On March 31st, 2000 I joined a few friends at the Air Canada Centre at the base of the CN Tower in Toronto for my first experience with CSN*, but I would not have made the trip from Ottawa for the show were it not for the inclusion of Y on this tour.
Of course Crosby, Stills and Nash are legendary, both individually and as the supergroup they were, but the level that they amped up to when they welcomed Neil Young into the mix is, in my opinion, beyond compare. Aside from being one of rock’s most poignant and melodic songwriters, Neil Young brings unbridled energy and dedication to everything he touches, and in doing so he tends to bring out the best in the people he works with.
This concert featured a thousand CSN songs that have been ingrained in our collective consciousness since time began, syrupy harmonies delivered over clever chord changes and deft guitar playing and all of it done very, very well. Standing on the Air Canada Centre stage beside (behind?) the ever-young Neil, David, Stephen, and Graham had no choice but to leave their laurel-resting for another day and deliver at the top of their ability, and it made for a great night of live music.
When Neil Young steps on stage he forgets he’s famous; he plays like he’s never played before, every single time. He is unquestionably a bandleader by example; it would be impossible to stand onstage next to that kind of intensity and just skate through a set.
If his sheer presence wasn’t enough to cement Neil’s place within the group (shouldn’t it be YCSN?), punctuating the two sets with no less than six solo Neil Young songs – including the encore-ending Rockin’ In The Free World – should. The show included just one Byrds song (Eight Miles High), but on the other hand we got Old Man, Long May You Run, Cinnamon Girl, Southern Man…
This was my first time hearing After The Gold Rush live, my favourite Neil Young song. And as I sat there listening to one of my musical heroes recreate his gorgeously lilting, timeless futuristic lament my friend sitting next to me was singing along ecstatically. It took all I had to muster the courage and the selfishness to ask him to stop singing so I could hear Neil’s voice.
Unfortunately my friend took offence, arguing quite logically (and thankfully not until later, during the long, long drive back to Ottawa) that about 20,000 other people were also singing along to which I could only concede the point and apologize.
And while my apology was sincere – I am loath to bring down someone else’s concert experience – I don’t regret asking him to pipe down.
“There were peasants singing, and drummers drumming, and the archer split the tree.”
*Oops…As a testament to either an extremely prolific personal concert history or a rather dismal capacity for memory** (or a combination thereof) it slipped my mind that that I had seen CSN before, at Woodstock ’94.
**Somehow I feel that the habits surrounding the former contribute to the latter.