If the spirit of the 60s was still alive, it’s probably not through the music. Nostalgia is what connects most folks to those simpler, but equally perplexing socioeconomic times in American history. On a grand scale, the human-be ins and connectivity that brought the young generation, the baby boomers, growing into adults of the late 1960s, was a time when youth stopped buying into their elder generations ideas of conformity and the lies about being patriotic by supporting a pointless war halfway across the world. While an anti-war sentiment might still exist in the current younger generations, the 20-somes and younger seem to question less of their politicians, instead indulging in their self-absorbed lives through means of social media and instant gratification. How many people in a crowd at a large concert have their cell phones out, videoing, instagraming, texting, instead of being present with that beautiful moment that they’re trying so hard to narcissistically document? Plenty and too many. But I digress. There was a time when attending concerts were a there-and-then moment, a beautiful capsule that the artist shared with only those who were physically present. The folk musicians that spoke so directly to the freaky Woodstock generation of “America’s Children” are now well aged. Ragged but right. If those times are gone, then its crucial that Stephen Stills, the quintessential protest songwriter, singer, musician, and American, is still performing before live audiences.
Sure it’s quite a bit about nostalgia, but in this case he connected so much of what was important to that generation’s ideals. Songs like “America’s Children,” “Almost Cut My Hair”, and “For What It’s Worth,” perfectly illustrated the strains and dissatisfaction that separated the youth of the time. Stills was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield, a band that introduced three fabulous folk musicians to the world with Stills, Neil Young and Richard Furay. In the wake of the British Invasion, it was a time for American music to claim its own current identity. Then British folkie Graham Nash and former Byrds guitarist David Crosby brought together a trio with Stills that would voice the cries of protest that spoke purely from America’s Children with a bit of psychedelic experimentation sprinkled in. Naturally Neil Young fit right in making the quintessential rock protest group of then and now. And yes seeing CSNY at big venues is a thrill for all, but catching Stephen Stills with his band at the intimate Boulder Theater was a treasure for those in attendance last Saturday night. The show naturally sold out over a month in advance, with word from the venue that the over-sold all seated show had to be logistically reworked just moments before door time to fit in all the ticketholders. But just like a music gathering from the late 60s, concertgoers filed in politely and everyone had a seat (besides me, ironically, but I prefer to stand anyhow.)
When Stills and his band began their evening they were greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation before the music even started. And yes, at age sixty-nine, Stills still rocks out. Throughout the evening Stills was in good humor about aging gracefully, his vocal stamina (which was much better than he semi-jokingly undermined) and nodding respectfully toward the town which he lived in and around over forty years ago. Many hail the self-titled Stephen Stills 1970 solo album, which pictures him playing acoustic on the porch of his Gold Hill cabin, as his finest effort. And his connection with Boulder was apparent as audiences of all ages sang along and danced to immortalized classics like “Helplessly Hoping,” “Woodstock”, “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” (which had the audience erupt into standing during the sing-songy Coda segment), “For What It’s Worth, and “Love The One Your With.”
His band consisted of bassist Kevin McCormick, organ/key player Todd Caldwell, and drummer Mario Calire. Stills band played two energetic sets, and even broke out material by his super group The Rides that also features Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Needless to say it was the most fun baby boomers in Boulder had in a long while. And all joking aside, Stills mark on the folk scene local, international, and worldwide is quintessential Americana and we are blessed to still have him performing. In addition to the songs, his stories and banter brought together a fine night of music from a legend of folk rock. Thanks for inviting Grateful Web to the party and we look forward to catching CSN at Red Rocks this September for a grand old time.