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Graham Nash - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 30/4/2023

  by Lisa Torem

published: 3 / 7 / 2023

Graham Nash - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 30/4/2023

Graham Nash’s whirlwind spring tour swept through the American coasts. He made multiple stops, not only in cities in California and New York, but in Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, and the Midwest, among others, in commemoration of his 'Sixty Years of Song and Stories'. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy winner plunked down some serious songs from 1964-1968 with the Hollies, gifting fans the colourful, muted-stringed ‘Marrakesh Express,’ with its “animal carpet wall-to-wall” and the romantic ‘Lady of the Island’ which landed on the Crosby Stills and Nash (CSN) debut, while ‘Teach Your Children’ and ‘Our House’ made a splash in studio album ‘Déjà Vu,’ often thought of as a near-perfect collection of originals. Nash partnered with multi-instrumentalist Stephen Stills, acclaimed for cultivating folky Buffalo Springfield fare, and singer-songwriter David Crosby, an alumnus of The Byrds, during their early reign of counter-culture hits. The circle became officially unbroken when Neil Young, as guitarist/singer/songwriter joined forces and rounded out the four-part harmonies (CSNY). In 1971, Nash established a solo career, yielding the time-honoured ‘Chicago/We Can Change the World’ and ‘Military Madness,’ songs fiercely influenced by the raging Vietnam war and the violence that took place at the Chicago Democratic Convention. All of that rich, political and social history made its way on to the stage last night at Chicago’s top music hall and teaching institute, The Old Town School of Folk Music. Nash used humour and pathos to bring his textured stories to life. “Time brought us here tonight, so let’s have the best night we can together,” he stated, as his line-up graced the stage. Nash appeared with Sting/Bruce Springsteen guitarist/vocalist Shayne Fontayne, who switched effortlessly from acoustic to electric guitar, making vibrant sound effects with his slide, and keyboardist/vocalist Todd Caldwell, who mostly played organ, but for a short spell, switched to an electric piano. Nash excitedly announce that Caldwell doubled as producer on 'Now', Nash’s first studio album in seven years. Dressed casually and smartly in midnight black, Nash filled in spaces between songs with fascinating facts about his early and later career. For example, he revealed that the Hollies were actually named after his hero, Buddy Holly, the spectacled songwriter who died in a crash at twenty-two. The Manchester native’s love of American music also brought him in touch with hits by Little Richard and the Everly Brothers. The night was divided into two sections, including a brief intermission. Set one opened with ‘Wasted On The Way,’ a moving song about regret: “so much water wasted underneath the bridge,’ which harkened back to the band’s early interactions, ‘Marrakesh Express’ found Nash describing a chaotic train ride in which farm animals shared seats with passengers before the infectious, rhythmic onslaught began. The mood shifted for ‘Find The Cost of Freedom/Military Madness’ featuring one of Fontayne’s most expressive exhibitions, while Nash’s lyrical humility and vulnerability came through loud and clear with Nash’s empathetic ‘Right Between the Eyes’ from ‘4 Way Street,’ illuminated by a blistering organ solo. Nash’s voice sounded even more emotional when he launched into the misty-eyed ‘Unequal Love’ from ‘After the Storm’ with the poignant question: “Did you ever stay too long with a lover that was over you?” A fan randomly shouted out: “Is that a new one?” Nash quickly shot back: “If you haven’t heard it before, it’s brand new.” Nash cooled down at the centre-stage upright to accompany ‘Carried Away,’ which featured rolling, harmonic changes. ‘Buddy’s Back’ was pure Fuities heaven. Nash smiled: “I had to write this tender love song.” Before singing ‘immigration,’ Nash recalled a frustrating day at the airport, navigating officials. ‘Love The One You’re With,’ featured both Caldwell on steam-heat organ and Fontayne on sizzling electric guitar. A nostalgic reminder of the “free-love” movement for many of the patrons, this upbeat tune was a perfect closer for the early set—the audience chimed in without reservation. ‘Cathedral’ boasted haunting and ethereal lyrics: “standing on a grave of soldiers who died,” while, with ‘Simple Man,’ Nash committed to plain speak and the raw sound of a blues harp. Given that he had a two-year relationship with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, it was fitting that he dedicated ‘A Case of You’ to their up-and-down affair. ‘Taken It All’ was an elaboration on an early road trip, laced with extraordinary harmonies. Other standouts included the intricate finger-picking and swelling harmonies of ‘4 + 20’ and, with Nash seated again at the acoustic piano, ‘Our House,’ became a second tribute to the domesticity he and Mitchell briefly shared. “Most of my songs come from ornery moments that happened to me,” Nash quipped. As the wavy, white-haired musician headed toward the exit, the emotional crowd screamed for an encore. The wish got granted quickly with a triple-header: ‘Every Day/Long May’ came with another blues-harp excursion and a friendly invitation to join in. ‘Chicago’ was the most personal tune of the night, but ‘Teach your Children Well’ assured that the fans left with good vibes.

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Graham Nash - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 30/4/2023

Graham Nash - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 30/4/2023

Graham Nash - Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, 30/4/2023

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Lisa Torem finds that Graham Nash’s 'Sixty Years of Songs and Stories' makes for a festive and educational night at a sold-out gig at Chicago’s iconic Old Town School of Folk Music.


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