It's Saturday night at Southern Fried and it's time to see the legendary Graham Nash, but not before we get some nosh*. We had booked a table at Paco's but we get a little bit waylayed going in, stopping for 15 minutes to watch Rancho Bebop and The Full Moon Howlers. I'm particularly enjoying Stewart Campbell-Clarks rendition of "Everybody's Talkin'", it's good to get a sneak preview of his excellent vocals before he sings with the recently reformed The Rude Boys at the upcoming Craigie Hill Festival.
So we're running later than we realise as we sit down to enjoy a meal and some cocktails. I'm shocked when I get a text from my friend saying that it is only ten minutes till Graham Nash takes the stage. We simultaneously pay the bill, wolf down our remaining food and glug the last of our cocktails before hightailing it across the road just in time for the show starting.
Mr Nash strides out onto the stage and in a rich voice declares "I'm in love with Perth". He got here last night and he's been having a great time checking out what The Fair City has to offer. He picks up his guitar, and with his current trio including guitarist Shane Fontayne and organ player Todd Caldwell launches into a song about his old trio Crosby, Stills & Nash entitled "Wasted On The Way". I'm immediately amazed at how great a sound just three guys can make. The harmonies, even when compared to CSN, are impeccable and I love how Fontayne manages to play the pedal steel part on his electric.
"Is anybody a Hollies fan?" Nash asks, and the spirited whoops and cheers let him know that was a pretty silly question so he just lets loose with "Bus Stop", one of the bands early hits. The audience is lapping it up, particularly Todd's amazing keyboard part and Shayne's searing guitar solo. Next up we get a duo of songs with King in the title. The experimental "King Midas In Reverse" which Nash wrote for The Hollies, followed by "I Used To Be A King" which was inspired by his separation from songwriter Joni Mitchell. The later is from Nash's criminally overlooked solo debut "Songs For Beginners". It's an amazingly strong set of songs and it's well represented tonight as Nash selects five songs from it including "Sleep Song" which is up next.
Graham's latest album, 2016's "This Path Tonight" provides one of tonight's highlights, the beautiful acoustic track "Myself At Last". It's a tender song about losing and finding yourself and it features one of Nash's best vocals of the night, along with a beautifully precise harmonica solo that puts the playing of guys like Dylan and Neil Young to shame. The first half closes with a story about the time David Crosby took Nash he thought was going to a pleasant afternoon sail but ended up being a 9-week voyage. Whilst onboard, Nash caught sight of an enormous blue whale and the song "To The Last Whale" was born. Tonight's performance of it is atmospheric and immersive, Fontaynes guitar mimics the creaking of a boat hull and at times, the high pitched plaintive sound of whale song and the harmonies are like waves on an ocean.
The second half of the show really brings the hits. We get a short Hollies medley comprising "Carousel" and "Carrie Ann", and even a great arrangement of The Beatles "A Day in the Life". Nash introduces a song from his latest album, "Golden Days", with the reminder to stay positive. "There are a million good things happening every day that we never hear about". It's a great song about the healing and the redemptive power of music and it asks the question "what happened to all you need is love?" It's heartening to see that Nash's songwriting muscles are still strong and his recent songs stand shoulder to shoulder with the golden oldies. "Missippi Burning" is based on the true story of three college students who were murdered in the early ’60s down South when they went to try and help black people be able to vote. There is a real fire in Nash's belly as he rails against injustice. It's really great to see that he hasn't lost his sixties idealism.
In a really ballsy move, Nash and his trio then perform a goose-bump-raising version of the epic CSN track "Cathedral". The acoustics in the concert hall are amazing and Nash's lead vocal is pitch perfect. "Our House" is probably the first CSN track I ever heard and it is great to listen to it live. I've always loved the harmonies and the song has always felt like an aural hug to me. It's just so comforting.
Nash doesn't shortchange The Southern Fried, playing a generous encore that includes the trio sharing one mic for beautiful three-part harmonies on an acoustic version of Buddy Holly's "Everday" that has a definite Everly Brother's vibe. They close the show with a sing-a-long version of "Teach your Children" that really charms the audience.
*Nosh pun courtesy of Jo Gostling.
If you like Colin's reviews then why not check out his Southern Fried themed Small City Podcast. The first episode features an interview with Mr. Nash himself. You can stream and download it here!
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