Rock Room on the Road – Graham Nash – July 31, 2022 Point of the Bluff Vineyards

by | Aug 1, 2022 | 0 comments

                                            
Graham Nash’s 2022 tour made a stop at the pastoral
‘Point of Bluff Vineyards’ in Hammondsport, NY on July 31st. While overlooking
picturesque Keuka Lake and its lush green hills; Nash and his touring band of
Shayne Fontane (guitars) and Todd Caldwell (Hammond Organ) played a two-set
concert comprised of Nash’s impressive fifty plus career in popular music. One not
so subtle takeaway from the show is just how many stellar songs and memorable
melodies Nash has composed in his rock and roll hall of fame career. Songs from
the ‘Hollies’, Crosby Stills Nash, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and his solo
records made up the bulk of the set, with a few surprises thrown in for good
measure. His catalog a venerable embarrassment of melodic riches. The lack of a drummer in the on-stage band
allowed the arrangements to breathe and move on their own volition. Every
nuance of song captured in photographic detail like Nash’s own photo editions.

When Nash and his group took to the stage the idyllic
surroundings encouraged Nash to remark, ‘For the first time in my life I’ve got
a better view than you’ to the assembled crowd. The concert began with ‘Wasted
on the Way’, from CSN’s 1982 LP Daylight Again. Nash’s vocal as vibrant
as when he recorded the song in the studio. His tone and clarity stunning, his investment in the music tangible.

The set took on a ‘storytellers’ vibe, which is apt as Nash
is one of the finest songwriters in rock and roll history. Nash’s presong tales
assisted in distilling the magic from his songs. His earnest reflections framing
his compositions in a new understanding. Even the songs we have heard for year
took on a new shine when placed in this alternate light.

Nash paid tribute to his long-time friend and bandmate in the
‘Hollies’, Allan Clarke with a flashback version of ‘Bus Stop’. He struck a
match with ‘Marrakesh Express’ and then satisfied the hardcore with a spectacular
reading of ‘Right Between the Eyes’. A song the bridges the gap between Nash’s
Hollies’ career and his joining of ‘Crosby, Stills, and Nash.’

Graham Nash’s lead vocals for the weathered throat an 80-year-old
rocker are stunning. There was no doubt at all over the course of the show of whether
or not he could it the note. He hit it constantly. For the aforementioned ‘Right
Between the Eyes’ and following ‘Lady of the Island’ Nash sang the songs naked
and without any backing vocal support.

A highlight of the first set of music came when a visibly
moved Nash dedicated the next piece of music to the military and civilian casualties
that had taken place in Ukraine. Nash and his previous bandmates never shied
from sharing their political feelings, and easing into his eighth decade would
be no different for Graham. A poignant ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ acted as a
prelude to a welcome version of ‘Military Madness’ which gained a standing
ovation. Nash would get many over the rest of the evening. It was not lost on
any of the crowd that the music was still just as relevant as the day of its
creation.

A reflective story about Nash, Crosby and Croz’s boat preceded
a cathartic version of ‘Wind on the Water’ a song from the 1975 Crosby/Nash
record of the same name. Nash posted up at piano for the aforementioned before
grabbing his acoustic for the two song set closers. First, a daring three-piece attempt at ‘The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the
Life’ which was pulled off splendidly. Both Todd Caldwell’s Hammond organ flourishes
and Fontaine’s deft slide work made the Nash band able to play a stirring
reading of a difficult cover. Following the big conclusion of ‘A Day In the
Life’, one final ‘cover’ song closed the set with a crowd singalong version of  Stephen Stills 1970 classic, ‘Love the One You’re
With’.

Kudos to both Shayne Fontaine and Todd Caldwell whose
obvious familiarity with Nash’s catalog as well as their full investment in its
creative dissemination helped to make the show. Fontaine and Caldwell allowed
Nash to drive the songs with his acoustic playing and focus on his soaring
still resonant vocals. An absolute master in harmony, Nash was fluid and moved
his voice within the songs like he always has. In addition, to their own
respective voices, with Fontaine on bottom and Caldwell on top they met the
difficult task of replicating many legendary harmonies.  All of the original licks were hit and played
with a unique twist. When required Caldwell’s organ also added a deep bass to
the proceedings.

                                  

Following a short intermission, Nash returned to the piano with
harp rack for a yearning ‘Simple Man’, from 1971’s Song for Beginners. Following
the emotional gravity of the opening number, Nash then played a major highlight
of the evening with Joni Mitchell’s, ‘A Case of You’. Played in a medium tempo,
Nash took three harmonica breaks and sang eyes closed through what concluded as
a rare and special performance by Nash and his group.

‘Sleep Song’ and its intimate changes following ‘A Case of
You’ was a perfect matched pair. One could even think that Nash staged the
songs this way due to their close relationship and shared feelings. Nash
remained on acoustic for the only current original number, the beautiful
Nash/Fontaine look back, ‘Golden Days’ from Nash’s 2016 album This Path
Tonight.

Following the emotional pondering of the opening numbers, Nash
and friends finish the performance with a hearty serving of Nash’s penned
favorites and musical tributes to the past. A duo from 1970’s ‘Crosby, Stills Nash
and Young’s Déjà vu brought the house down. First a tender rendition of
the second Stephen Stills track of the night, ‘4 and 20’, then a stunning multifarious
and vocally vibrant version of Neil Young’s ‘Country Girl’. Nash is fearless in
the songs he plays and how he pays tribute to his musical past, present and
still relevant future. The crowd roared their approval and offered another
standing ovation.

Two ‘big’ CSN, CSNY songs finished the show proper. The
first, ‘Just a Song Before I Ago’ was preceded by the Nash story about the
genesis of the song coming after being challenged by his ‘dealer’ (for $500.00)
to write a song before he had to catch a plane. Obviously, Nash won the bet and
added the humorous aside, ‘Fuck him’. The expected but welcome ‘Our House’ concluded the show and offered a swaying, smiling and peaceful close to the evening. The
crowd responded in kind and Nash was all smiles as he thanked the crowd endearingly
and honestly. The biggest ovation of the night followed and Nash and his band
returned to the stage for a double encore.

An optimistic three-part harmony performance of Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’
was the perfect closer. Nash explained that keyboardist Caldwell was from Holly’s
hometown of Lubbock and then the obvious connection between Buddy Holly’s nomenclature and Graham’s first band. CSNY’s ‘Teach Your Children’ followed closely and
brought the night to a positive conclusion expressing an eternal message of hope.

Hope is what Nash’s music has always given to his fans and
admirers. Graham Nash’s songs are his testament and he continues to curate them. He is a renaissance man and one that will never be
filled creatively. He continues to write, paint, picture and sing; and we will continue to lucky recipients of the results.

Photos: Amiee Van Lew

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