For the first time since Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's sprawling three-hour performance back in 2006, Graham Nash returned to the nation's capital for another marathon performance with his career-spanning "An Evening of Songs and Stories with Graham Nash."
Packed with mostly well-dressed and polite 60-somethings, Nash adorned the stage at the 966-seat Centrepointe Theatre with Persian rugs, clusters of candles and a palm plant to help give the evening's performance a cozy and intimate feel. Entering the stage with famed session guitarist Shane Fontayne (who produced and played on Nash's latest LP, This Path Tonight), the 75-year-old looked vibrant and hip in skinny jeans and a flowing black dress shirt.
Clutching his Martin acoustic guitar, Nash kicked the night off with a rendition of his former band the Hollies' first North American hit, "Bus Stop." After greeting the audience, Nash moved ahead a few decades to perform Crosby, Stills & Nash's 1982 single "Wasted on the Way," which expertly demonstrated Fontayne's incredible ability to play off of and harmonize with his musical partner. After pulling out a deep cut, "I Used to Be a King," from his classic 1971 solo debut, Songs for Beginners, Nash gave the audience his first story of the night, recounting how his 1972 Crosby & Nash hit "Immigration Man" was written after a run-in with Vancouver custom officers.
After performing some of his most recognizable songs, including Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Marrakesh Express" and his revamped Trump-referencing solo track "Military Madness," Nash ended the night's first set off with a brilliant, brooding cover of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" that had the theatre on its feet.
Returning to give the audience some insight into Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Just a Song Before I Go" (about writing the song to win a bet with a drug dealer), Graham dedicated the touching "Back Home" (a track about the death of the Band's Levon Helm) to Tom Petty, who was still clinging to life by show time. Sitting behind his Yamaha keyboard, Nash then recounted to the crowd his story about meeting Joni Mitchell in Ottawa and performed a track written about their relationship, the CSNY hit "Our House," to close off the second set.
Returning to the stage for an intimate cover of another Beatles track, "Blackbird," Nash and Fontayne left the now-standing crowd with a poignant version of "Teach Your Children." These types of 'song and stories' performances can easily cross the line into schlocky nostalgia-peddling, but Graham Nash injected the two-hour performance with enough energy, insight, humour and humility to provide the receptive and gratified crowd a truly unforgettable evening from a real musical legend.