On an absolutely gorgeous Tuesday evening in West Palm Beach Florida after a wonderful rain to cool things off to a manageable 83 degrees… at the outdoor Sound Advice Amphitheatre, Crosby Stills Nash and Young were here in town. I wasn't gonna go… I had kind of talked myself out of it. I had seen CSN and CSNY and Neil so many times in my lifetime… in so many venues all over the US … I figured I could miss this one. Just got back from Atlanta … there is music here ALL weekend and I am still playing catch-up on sleep… I have some freelance work to get done. But as soon as I got home and walked the dog the guilt set in...
"How often do they come to Florida ?"
"How many times do they play TOGETHER?"
"They are playing Neil's new political album on this "Freedom of Speech" tour and making a statement… you should see this… no matter the cost"
So I talked my roommate into making the trek with me… we got some extra cash just in case we could get good seats rather than be stuck on the lawn and went.
I AM SO GLAD!!!
As we approached the venue with no tickets after sitting in horrendous traffic… I could hear them playing 'Carry On.' And on plastered my trademark perma-grin that I get when I am in the midst of amazing music. I had to get in there FAST! That comforting harmonizing that I grew up with was pulling me… that vibration of sound and music reaching into me and pulling at my heart strings! And Neil's guitar! I was already SO glad I decided to go!!! I walked up to the line and we realized we had to go around to yet another gate to buy tickets… when this guy walks in front of me with two tickets in his hand holding hem up. "Are you selling those?" I said. Sure was! Decent seats! Face value! No ticketblaster service charges! WHOOPPPEEE!
This was meant to be! With the full moon rising overhead… The night was one to be remembered… This Freedom of Speech 06 is more than a concert tour. It's a three and a half hour anti-Bush political rally. As long time outspoken liberals….in two long sets they played a variety of old favorites and new statements of war and death and politics. Videos of fallen US military soldiers were complimented by moving lyrics and phenomenal music. The foundation for the setlist is Neil Young's new album 'Living With War', a seriously venomous collection of political and anti-war statements, effective commentary on the state of the union, symbolized by a stage backdrop of a tattered and torn peace sign. The new songs spat venom at both the current White House and an unthinking consumer driven society swallowing down whatever it is spoon fed. "Don't need no more lies!" Neil sang on "The Restless Consumer," and cheers rang out… here in Bush country!
Neil's 'Let's Impeach The President' was complimented with video of nicely edited Bush's bumblings and was a benchmark part of the show. Then that statement was carried even further when 'Rockin' In The Free World' annihilated in the second half of the set. The song didn't end until every string on Young's guitar was broken!!! IT WAS INSANE!!!! Frequent guitar duels between Stephen Stills and Neil Young sent bolts of electricity through the amphitheater. And again balanced with sentimental favorites with trite messages like Stills' anthem "For What It's Worth," written in 1967 for Buffalo Springfield about issues between cops and hippies.
The songs even though more than three decades old, are still painfully potent, relevant and scream the sentiment of today with some updated lyrics. "Don't ask George Bush to help you/he's going to turn the other ear" Nash sang in 'Chicago'.
And yet to balance all the angst ridden anti-war drama tunes, they still could captivate the audience with their wonderful harmonizing with their classics. David Crosby and Graham Nash performed 'Guinivere' with just one guitar and two voices. The audience watched in silence, hypnotized by the tranquility of the song. CSN performed 'Helplessly Hoping' followed by Nash with 'Our House' and "Teach Your Children"… and Stills did my two favorites… "Treetop Flyer" and "Southern Cross"!
However, the anti-war mes sage was still the star of this show. CSNY showed the images that the government does not want you to see, the dead soldiers in coffins draped in the flag being carried from the aircraft back home. The death counter at the bottom of the screen continuously went up through 'Find The Cost of Freedom'. "2576 Dead US In Iraq" claimed the ticker by the end. CSNY then performed the wild Hendrix version of 'The Star Spangled Banner' while a giant microphone with a yellow ribbon was erected on stage by the family of a dead serviceman and promptly saluted the mic.
Earlier, Young dedicated his new song 'Families' to all of the families with soldiers in Iraq . Later he introduced 'Ohio' with "Thank god there's no draft, folks," before ripping out the song written decades ago about the Kent State mas sacre.… and later Nash played yet another relevant tune for today 'Immigration Man'.
In the face of all that is going on in the world… it takes a band who has a historically political liberal outspoken presence to scream about the injustice of a modern world still stuck on the issues and yet the values and sentiments of the 60's. We might seem like we have progressed… but have we really? Very little has changed and the issues our parents were dealing with are still the issues of today… and CSNY are STILL helping to spread the word. Phenomenal. Just absolutely phenomenal. The energy… the mes sage… the voices… the experience! And again… not to beat a dead horse here… but as I left the venue I couldn't help ponder how songs written about another war in another era could be so painfully relevant today.