David Crosby - guitar, vocals
Stephen Stills - guitar, vocals
Graham Nash - guitar, vocals
Neil Young - guitar, vocals, harmonica
From the first public Mime Troupe events in 1965 to his untimely death in 1991, Bill Graham set the standard for excellence in concert presentations and in doing so, redefined the art of communication for an entire generation. To honor Bill Graham, Steve Kahn and Melissa Gold, the BGP staff organized a free concert in Golden Gate Park for Sunday, November 3. Mother Nature cooperated and provided a comfortable and cloudless day as 300,000 people gathered in the Polo Field of Golden Gate Park.
Although the Grateful Dead were expected to make an appearance, the list of performers was kept well under wraps and few had any idea who exactly would be performing. It didn't seem to matter though, as the feeling that permeated the crowd was one of quiet reflection. This concert marked the end of an era, but also memorialized Bill Graham in a manner that was fitting - a free concert in the heart of where it all started. The sad circumstances aside, this was truly a celebration of Graham's life and as the poster for this event noted, it was to be a day filled with Laughter, Love and Music.
A rousing welcome greeted the second extended set of the day, which brought together Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Rarely a polished band onstage, this set is more ragged than usual, but to some degree that is part of the charm of this impromptu performance. There is no rhythm section here; just the four musicians and their distinctive voices. Other than occasional electric guitar work from Stills and Young, the set is instrumentally an acoustic affair, utilizing only guitars and harmonica.
They begin with Nash's anthemic "Teach Your Children," engaging the audience to sing along. Next up is Stills' "Love the One You're With," in a rare acoustic arrangement. The melancholy harmonica intro to Neil Young's "Long May You Run" and the relaxed groove he soon creates on this song is one of the highlights of their set. The lyric and the inherent sadness in Young's vocal seems to resonate and reflect on the day.
Crosby's "Long Time Gone" features some interesting electric lead guitar work from Stills, but ultimately suffers from the lack of rhythm section and Crosby's shouting, as opposed to singing, the vocal. "Southern Cross" fares slightly better, but again it is Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" that brings out the most thoughtful and harmonious interplay.
Recognizing this, they deliver another engaging performance. The vocals are now stronger and the extended jam treatment given to "Wooden Ships" lends itself to some nice interplay between Stills and Young, with Crosby's unique rhythm guitar propelling things along for nearly ten minutes.
They close their set with Neil Young's "Ohio;" a strange choice indeed! This, possibly to Neil's delight, is ragged beyond belief, complete with out-of-tune guitars and extremely ragged vocals. Nonetheless, the audience seems to enjoy it and is soon repeatedly singing "four dead in Ohio," as the group exits the stage.
Following a few brief announcements from Jerry Pompili, he introduces Wavy Gravy, who engages the audience to do their part in cleaning up the park. He ends his brief speech, with "OK. Let's Party!" anticipating the next band to take the stage: the Grateful Dead.