Graham Nash performing his This Path Tonight tour at The Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 22nd May 2016
Images and Review by Kevin Cooper
Graham Nash, a veteran of the 1969 Woodstock Festival and two time inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, performed at the Birmingham Town Hall last night, accompanied only by his guitarist and co-writer, Shane Fontayne, as they provided a thorough survey of his extensive career.
Fontayne, who has not only played guitar for Crosby, Stills & Nash, but also Sting and Bruce Springsteen played brilliant yet short wailing electric guitar solos throughout many of the songs, whilst Nash deliciously strummed out the rhythm.
Delivering an insightful twenty song and almost two hour (including break) troll through his fifty year plus recording career, Nash started with a couple of mid 60’s hits from The Hollies; Bus Stop and King Midas In Reverse before offering a full complement of Crosby Nash, Crosby Stills & Nash, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, plus solo material, including a handful of new songs from his latest album, This Path Tonight.
The opening notes of Marrakesh Express elicited nostalgic sighs of appreciation from many aging hippies in the audience, whilst Fontayne’s superb back up harmonies just helped to create a really intimate feel.
But along with the excellent singing, the stories Nash told were well worth the price of the admission. He told us that the wispy 1977 soft rock hit, Just A Song Before I Go was written as a result of a $500 bet with a drug dealer in Maui that hinged on Nash’s ability to write a song on the spot. He confessed that Cathedral was inspired by an eerie drug fuelled hallucination he experienced on a jaunt to Stonehenge and Winchester Cathedral, and Immigration Man from a real life experience when he was refused entry home after a problem with his visa.
But it was Our House that this ecstatic audience cheered most for, as he explained that he had been out shopping with his then lover, Joni Mitchell and she had seen a vase which he bought for her; hence the first two lines of the song.
Performing barefoot as usual, Nash dug deep into his well for Wind On The Water, which was incredibly moving in this stripped down setting, as he hit all of the notes perfectly. Nash’s voice is still close to pristine and his enthusiasm as pure as it has ever been. He delivered a master class in singing, song-writing and performing and it wasn’t lost on this appreciative audience.
His new material, the wonderful This Path Tonight and Back Home fitted in well with Nash’s older material but it was the wistful new composition Golden Days that was the most memorable.
Back on stage for their first encore, a mass sing along with Teach Your Children Well, this audience demanded more. Returning again, he explained that he and Fontayne warm up for the show by singing some Beatles songs, and then treated this audience to a beautiful rendition of Blackbird, with both incredibly talented artists singing into the same microphone, which quietly gave more perspective to the rest of the night’s offerings.
When introducing Golden Days, Nash questioned whether there was still a place for “songs with soul and words with so much hope”. Whilst ever Nash can continue to perform as he did last night, write songs like those on his latest album, he will always be the beacon of that hope.