Crosby, Stills, and Nash play Paducah

I'm not sure whether we had all been there before, but I certainly felt like I had last night. (actually "last night" was July 28. I have been working on this piece on and off since then). Especially when I thought back to my senior class trip. It must have been June, 1970. The high school class of 1970 for Wesclin HS which at time was located in Trenton, Illinois, had socked away money (wisely I might say) so that we could take a senior class trip.

Now that I think back on it, I wonder if such a thing could ever occur now. But, part of that trip was to go to New York City for a couple days. What were they thinking? It's hard to imagine that kind of trip would happen today from such a small town high school. But we did it - all the way to the east coast with stops in New York City, Washington D.C. and the like. Honestly, I don't remember a lot about it. I do remember some things, particularly in New York City.

I don't remember how much spending money I was given, but I was given some. It wouldn't have been a lot, because my parents were of modest means, and wouldn't have wanted to give me too much as a matter of course to keep me out of trouble. I think I used it well.

Again, conveniently, not remembering the details, I do remember that me and my friend Dean Beatty, during some kind of free time, figured out the subways and went down to Greenwich Village. Honestly, I can't remember how we figured out where to go, but we were two of the boldest and smartest kids in the class.

It was evening time. We had just been walking around the streets of Greenwich Village for awhile, and we came upon the Fillmore east. I guess because both of us had older brothers, we knew about such things. Crosby, Stills, and Nash were playing. You can Google June 1970, Crosby Stills Nash Fillmore East and find recordings of those shows that they played at the Fillmore.

I actually bought a "bootleg" 33 1/3 album, in a plain white cover, on "Canyon Records" of them playing live, which I still have, from some hawker on the street. Although the show was a sell-out, we bought a couple tickets from a scalper on the corner, and we actually got in.

I remember the Fillmore and the show. Not as sharply as I wish I had, and believe me, I was as straight as I have ever been. No drugs or alcohol at all for this boy at that time - ever. I hadn't even smoked a cigarette. But I was open and I was seeing a lot in that scene that was opening my eyes. But life was cruising at a very high speed at that point, and it was hard to see everything as it sped by. Then, Crosby, Stills and Nash played.

They started their set with acoustic music. Their first set was acoustic. After a meager break, they came back out and jammed out electrically. I think that was one of the things that people really liked about the band - that they could play that softer acoustical music, and then, turn around and rock out with the best of them. Other things that were great about them were their tight harmonies and their politics. They were part of the 60s/70s culture of change. And hey, me and Dean - we were small town boys just out of high school at the Fillmore east in 1970. Need I say more? You don't forget something like that.

I saw them again in St. Louis at Kiel Auditorium, July 1, 1970. Kiel Auditorium is where the former St. Louis Hawks, NBA franchise that now resides elsewhere, played. Like the St. Louis Hawks, Kiel Auditorium no longer exists. Crosby, Stills and Nash has certainly outlived Kiel Auditorium!

In fact, they live to this day. In fact again, I just heard another concert of theirs Saturday night, July 28, 2012, at the Carson Center in Paducah, KY. Where, you might ask? Yes, you heard right, Paducah, KY. A person I know in the media business told me that this was the smallest venue that the Crosby, Stills, and Nash tour was going to play this time around. It might be small, but it is nice, and it was highly aroused by the presence of the band and their music.

The Carson center holds 1800, and it was sold out. Kristi and I ushered for the show, and I can tell you that my section - one quarter of the first balcony, had NO open seats at all. That is pretty incredible considering that the cheapest seats cost 50 dollars, and the most expensive well over a hundred. The people that attended the show were, for the most part, baby boomers - aged 50 - 70. There were a lot of couples. For the most part, they were nicely dressed - casual - but not shabby. There were few really obese people. They drank plenty before the show and during intermission, but all in all, with a very few exceptions, well behaved.

They were so ready for the experience. From the first note, the audience was alive and reactive. It was such a magical environment that Crosby, Stills, Nash and the band was inspired. It was very reminiscent of the Crosby and Nash concert that happened several years ago at the same venue. It was a very genuine, heartfelt appreciation of the duo, and they felt it. In fact, they said that it was because of the great time they had that they wanted to come back. Stephen Stills responded at one time that they would be back. No doubt, the crowd was very excited by Stills' screaming electric guitar, and it would be hard to understand if Stills reacted any other way to the evening.

But as much of a musical icon Stephen Stills is to the baby boomer generation, I think that Graham Nash and David Crosby actually lead the band. I get the feeling that it is their inspiration that has lead the band to stay together after the decades. Yes, it is the dual images of the pudgy but beautiful David Crosby, dressed in black with his long white hair flowing down over his shoulders, stoic, not moving that much, along with Graham Nash, also in black, barefooted on the fancy mideastern rugs which covered the stage under their setup, with his frizzy head of white hair, trim, expressive, dance-like movement to the songs that the band performed.

Anyone who is familiar with the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash knows that one of their most distinguishing characteristics is very tight, close harmonies. They didn't back down from their arrangements, although the harmonies were not as tight as they are on the original studio recordings all us baby boomers are used to. While Crosby and Nash can keep pretty tight harmonies, Stills voice is just not what it was. He did sing with heart, which made up for the failure to be exactly on pitch, but you could tell that it was a struggle for him to sing. In fact, he only sang a couple songs. And while he shined on guitar, which more than made up for the vocals, Stills just about redeemed himself by singing pretty well on harmony during the last encore - "Suite Judy Blue Eyes," with all three singing but only Stills on acoustic guitar. In that case, the harmonies were really prominent over the guitar. Stills missed some of the harmonies, but before it ended, he got the voice in tune and the old album like harmonies filled the air.

But that shouldn't be construed as any comment on his musicianship. Stephen Stills is one of the revered electric guitarists of our generation, and he didn't disappoint. He played an inspired lead guitar, interrupted repeatedly by ovations from the crowd as he screamed from his fender. Well, in softer songs, he played a hollow body electric, such as on "Wooden Ships." He played parts true to, but not exact, to the parts he recorded decades ago, especially on the softer tunes. But on the electric, rocking tunes, he turned up his fender and screamed and the crowd loved it. Stills was so touched by the appreciation of his playing that he repeatedly patted his heart in response to the applause, and threw innumerable broken picks into the audience.

As good as Stills was, I still think that the evening was lead by David Crosby and Graham Nash. I just love those two white haired guys. They still sing beautifully. They talk beautifully. They advocate for progressive issues. And, consistent with the last several big name shows at the Carson, Crosby had his son with him. According to one account I read, Crosby and a girlfriend at a much younger age, gave the child up for adoption, which accounts for his different last name.

His son, Jason Raymond, who apparently tracked down his biological father, played keyboards, and wrote or co wrote several of the songs performed. Crosby at one point joked about how hard it was to have a musician in the family that was better than him. I think he was kidding - I am pretty sure he was - but not totally sure. But, no doubt, that the talent in his family, like the families of Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell, runs deep.

My evening was colored by continuing thoughts about how the dream of the 60s/70s wasn't even close to being fully realized. But it also wasn't even close to being killed off. That dream is still there, enticing many people, maybe more than we can even imagine. But it's so taboo right now to be for such radical concepts as equality, that if it comes to publicly endorsing candidates, or going to a rally or protest, or even a public hearing, that most people won't do it. It's simply too risky and too much is at stake - whole lives.

But a concert like this allows those feelings to be expressed in a way that can't be held against you - or at least any retaliation is likely to be unnoticeable mostly. And that brings out those feeling that, who are willing to pay top dollar for the experience. It encourages me to know that so many want those feelings rejuvenated, especially in the heart of conservatism.

I'm proud to be associated as an active fan of this band - from my high school years until now. Yes, we have all been here before, and I hope that I am here again.