During his performance at the Granada Theatre on Saturday night, Stephen Stills answered his own question about why he was playing so many songs by other people. He explained that having just helped put together an 85-song box set overview of his career in music, "I quite frankly got sick of me."
But the adoring audience wasn't sick of Stills, whether he was singing his own songs or those by others. Indeed, the audience was so full of good will that they didn't seem to be bothered by his somewhat strained vocals, which thankfully warmed up as the evening progressed.
The opening set mostly had Stills accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, with a highlight being Bob Dylan's beautiful "Girl From the North Country," which Stills introduced as a "song from a period called 'young, weird Bob.'" (Dylan freaks knew that this concert was on Dylan's 73rd birthday.)
He also played songs from a couple of his old friends from Greenwich Village — Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe" and Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking." Regarding the latter, Stills recalled pointing out that it only had one verse, to which Neil replied, "It doesn't need another one," and "Sing it twice."
Other songs in the opening set included a cool cover of Graham Nash's "I Used to Be a King" and the Manassas song "Johnny's Garden," which Stills introduced by telling an amusing anecdote about how he "inherited" the gardener Johnny when he bought Brookfield House in England, which had been owned by Peter Sellers among others.
Of course, there were also some choice Crosby, Stills & Nash songs written by Stills — "Helplessly Hoping," "You Don't Have to Cry" with guest harmonies by David Crosby himself, "Southern Cross" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," which showed off Stills' amazing guitar skills with some cool Eastern-sounding jamming, a musical quote of The Beatles' "Within You Without You" and a bit of "drumming" on his guitar.
The second set kicked off with Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," best known from the Crosby, Stills & Nash version. For this set and a few songs in the first one, Stills was joined by Todd Caldwell (organ) celebrating his 35th birthday, Kevin McCormick (bass), Mario Calire (drums) and young son Oliver Stills (percussion).
There were also several songs from Stills' solo career on the program, including "Change Partners" and "Thoroughfare Gap" in the first set, the tale of a pilot delivering "medical supplies" from Mexico to California called "Treetop Flyer," and the show closing hit "Love the One You're With."
Going way back, Stills sang a couple of songs from his Buffalo Springfield days — "Bluebird" and "For What It's Worth," which was slower and bluesier than the original recording. Stills' latest band, The Rides, was represented with "Don't Want Lies" and "Road House." Also worth a mention was the rousing cover of "Rockin' in the Free World" by Stills' sometimes bandmate Neil Young.
As the concert reminded us, Stills has been a part of an amazing amount of musical history. And if you're still not sick of him, he'll be in town for the just-announced Crosby, Stills & Nash concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sept. 20. Click here for tickets and information.
Helplessly Hoping (CSN song)
You Don't Have to Cry (CSN song)
Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin song)
Everybody's Talkin' (Fred Neil song)
Girl From the North Country (Bob Dylan song)
Blind Fiddler (Emma Dusenbury song)
I Used to be a King (Graham Nash song)
Johnny's Garden (Manassas song)
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (CSN song)
Woodstock (Joni Mitchell song / CSN song)
Southern Cross (CSN song)
Treetop Flyer Don't Want Lies (The Rides song)
Road House (The Rides song)
Make Love to You (Stills-Young Band song)
I've Got to Use My Imagination (Gladys Knight & The Pips song)
Amazonia Bluebird (Buffalo Springfield song)
Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young song)
For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield song)
Love the One You're With
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.