I didn't expect to be at this gig.
I live in London and a few weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to see CSN at the Royal Albert Hall. I turned it down, because I had no expectations of anything other than a superannuated trio out to top up their pensions with tired performances of old hits. I'd seen them when they were younger and fitter. I didn't want to besmirch the memory.
Then I got offered a free ticket and a ride for the 130 odd mile trip to Birmingham. There wan't much to lose other than missing the debut of Homeland series 3 and avoiding finding out anything before I watch the recording.
How wrong I was. Completely and utterly wrong.
This was a superb performance by a band of professionals who belied their age with a performance full of energy, humour, commitment, exuberance and pure musical class.
The first thing that struck me when they came out was that Crosby and Stills have been on major diets. They aren't quite the svelte young things we remember sitting on the sofa on the first album sleeve, but for men of their age they look pretty damn good. Nash has hardly put on a pound since those days and hasn't had to lose it.
The singing is fabulous. They open the set with Carry On and it's all there, voices in harmony and in tune but performed with incredible power. Crosby's voice is astounding. Through the set he can turn it on when he needs, as he demonstrates later in Almost Cut My Hair (such a ridiculous song, but I love it) and the main set finale Wooden Ships. But there is delicacy and control in Guinevere and when he and Nash perform What Are Their Names acapella. Those years of abuse don't appear to have affected his pipes at all.
Nash is the lynchpin, the ringmaster who appears to control all from centre stage. Late in the set we get Nash alone at the piano for Our House and Chicago, yet he puts out as much energy as when the whole eight piece perform together.
Stills's voice hasn't fared quite so well, but in light of his illness a couple of years back that's hardly surprising, but man, what a guitar player. With a band behind him he was free to let rip and does whenever required. (I'm so jealous of the Gretsch White Falcon he plays on some numbers - a beautiful looking guitar).
While we get plenty of old favourites there are new songs too. One, Burning The Buddha, was memorable for the introduction and subject matter (politically motivated suicide through self immolation).
The five piece backing band is terrific, but I can't namecheck them apart from Kevin McCormick (borrowed from Jackson Browne's band) and James Raymond on keyboards.
It's a real pleasure to have been at a gig where the artists have taken so much pleasure in the performance; to have put so much into their performance; artists who know that when they put out to the audience they get get that energy back.
The bad news for me is that the ticket I was offered for the Royal Albert Hall has now gone. That's a shame because after this I'd happily go again.
Superb. Simply superb.