The stars aligned for the Crosby, Stills & Nash concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle. And so did the sun.
Sporting sunglasses and perhaps smarting from the bright sun in their eyes, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash kicked off their sold-out concert Saturday (June 12) with the folk-rock anthem, “Woodstock.”
“What’s that big yellow thing in the sky?” Nash said, joking about Seattle’s reputation for gray skies and rain.
Great weather — after weeks of clouds and drizzle — and a first-rate concert made the season opener at the winery in Woodinville a stellar event.
The main field to the west of the stage was packed with picnicking concertgoers, wine glasses in hand.
And though CS&N have performed dozens of shows in the Northwest over the decades, this one just seemed to hit all the right notes. At least most of the time.
“We’re ba-ack!” Nash shouted as the group continued with old favorites “Military Madness” and “Long Time Gone.” Among the backing musicians were longtime drummer Joe Vitale, organist Todd Caldwell and keyboardist James Raymond (Crosby’s son).
Fans batted around a beach ball until Crosby put a stop to it by telling concertgoers that it was a little annoying.
“When it hits someone in the back of the head when they’re not expecting it . . . they miss true brilliance,” Crosby quipped.
Stills played fine guitar on “Bluebird,” a Buffalo Springfield tune that he wrote, finishing with the song’s signature feedback.
The group’s stirring harmonies came to the fore on “Marrakesh Express,” but Stills handled the vocals on “Southern Cross.”
On the moving anti-war song “In Your Name,” Graham addressed a higher power, asking why so much killing was going on “in your name.”
Though CS&N began its career amid the turbulence of the Vietnam War era, the group’s anti-war messages still resonate, though it was mostly nostalgia that engaged the festive, well-heeled audience.
The trio paid tribute to musical friend Neil Young — once part of the lineup for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — with the sentimental “Long May You Run,” an ode to one of Young’s beloved vintage cars. Nash played the harmonica part.
Afterward, Crosby joked that “we’re going to do everything I can remember the words to. . . . It’s going to be a very short show.”
Crosby then launched into “Deja Vu,” from the group’s first album with Young, finishing with the refrain, “We have all been here before.” Which certainly could have been the theme of the night.
“Wooden Ships” finished off the first set, which was followed by a 20-minute intermission.
The group returned with “Helplessly Hoping,” followed by a surprising number of cover songs, including the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” and the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.”
Crosby said the group was road-testing songs for its upcoming covers album with Rick Rubin, a recording project that won’t included any CS&N songs.
“If you like them, we’ll record them. If you don’t, we’ll go home and cry,” Crosby said.
The lovely “Guinevere” featured vocal harmonies by Crosby and Nash, earning an ovation. Crosby introduced “Delta,” a song he wrote with Jackson Browne’s support during a difficult time in his life, but the vocals were somewhat shrill.
The audience sang along to the sentimental “Our House,” which the band followed with The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” and Stills’ Buffalo Springfield tune “Rock and Roll Woman,” which featured his best guitar work of the evening.
The main set closed with Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair,” a hippie anthem performed by the guy who never cut his hair.
Crosby, Stills & Nash closed its three-hour show with a double encore featuring the baby boomer anthems “Chicago/ We Can Change the World,” “Love the One You’re With” and “Teach Your Children.”
Nash was featured in an exhibit of rock photos at the Experience Music Project titled “Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash.” Read about it here.