmonies got a little too acrobatic for the delicate song, but there were some transcendent moments as well.

The three musicians then gathered around a mic to sing Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. After a nostalgic Our House came a blistering version of Almost Cut My Hair. The second set ended with a celebratory version of Love The One You’re With.

For the encore we got Stills’ Buffalo Springfield classic For What It’s Worth and then Teach Your Children sent the crowd home with smiles on their faces.

I must admit to being wary about how these guys would sound at this stage in their career, but I was hugely impressed. The last time I’d seen them was 35 years ago, and they sounded better tonight.

Someone asked me the other day why these musicians keep going when they could easily stay home collecting royalties. I think the answer was in tonight’s opening song…”rejoice, rejoice, cause we have no choice but to carry on”.

Marty Duda

Click here to view a photo gallery taken by Michael Flynn:

Set list:

  1. Carry On
  2. Marrakesh Express
  3. Long Time Gone
  4. Military Madness
  5. Southern Cross
  6. Lay Me Down
  7. Just A Song Before I Go
  8. Radio
  9. Almost Gone (The Ballad Of Bradley Manning)
  10. Bluebird
  11. Déjà vu
  12. Wooden Ships
  13. Helplessly Hoping
  14. In Your Name
  15. Girl From The North Country
  16. Johnny’s Garden
  17. Guinnevere
  18. Peace Of Mind
  19. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
  20. Cathedral
  21. Our House
  22. Almost Cut My Hair
  23. Love The One You’re With
  24. For What It’s Worth
  25. Teach Your Children