Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Riverside

Aged like a fine wine, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and a cast of talented musicians delivered a fervent performance at the Riverside Theater.

By - Aug 8th, 2012 03:07 pm

CSN performs at the Riverside Theater. Photos: Melissa Miller

Well balanced, robust, and delicately aged. These descriptors are typically attached to civilized commodities floating around cocktail parties. This is not an article about gouda cheese or pinot noir, however, but another celebrated vintage. On the weekend’s tail-end, folk supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash made their first ever stop at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater. Aged 43 years since its inception, CSN delivered a fervent performance successfully capping off the weekend.

A nearly three-hour gig showcased the group’s generation-spanning messages and trademark harmonic chemistry. Pulling tunes from a collection discographies, CSN engaged the audience with an eclectic career spanning set. Frontmen David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash share a sharp, cohesive energy fewer aging musicians maintain.

The group formed in 1969, and as with any collections of egos the history of CSN, in whatever form, there has been peaks and valleys. Highlights include celebrated albums (CSN, Deja Vu) and historic performances including the group’s second ever live show, Woodstock. In turn, a myriad of internal bickering, hiatuses, and lineup changes punctuate the band’s career.

On the night of August 5, however, the group was back to basics with Crosby, Stills & Nash. Still, they had help. A five-piece backing band including journeyman Stevie Di on drums and Englishman Shane Fontayne on guitar shared the stage. Opening the evening with “Chicago,” CSN attempted to touch a midwestern nerve. The seated audience responded on their feet. In front of a simple “CSN” backdrop the group followed up with a pair of Stephen Stills’ hits, “Southern Cross” and “Find the Cost of Freedom.”

A deeper cut from the night, Graham Nash’s “Almost Gone,” brought sections of the otherwise seated audience up and grooving. The namesakes of the band share the space well, not vying for attention, but contributing to a collected sound. That gusto extended to everyone on stage.

From the get-go, a visible chemistry between David Crosby and keyboardist James Raymond added extra energy to the evening. Both on guitar and at the mic, the bleach-bearded Crosby gave and took with Raymond, conversing through music. Likewise, organist Todd Caldwell and bassist Kevin McCormick played tight making their presence known in the conversation.

The sound at the Riverside was in harmony, not surprising considering harmony is CSN’s forte. This blending of subtle tones and pitches was on display throughout the show. Critical Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tracks “Our House” and “Guinevere” set a serene mood about the theater. The audience, lulled yet engaged, came to life in a searing encore which left the theater in a fevered standing ovation. Shuffling out of the Riverside into seasonably crisp night air the mood was calm, no racing or shoving through. People were Sunday satisfied—energized even—due to the robust, well-balanced, and delicately-aged stylings of folk rockers Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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