- The Washington Times - Monday, August 14, 2006

If there were a rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of the “piling on” penalty in football, the flag should have been thrown onstage well before halftime at the political rally hosted Saturday night at Nissan Pavilion by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

CSN&Y; spent much of the night singing about their opposition to the war in Iraq, leading up to that old-fashioned singalong: “Let’s Impeach the President.”

With his lyrics superimposed on the video screen, Neil Young belted out: “Let’s impeach the president for spying on citizens inside their own homes/Breaking every law in the country, tapping our computers and telephones.”

That stanza may have fallen a little flat, coming just days after government taps on phones and computers likely helped stop dozens of Islamic extremists from incinerating Allah knows how many innocents on jetliners bound for America from Britain.

Perhaps that knowledge emboldened a fair number in the audience to boo at the conclusion of the song, although they were well outnumbered by those cheering Mr. Young and longtime cohorts David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash.

The prototype “supergroup,” whose members first tasted chart success in the turbulent mid-1960s, performed “Impeach” against a video screen showing excerpts of speeches by President Bush in which he alternately claimed solid evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and backed off the claims.

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy Bush-bashers, there was plenty more, as CSN&Y; performed most of the rest of Mr. Young’s recent anti-war album, “Living With War.” Though those numbers sounded much better live with the full treatment, that isn’t saying much. None packs even an ounce of the power of Mr. Young’s better protest songs, such as “Ohio,” performed near the end of the show.

Listening to the third and fourth blasts of Mr. Young’s Iraq-war rock was like being beaten over the head, detracting from the message.

Mr. Young, a Canadian citizen, needs to learn to self-edit. He hurts his art and his cause by delivering piles of lyrically lame polemics on the back of weak songs, then force-feeding the entire dish to a captive audience.

“Living With War” took up most of his portion of the show, which was a pity. Instead of “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Cinnamon Girl” or “Heart of Gold,” we got “Shock and Awe,” “Roger & Out” and “Restless Consumer.”

It was needless. This band said all it really needed to say to make its point with Mr. Stills’ 35-year-old “Find the Cost of Freedom.” It delivered by far the most powerful political punch of the night as video images of the faces of U.S. war casualties in Iraq played and a numeric ticker rapidly ascended from 0 to 2,540.

Another powerful statement came in the form of “Wooden Ships,” the science-fiction fable about the aftermath of a nuclear war from the debut album “Crosby, Stills and Nash” in 1969.

At nearly 3 hours, the show included a generous helping of songs that rightly made CSN&Y; legends. The best stretch was the second set’s gorgeous vocal renditions of “Helplessly Hoping,” “Our House” and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” this last with Mr. Young seated at the piano as Mr. Crosby and Mr. Nash hovered nearby to add harmonies that the passage of many years has done little to diminish.

That would have been hard to top, but Mr. Crosby, who turned 65 yesterday, may have done so with the next number, a gossamer-winged “Guinnevere,” delivered with only his Martin acoustic and harmonies from Mr. Nash, 64, for accompaniment.

Still, the overall highlight was the magnificent, onstage sonic explosion that occurred each time Mr. Stills, 61, and Mr. Young, 60, waged one of their blistering lead-guitar duels. There probably isn’t a better tandem of lead players anywhere on the planet, and it was a treat to see them trying to top each other, time after time.

Mr. Stills says he has reached a new plateau in his electric-guitar playing, and it was evident when he was down on his knees flaying his Stratocaster during “Almost Cut My Hair.” Likewise, Mr. Young went ape on his Les Paul on “Rocking in the Free World,” ending the regular set with an extended, feedback-drenched romp before the band encored with “Woodstock.”

The lowlight belonged to Mr. Nash as he performed the singsongy, badly dated “Immigration Man” in front of a giant Mexican flag. What little relevance this tune had for stirring up sympathy for a rich British rock star forced to deal with the hassle of a U.S. immigration check back in 1972 (probably made him late for tea) sounds like tripe in 2006 as the nation struggles against a tidal wave of illegal aliens.

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