Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young drive home message

Jul 19 2006

By Michael Cote, Camera Staff Writer
July 20, 2006

MORRISON — If not for the creative spark that inspired Neil Young to write and record his new album, Living With War, his summer tour with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash would have been simply a welcome gathering of old friends.

But with Young's scathing indictment of the war in Iraq as the band's muse, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young found renewed meaning in some of their old songs Tuesday as they played the second of two sold-out nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. (Tickets remained at press time for tonight's third and final show.)

"It's amazing that I wrote this song 30 years ago about my father going off to World War II, and we're still doing this madness," Graham Nash said after singing "Military Madness."

"But we're more distorted than we used to be," Young said with a grin, injecting levity into a serious subject and alluding to the raucous noise he would create throughout the night with fellow lead guitarist Stephen Stills.

The quartet, backed by a support band made up of current Young side players, kicked off its three-hour, two-set show with "Flags of Freedom," from Living With War. Seven more tracks were featured from the disc, including the crowd-pleasing "Let's Impeach the President" — complete with projected lyrics for a sing-along and video snippets of Bush speeches.

With such a long show, however — packed with more than 30 songs — the band had plenty of time to shift the tone and play some old favorites, including Stills' "Southern Cross," Nash's "Teach Your Children" and Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair." Some of the finest moments came during stripped-down segments: Stills and Young playing an acoustic version of Stills' "Treetop Flyer," Crosby and Nash doing the same with Crosby's "Guinnevere."

But trucking out the classics didn't blunt the impact of a show that was never subtle about its theme. As all four harmonized on the a cappella "Find the Cost of Freedom," photos of U.S. combat fatalities since March 2003 appeared on a screen behind them and were tallied on a running meter below until it stopped at 2,537.

Four balding hippie millionaires might not be able to save the world, but their commitment to ideals they first championed during the Vietnam War underscores how a band that made "Déjà Vu" a radio hit doesn't have to settle for nostalgia.