Review: “Déjà Vu Live,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock looming for next year, expect to see some of the original participants (those who are still alive, that is) making themselves a little more high profile.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young enter the sweepstakes a year early with Déjà Vu Live, the soundtrack to Neil Young’s documentary movie about a recent CSN&Y tour. 

What made this tour different was that they chose to perform many of their politically and socially relevant tunes, including “Teach Your Children,” “For What It’s Worth” and “Wooden Ships.”  So far, so good – however, more than half the songs on this album are selections from Young’s ultra-political album Living With War, and that effectively turns the rest of the band into his backing group.

The movie hype describes the recent tour as “controversial” and it was, only because a number of people walked out when they realized it was going to be the Living With War show.  No wonder: songs like “Let’s Impeach The President” and “Shock And Awe” are more in-your-face than the gentle sentiments of “Teach Your Children” or the weary wisdom of “Find The Cost of Freedom.”  And they are simply not as good.  Yet it’s Young who enlivens the proceedings, with his guitar pyrotechnics on Nash’s “Military Madness” (with topical references to George Bush tossed in) and on “Wooden Ships,” duelling on guitar with Stephen Stills.

Stills and Crosby tend to fade into the background much of the time – the part from “Wooden Ships,” most famously sung by Stills, is handled here by Nash for some reason.  But it’s nice to once again hear “What Are Their Names,” from Crosby’s first solo LP, if only as a crowd-participation chant.  Stills shines, of course, on the Buffalo Springfield warhorse “For What It’s Worth” and you can hear some of his choice guitar licks here and there.  Young’s songs certainly fare the best from the powerhouse lineup but it’s still weaker material than classic CSN&Y stuff.  Would it have killed them to stick in a version of “Woodstock”?

Say what you want about “aging hippies” and the lack of relevance these relics have in today’s world.  They come from a time when people really cared what musicians had to say, and the sentiments of Déjà Vu Live are at least earnest and sincere.  They support the troops but believe the war putting them in danger needs to end.  They talk about it the only way they know, with their music, 1960s-style.  And I admire that – these guys get out there, they play their own instruments, they still sing harmony although they look and sound like hell.  You can have your Linkin Parks and My Chemical Romances – I like the spirit of these old guys.  Of course, I’m an old guy too … See you next year at Woodstock!

MP3: “Wooden Ships” (live)

MP3: “Military Madness” (live)

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young official website

3 Responses to “Review: “Déjà Vu Live,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young”

  1. […] at 30 Days Out there’s a wonderful review, including the […]

  2. I liked what you had to say about this and linked to it in my post today. Thanks.

  3. 30daysout Says:

    Hey Mike, you have a great blog. Thanks for the shout-out!

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