Josh Hisle - 24 minutes of warm-up presented first for this sold out crowd. But in case I am misunderstanding something, Hisle reminds the crowd that although he knows they all came to see him, Stephen Stills will be up later. He had trouble figuring out why Stills' bus kept following him around on this tour. Hisle's lightly humorous side worked well as he delivered solid folk and blues songs on acoustic guitar and voice. He played a piano once which was a nice break. The one hiccup was the break after the first song where he had a marine buddy of his come up onstage and propose to his girlfriend with the requisite oohs and ahhs from the crowd. Frankly, I have never understood why people want to share one of their most intimate moments of their lives with hundreds or thousands of total strangers. Isn't this rather Kardashian? Well, ok, the Kardashians don't ever seem to go away.
Stephen Stills - Like many people that follow current music, The Y in CSNY is the one artist I am a big fan of. David Crosby had one great solo album and worked with some great musicians. Graham Nash is a talented singer but more importantly a class guy that seems to work with people well. Stills and Young were and are the largest talent in that quartet. Their rivalry/friendship has been interesting to follow for many decades now. As I said, Young is the guy that interests me and most people. I have always respected Stills and was actually looking forward to seeing him in this intimate setting (especially compared arenas). He brought a 3-piece band with him on drums, bass, and keyboards. Stills also did several solo songs on acoustic and even brought out Hisle on guitar as he worked the piano. Early and often, Stills showcased a rather ravaged voice. Their was always a huskiness in it, so it was not too bad, actually. It was akin to aging bluesmen who still push through rough spots (shockingly he sounds a lot like my buddy Ed Pittman after a hard day which was most days). His guitar playing is still excellent. I used to quip recently that his dedication to his health with the weight he's lost would have the upper decks of CSN shows confusing him for Young instead of Crosby. But he almost looks as healthy as Graham Nash tonight, so that is great to see. And even with a break, he seemed pretty sharp for the full ninety minutes he played plus his Buffalo Springfield encore. He pretty much covered the hits and did a long medley of some CSN material (did some whole songs as well). The band seemed very professional and intentionally took a back seat, but kept things slick and moving. When introduced, it turned out to indeed be a slick bunch of pros. I did not know the keyboardist from NY, but drummer Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli go back to my Joe Walsh days from when I was in high school. They've played with Stills, CSN, and lots of other top acts. Stills was amusing and he had a bit more caustic to him than wit, but it was funny (at times in a more organized Grampa Simpson sort of way). And it was nice to see him tough it out. His strong attitude and drive allowed him to push forward, take no prisoners, and bang out his music. The jazz and blues portions quieted things down a bit, but "Love the One You're With" had a lot of people out of their seats and dancing. At the Birchmere, that's a pretty good sign of a successful night.
Quote of the Night: I will paraphrase Stephen Stills' response to a guy yelling out a request... "Gabba Gabba whatsat?" There are a couple problems here. First, you are way back there and the mic is up here. Second, I'm f'n deaf. I can hear busboys make every single noise but I can't hear the name of the person across the table from me. Man, and is this the best we can do (as he pulls out his earplugs). I mean its 2011 and this is all we can do?"