Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Politics

Some musings on a CSN concert I saw last night. Why do so many gifted performers feel the need to bring up politics when they’re on stage? Rock-n-rollers, actors accepting awards, classical pianists, etc–a considerable number feel the need to use the spotlight (justly earned, in most circumstances) to vent their political frustrations. Jay Nordlinger wrote something about this a while back; unfortunately I haven’t been able to find his piece to link to it, but his displeasure with the practice mimics my own.  Our basic gripe is that the audience members haven’t shown up to hear political commentary from generally uninformed and unoriginal political observers; they’re there to hear Suite Judy Blue Eyes or Rachmaninoff’s Third or whatever.  Invariably, a significant portion of the audience isn’t going to identify with whatever political gripe is being aired, so it just makes the whole atmosphere slightly uncomfortable and can infect an otherwise memorable show.  Public artistic performances, in my view, should generally remain free from political commentary, unless the show is intended to be political in nature.  To be sure, I expect CSN, like any Woodstock-era band, to play their share of make-love-not-war songs; that’s part of their identity.  But I could do without the commentary between songs and all the crass anti-Bush stickers plastered on their sound equipment.  Just play, man.

By the way, I’ve never heard any performer interrupt his or her show with conservative commentary, which isn’t too surprising, given the political bent of the elite performance industry.  But my criticism would still apply to anyone who started quoting Milton Friedman or Edmund Burke between songs.

Nevertheless, a great show.  They played a lot of covers during their first set which were a lot of fun, including the best version of Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” I’ve ever heard.  No doubt, Crosby, Stills, and Nash have still got it.  Steven Stills’ voice deserts him at times, but the trio can still pull off the finest vocal harmonies that rock has ever seen.  Do yourself a favor and see them perform Southern Cross live sometime before you die.

A final thought: putting aside the fact that Graham Nash is a Brit, has there ever been a greater American rock and roll band/artist than CSN?  We mulled over quite a few contenders on the way home – Eagles, Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Creedence –  but we only came up with three we’d put above CSN:  Dylan, Elvis, and the Beach Boys.  Always blows my mind to think how foreigners have dominated the top spots in the classic rock pantheon:  Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Floyd, Clapton, Hendrix…Brits, every one of em.  Van Morrison was Irish.  Neil Young and The Band were Canadian.  Curious.

posted by Strix nebulosa at 07:15  

1 Comment »

  1. This will be controversial, but I’m inclined to put Boston above CSN&Y. How many bands have essentially every song on their first two albums receive consistent radio airplay? Boston had more hits in their first two albums than many other bands have in 10. Still, it’s difficult to compare a straight-ahead guitar-rock group like Boston to a folk-rock group like CSN&Y. While they are both technically “rock”, there’s a great difference in overall style.

    I’m also inclined to argue for ZZ Top; a band that has been touring and recording with all of its original members for an uninterrupted for nearly 40 years now. Again though, they are stylistically quite distinct from CSN&Y.

    For last, I’m saving the clearest case of an American artist superior to CSN&Y: Stevie Ray Vaughn. Although, again, there are stylistic differences and Vaughn is solidly a blues-rock artist while CSN&Y are folk-rock.

    Comment by Zenmervolt — Tuesday, 09 June, 2009 @ 07:52

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