Archives David Crosby at SPAC in 1976: ‘Crowd Loves Rock Of Crosby, Nash’

Left: David Crosby in England in 2009 (AP); The headline in the Sept. 3, 1976 Gazette from a Crosby-Nash SPAC performance
Left: David Crosby in England in 2009 (AP); The headline in the Sept. 3, 1976 Gazette from a Crosby-Nash SPAC performance
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Editor’s Note: Musician David Crosby has passed away at the age of 81. We found and are republishing the review below that we wrote of Crosby’s September 1976 performance with Graham Nash at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Crowd Loves Rock Of Crosby, Nash

By Michael Hochanadel, Sept. 3, 1976

The David Crosby half of the Crosby-Nash musical partnership was surprised at the 5,500 listeners attending their concert at SPAC on a cold and drizzly Wednesday night.

Sandwiched as they were between a pair of “top-40 radio” bands, as Crosby put it, he doubted anyone would attend their highly personal concert of folk-soft rock directness and full-tilt boogie, California rock-and-roll on such a dreary night. He needn’t have worried. He and Graham Nash, backed by a super four piece band of hand-picked players, delivered a well-performed concert filled with the high-spirited excitement and communication that is rock-and-roll at its most effective.

Even periodic showers failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the audience. Many of the “lawnsters” (blanket people being “rained” into the auditorium.

The crowd was especially pleased by up-dated performances of songs from the period when Crosby and Nash were members of rock’s first and best ‘supergroup’ – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. While the two other voices were not missed in the Crosby-Nash renditions, their band brings to this music a hard-hitting instrumental authority that the supergroup never possessed. There is just no room for argument with the power of this group. Three members, drummer Russ Kunkel, guitarist Danny Kootch and keyboard player Craig Doerge, have been playing together for years; first with singers like James Taylor and Jackson Browne, then later recording and performing (with bassist Lee Sklar) as the Section. Bassist Tim Drummond plays well with drummer Kunkel, while David Lindley doubles on guitars and fiddle. Kootch and Lindley share the guitar leads, with Kootch playing a nervous, blues-inflected rock style. Lindley plays a lot of what Crosby calls “dangerous” lap slide, holding his instrument across his knees and sliding a metal bar along the frets to create a wailing, gliding sound. He is rapidly developing into one of rock’s most effective and versatile slide players, able to approximate a human voice with startling accuracy as well as to produce effects ranging from pedal-steel type note-bending plaintiveness to the soaring grade of the late Duane Allman’s blues solos. Doerge might be rock’s most under-rated keyboard virtuosos, possessed of elegant good taste and formidable technique. Crosby and Nash both play rhythm guitar and Nash also doubles on keyboards and harmonica. And they sing; how those two men sing!

Fine harmonies were a keystone of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sound, and Crosby and Nash are now the finest male singing duo since Simon and Garfunkel. Neither voice is great alone, Crosby’s baritone lacking range and Nash’s tenor is sometimes too thin in the high register. But the combination of the two is irresistible, both powerful and sensitive. Both are also known as unusually skillful songwriters and, watching Wednesday’s concert, it seemed they could have played until next week without running out of their own fine songs. Nash, British and former leader of the Hollies, is a folk and love song writer with an effective Dylan stance and pop accents that show the influence of Paul McCartney. Crosby is an unreconstructed California hippie rock-and-roll musician who loves to kick out the jams. Their collaboration partakes of the strengths of each in a uniquely powerful way, Nash’s sentiments being balanced by Crosby’s exuberance, and vice versa as often as not.

Wednesday’s concert displayed the fruits of this songwriting collaboration by opening with an old C.S.N. & Y. song and featuring others from the same period as well as their most recent recordings from the “Wind on the Water” and “Whistling Down the Wire” albums. The first set was comprised of up-tempo songs and full out rockers for the most part with the band glad to display its considerable power especially in Lindley and Kootch solos. Following a short intermission, a number of quieter songs were sung, usually in small-band acoustic settings. Dave Lindley offered a tour-de-force fiddle solo during this period, while Crosby and Nash delighted the audience with a delicate Guinevere from their first days of playing together. The entire band rejoined Crosby and Nash onstage for the concert’s peak moment. Years before, while sailing in the Pacific, both men had “fallen in love with whales”; and Nash, saddened by their near-extinction, wrote a beautifully moving homage, Wind on the Water. As the band performed this touching tribute, a screen was unveiled on which were projected films of whales and dolphins; much of this exceptional film was incredible underwater footage of divers actually playing with the great whales. The song deserved and received a standing ovation. In previous years Crosby and Nash addressed themselves to political and social problems in songs like Chicago and others that spoke of “military madness, killing my country.” They have now turned their attention to ecological problems and the music is no less stirring.

The concert lasted nearly three hours, comprising 22 songs. Well-paced and very well-performed, the show never slackened in excitement; nor did the audience response, which approached ecstasy. With a light rain falling at concert’s end, the crowd smiled its way home.

The technicians from Northwest Sound deserve a word of praise for delivering remarkably clear, high quality sound to the audience. With four electric guitars playing most of the time, plus bass, drums and keyboard; many systems and technicians would be overwhelmed, producing that awful blaring haze in which nothing can be clearly heard. No such problems Wednesday. Lights by Steve Cohen and associates were likewise excellent. The whale films were provided by the Cousteau Society.

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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, News, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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