Tuesday, July 10, 2007

REVIEW: Stephen Stills at the Catalyst Tuesday

I don't know what was more surprising: that Stephen Stills sold out the Catalyst on a week night and packed it shoulder to shoulder with almost 1,000 people, or that he looked, sang and played really well.

And, even more surprising, the guy who has had some history of being pugnacious and obnoxious, or just a bit rude over the course of his 61 years, was endearing and charming.

He played two sets in a 7:45 p.m. show, running through the hits and skewing them enough to keep them interesting. It's the same formula his band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young used at their best, but the past two times out, seemed more than a little tired.

Maybe not having the structure of the other three voices gave him more freedom to rock out and have fun, because that's what he did.

The crowd pretty much picked up where CN$Y would have been, singing along with familiar refrains on "Woodstock, " "Suite:Judy Blue Eyes," "Southern Cross" and "Isn't it About Time?"

Stills told a story about being interviewed by a writer on this tour who asked how he could do those songs without the harmonies.

"They weren't written with the harmonies," he said. "It's not a chicken and egg thing."

He called himself white trash, because he said, he has a kid only six months older than his grandchild."

And, while his voice strained at times, it was mostly good, and better than it has sounded in years.

Stills has been plugging a new disc of old demo tapes that were found in the garbage by a fan who spent 20 years trying to reach Stills and give it to him. The disc, "Just Roll Tape," brings you back to 1968, when Stills was a friend of Jimi Hendrix's, and the two jammed. (Jimi isn't on it, though)

The first set was acoustic, and turned electric toward the end of "Judy Blue Eyes," when he was joined by drummer Joe Vitale, bassist Kevin McCormick and Todd Caldwell on keyboards.

Highlights of the electric second set included "Love the One You're With" as a shuffle and "For What It's Worth," as an almost unrecognizable bluesy rocker.

This one was worth a lot more than I expected.

No comments: