Graham Nash’s Sixty Year of Songs & Stories: A musical and lyrical retrospection of life

Live Review

Graham Nash. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Sixty Years of Songs and Stories with Graham Nash Tour-Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, Florida—November 1, 2023

Graham Nash warming up as he walked on stage. Photo by Chyrisse.

I last saw the legendary artist Graham Nash at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida, in March 2022. The founding member of both the Hollies and Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s show was so moving I had tears in my eyes during most of the songs. I thought of Mom and I singing the songs while in the Buick Riviera back in Westland, Michigan. Good memories. I vowed the next time he would come to town, I would take Mom. They announced the show is in spring, and I bought tickets for the November 1st show.

Graham Nash. Photo by Chyrisse.

Finally, the wait was over. November 1st arrived, and we were waiting in the lobby. A dear longtime friend had decided to come. I knew it would be a wonderful evening of friendship and memories.

One of the first songs he performed on stage with a full band was Marrakesh Express. He was flanked by longtime keyboard, music director, collaborator Todd Caldwell, and three young, multi-instrumental musicians, Jack and Adam (sorry, no last names), who could harmonize beautifully. If I closed my eyes, I could believe I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Nash’s voice sounds like he is a 20-something singer—not an ounce of change.

During the evening, Nash paid his respects to the people of Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine before launching into “Find the Cost of Freedom” and “Military Madness.” Although written during the Vietnam era, the songs feel eerily familiar and relevant today. Protest music and social commentary played a crucial role in his music as he explained “Oh, Camil (The Winter Soldier),” a song he wrote about Vietnam War veteran and political activist Scott Camil.

Between each song, Nash told backstories about the song. During COVID lockdown, old friend Allan Clarke of The Hollies (“Air That I Breathe,” “Long Cool Woman”), whom he has known since 1962. He said that Clarke had “lost his voice for a long time,” until one day during COVID, he called him saying, “I found my voice.” He told Nash that he was going to write songs for him. Nash laughed, “Ten songs later…” The band launched into “Bus Stop, ” which featured a distinctive mandolin and earned them standing ovations.

Graham Nash. Photo by Chyrisse.

A moving song that featured a mandolin and lovely organ work was “King Midas in Reverse.” The melody of his new release, “Love of Mine,” from his latest album Now, was understated with only a guitar, keys, and harmonica—but it sounded lovely. The lyrics were both moving yet biting as he described the aftermath of a breakup row, singing, “Love of mine/Regretting every word I said to you/I can’t take them back, but I wanted to.” 

While on a sad note of regret, Nash talked about losing an old friend, saying, “My best friend died earlier this year—David Crosby. He was an amazing musician. I know we had a couple of rough years. We had begun emailing each other. I remember him every day of my life.” A recording of Crosby and Nash harmonizing the medieval chorus “Critical Mass” was played before he performed “Wind on the Water” on the piano.

Graham Nash. Photo by Chyrisse.

Nash described his ordeal in Vancouver before trying to fly back to America. He had been detained and harassed by officers, causing him to write “Immigration Man.” The song brought tears to my eyes as I flashed back to my childhood. The band sounded complete with full-on electric and acoustic guitars, drums, and keys.

He continued, “I wrote this song for my friend Rita Coolidge.” The song “Better Days” featured a sublime sax solo.” The audience rose at the end, and Graham quipped, “All I did was sing.”

A killer organ solo captured the limelight with “Love the One You’re With” as the audience filled in the chorus lyrics.

Nash announced a 20-minute break so he “could pee.” After the break, he thanked the audience “for staying” before singing Joni Mitchell’s song, “A Case of You.” Again, paying homage to old pals, he performed “Wounded Bird,” a song he wrote for Stephen Stills. He continued the theme, saying, “Stephen wrote this song for the film Easy Rider,” and performed the stirring “Find the Cost of Freedom.”

Nash relayed an amusing story about Crosby inviting him to a friend’s place where he was asked to perform a song he had just finished, “Southbound Train.” To his amazement, the “friend” was no other than Bob Dylan. Nash said, “Yes, fuckin’ Bob Dylan.” After he performed the song, Dylan paused for a minute. He then said, “Play It Again,” which he figured was praise from this legend.

After receiving a letter from a “kid in jail in Texas for possession of pot,” he was inspired to write “Prison Song.” He noted the “kid was in there for 10 years. At the time, it was a misdemeanor in states like Michigan.”

Nash explained that “Just A Song Before I Go” was written on a dare while he was “at the home of a friend, a low-level drug dealer”.

An honest, thought-provoking, yet psychedelic song was “Cathedral,” which he wrote while on acid on his day off in London. He had been hallucinating in the back of the car when he ended up at Stonehenge, Winchester Cathedral. He later walked around a cemetery before stopping because of his strange feeling. When he looked down, he was standing on the grave of a soldier who died in 1799—on his birthday. The lyrics cut to my soul, especially the lines, “Too many people have lied in the name of Christ/For anyone to heed the call/So many people have died in the name of Christ/That I can’t believe it all.”

A particular song that the audience’s head was swaying and singing was “Our House.” It was ever so poignant, a reminder of domesticity and his relationship with Mitchell.

After Nash left the stage, a roar of applause gave the audience two last gifts—”Chicago” and “Teach Your Children.” It was an evening of classic songwriting from the tumultuous ’60s, an era of wins with civil rights, losses, and disillusionment with the draft and the Vietnam War.

The music of CSNY, including Nash’s solo work, proves its timelessness. The Sixty Years of Songs & Stories tour was a musical and lyrical retrospection of life.

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Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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