There’s a feeling of warmth and unmistakable pride here in Manchester as we await Crosby, Stills and Nash to make their entrance. For Graham Nash, it’s his homecoming gig – the Blackpool-born, Salford-raised kid who helped create hippy history.
Carry On is the opener, and it’s those distinctive, urgent vocals of Steve Stills, rising and breaking free from the Nash/Crosby harmonies, that tug at one’s emotive core. His guitar playing is also riveting, especially on the blues numbers, which we get an early taste of with Long Time Gone.
They play plenty of newer material – this stops the band from being like The Eagles, Nash cheekily says. Recent songs include a stirring rendition of Nash’s Burning for the Buddha, which is dedicated to Tibet’s ongoing struggle against China where monks protest by self-immolating. And it’s not just music that Crosby, Stills & Nash have been busy with; solo projects include Nash’s recent autobiography Wild Tales.
Naturally there are plenty of classics making up the long set (there’s a 20-minute break in the middle), such as Winchester Cathedral, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Teach Your Children, which reveal how enduring their harmonies really are. Towards the end, Love the One You’re With turns into an audience singalong. Sometimes the vocals – of all three – are a tad wavery, but the songs are so embedded in my brain that the little blips hardly matter. It’s just wonderful to have them here, still touring. Stephen Stills’ voice is the more inclined to let him down but he delivers the highlight of the evening, Treetop Flyer, his blues guitar playing is still fluid and sublime.
Nash is the most communicative of the three, maybe it’s his excitement of being back on home territory (there are dedications to his sister and family and a ‘great to be home’ at the end). Crosby is a little more reserved, although his dry humour shines through. Adding greatly to the evening are the five impeccable musicians accompanying CS&N, including Shane Fontayne on guitar and Stevie D on drums. The encore is a perfect choice: the enduring classic For What it’s Worth before we head out into the drizzly Manchester night .