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Review: Crosby, Stills & Nash at Verizon Theatre

Posted 9:25am on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014

The line hung in the air, thick with meaning: “As we watch the curtain falling/And you sing us one last song ...”

Back Home, this particular song, Graham Nash explained Tuesday, was written when he learned of the late Levon Helm’s failing health.

Yet as he stood on stage at the Verizon Theatre Tuesday, the poignant farewell seemed to be as much about Nash and his bandmates, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, as anyone else.

The years pass and the spotlight dims for us all.

But Crosby, Stills & Nash aren’t destined for darkness quite yet.

The rock legends formed a bulwark of sorts during their nearly three-hour set before a near-capacity crowd Tuesday, a defiant wall against the march of time.

If nothing else, they’ve got a sense of humor about it all.

“We’ve arranged for a little special entertainment,” Crosby cracked early on. “The Dallas police department is going to come get me halfway through the show.”

The allusion to his infamous early ‘80s drug arrest in Dallas brought warm laughter, even as Crosby quickly pivoted from silly to serious: “No, those days are long gone. I have a soft spot for Dallas, and for Texas. It pretty much saved my life.”

Crosby, Stills & Nash — and those effervescent, ecstatic harmonies — are a folk-rock fountainhead, a defining act of the ‘60s which has inspired any number of contemporary musicians with a mixture of mythical subject matter, dense musical composition and a nearly spiritual connection between three voices with the uncanny ability to sound as one.

The passing of decades has somewhat ravaged the delicate and precise mingling of CSN’s voices — there were often times where it seemed as though the 73-year-old Crosby, the 69-year-old Stills and the 72-year-old Nash were practically pole-vaulting onto the notes; Stills’ advancing hearing impairment has rendered him cruelly unable to articulate the lyrics clearly — but even if the flesh was weak, the spirit was more than willing.

The expansive evening, split into a pair of sets bisected by a 20-minute intermission, touched on all phases of the trio’s career, both within CSN and as solo artists. Surprisingly, some of the most powerful moments came not from the classics, but the current material.

Nash’s new I’m Here for You — written, he said, for his son, daughter-in-law and their just-born identical twins — was an overwhelmingly intimate and moving piece of work, just as Crosby’s What Makes It So (a tune he lamented showing up too late for inclusion on his most recent solo LP, Croz) was breathtaking.

Backed by a tight quintet — organist Todd Caldwell, drummer Stevie DiStanislao, bassist Kevin McCormick, guitarist Shane Fontayne and pianist James Raymond (playing his hometown Tuesday) — Crosby, Stills & Nash showcased all sides of their sound: the bluesy grit of Long Time Gone; Stills’ scorching guitar work at the climax of Deja Vu; the lacerating political screed What Are Their Names.

It was, on balance, a last good impression, a valiant showcase from a legitimately legendary band.

Of course, Crosby, Stills & Nash may continue to tour for years to come.

If, however, they should decide this outing is a fitting end, the proverbial curtain is falling on their terms.

That, perhaps more than anything else, is a gift for not only the audience, but the men on stage.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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