Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: Stephen Stills at the Jefferson Theater October 29, 2011

Well, first of all, since I was unable to garner any video from the Charlottesville show, I appreciate the Birchmere crowd putting theirs up. The tune shown, Johnny's Garden, was a highlight of the show at the Jefferson last Saturday night, among many.

I had seen Stephen Stills a number of times solo, but not at all since the final show for the short-lived Stills-Young Band in July 1976 in Greensboro. While Stills has always been a great performer, one of the better guitarists to actually SEE, in his younger incarnation he was not what I would have called called a pleasing performer. Like many of his contemporaries, he often spurned his most popular songs in concert to do what he damn well pleased.

One of the great things about seeing the aging rockers is that now they have learned to live with the fact that people want to hear certain songs and most of them try to deliver. The set list itself was the highlight of the show and covered tunes from Buffalo Springfield and CSNY to Manassas as Stills delivered with a set of selections that included:

Bluebird (opener)
Southern Cross
Helplessly Hoping (painful from a vocal standpoint!)
Johnny's Garden
4 + 20
So Begins The Task
Judy Blue Eyes ( brilliantly worked into from George Harrison's Within You Without You)
Rocky Mountain Way?? (drummer Joe Vitale played with Joe Walsh)
Girl From The North Country (yep, Dylan!)
A couple of newer songs including Blind Fiddler and Wounded Bird
Woodstock (great rockin' version of this classic)
The encore was:
Love The One You're With
For What It's Worth

Stills was still his old fun counter culture self as well, dedicating the protest anthem For What's It's Worth to the "99 percent-ers" and thanking everyone early on for coming to the show when they could have been watching another "exciting Republican debate."
Still's voice was a little rough, especially at first, but it actually seemed to get improve over the course of the show. He has a built-in joke during one of the taxing vocal parts of Judy Blue Eyes. When he hits the note well and gets the applause, he says "I'm as astonished as you are." Such self effacing humor was not a hallmark of the younger Stills and it was his pleasing and grateful personality that easily sailed the show through any rough spots Saturday night.
The guitar work was still great as always, but Stills was visibly wringing and shaking his hands after some of the solos. My guess a touch of arthritis and I speak from experience unfortunately. Of all the times I've seen Stephen Stills, this was by far the most enjoyable.What's not to like about a performer who seems to be having a great time and is highly appreciative of the fact that people are still enjoying his music and coming to his shows after all these years?