Maybe it was the nearly three-and-a-half-hour length of the concert. Maybe it was the fact that it tried to make up for some serious lost time. Or maybe it was simply that hippie idealism doesn't translate all that well to the 21st century. Whatever it was, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's exhausting performance at Gund Arena sure did drag. It's been 26 years since the quartet shared a stage, and no expense (or song, apparently) is being spared on its current tour. It's no big deal that the group's latest album, Looking Forward, is a major stinker and provided the biggest lulls live; these are four guys with plenty of history, and damned if they weren't going to remind you of every second of it.
And obviously some of those moments were more cherished than others. The star of the evening, Neil Young, was dazzling in both the group setting and during his solo-spotlight numbers. His energy throughout -- particularly effective on "Cinnamon Girl," "After the Gold Rush," "Down by the River," and "Rockin' in the Free World" -- kept the concert from becoming the nostalgia show on which it often bordered. Depending on the lead performer, songs were variously spirited (Stephen Stills's "Love the One You're With") and sickly sweet (Graham Nash's "Our House"). Best were the times when the four took center stage together and drew on their trio and quartet catalog: an appropriately locomotive-like "Marrakesh Express," the timeless moralizing of "Teach Your Children," a still-powerful "Ohio," and the time-tripping "Woodstock."
Still, that didn't keep CSNY's performance from being generally bloated. Young was lean, as was Stills (who was incredibly dedicated to the clunky but welcomed "For What It's Worth"). But Nash and David Crosby, the soft factor of the group, coasted on heavenly harmonies and treacly philosophizing. Their '60s-steeped retro gazing seemed way too dated (though you wouldn't have guessed it by the reaction of the audience). Which, when you think about it, is what nostalgia tours are all about anyway.