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Concert Reviews:
Who needs C, S and Y; Graham Nash delivers killer solo show in Ann Arbor
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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ANN ARBOR -- We're used to seeing Graham Nash in the company of David Crosby and Stephen Stills, and sometimes Neil Young.

But on Wednesday night, July 29, at the Michigan Theater, Nash showed that he could offer something just as special on his own.

The two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, accompanied solely by regular CSN guitarist Shane Fontayne, delivered an insightful 20-song, nearly two-hour (including intermission) troll through his 50-plus year recording career, starting with a couple of mid-60s hits from the Hollies -- "Bus Stop" and "King Midas in Reverse" -- and offering a full compliment of Crosby Nash, CSN, CSNY and solo material, including a handful of new songs. His voice still close to pristine and his enthusiasm as pure as it was as an Everly Brothers fan in 1960, the 73-year-old Nash delivered a master class in the singer-songwriter as performer, both entertaining and educating the Ann Arbor crowd.

Some of the stories alone were with the price of admission. Nash introduced "Just a Song Before I Go" as the result of a bet with a "low-level drug dealer" on Maui and spoke candidly about the acid trip that led to "Cathedral." "Wasted on the Way," he noted, chronicles the idea that "if we weren't so f***ed-up we would've written a lot more" music, while he wrote "Immigration Man" from a real-life experience about being hassled at the border while returning from a CSNY show in Vancouver during 1971. And before "Simple Man" he spoke about writing the song on the day he split up with girlfriend Joni Mitchell -- only to have her sitting in the third row at New York's Fillmore East on the night he premiered the song.

The best tale, however, was Nash relating how he and Hollies co-founder Allan Clarke had stalked the Everly Brothers at their hotel in Manchester, England, in 1960 to speak to them for 20 minutes on the front steps, and that on Wednesday three teenage Ann Arbor musicians approached his tour bus to do much the same. "Keep that energy that you have and you certainly will change the world, my friends," he told the youths, seated in the front row, before playing "Chicago."

There were plenty of musical gems as well, fortified by Fontayne's spot-on guitar textures and orchestrations and vocal harmonies. Performing barefoot, as usual, Nash dug deep into his well for "Marguerita" and "Prison Song," the latter a special inclusion for Wednesday since it name-checks Ann Arbor in the lyrics. "Wind on the Water" was as moving in this stripped-down setting as it is in a full band performance, and "Our House" and "Teach Your Children" remained sturdy singalong favorites. The new material -- the introspective "Golden Days" and "Myself At Last" and the politically charged "Watch Our For The Wind," inspired by last fall's Ferguson, Mo., riots -- fit well with Nash's older material, and a rendition of the Beatles' "Blackbird," with Nash and Fontayne singing into the same microphone, quietly gave more perspective to the rest of the night's offerings.

Early in the show, Nash noted that, "It feels incredible to still be touching people's hearts and minds, I'm telling you." And that feeling was certainly shared by those who turned out on Wednesday night.



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