David Crosby - vocals, guitar
Stephen Stills - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Graham Nash - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Neil Young - vocals, guitar, keyboards
Tim Drummond - bass
Russ Kunkel - drums
Joe Lala - percussion
Guest: Joni Mitchell - vocals
It had been four years since Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young essentially broke up, at the height of success. Individually, they had each released highly acclaimed solo albums and rumors of impending reunions had been frequent. In 1973, announcements were made that the group was indeed recording together, fueling the hysteria, which was by then reaching a Beatlemania-like frenzy. By the summer of 1974, the demand for live performances by the group was so great that they were confronted with the challenging opportunity of embarking on a massive stadium tour. The four individuals hadn't toured together since 1970, but agreed to the reunion tour of North America, which became the first exclusive stadium tour ever undertaken by a rock band.
Bill Graham took on the tour's production logistics and the musicians worked up a show that contained an incredible quantity of material. The two albums were well represented and the magnitude of material available from their individual solo projects, as well as the new material they had been working on, tended to make the concerts on this tour marathon events. It was not uncommon for the group to play four hours of material between three sets. The basic format for the shows was approximately an hour of electric material, followed by an hour or so of acoustic material, and then another hour or more of electric material. The four primary songwriters were augmented onstage by Neil Young's rhythm section of Tim Drummond and Russ Kunkel, as well as the percussionist Joe Lala, who had been in Still's band, Manassas.
Although it had been four years since the last tour, and each of the primary members had been through many changes, onstage one could hardly tell. Even though the concerts were massive in scale, the group managed to maintain a degree of intimacy by engaging in plenty of stage banter with the audience and having a general disregard for planning the execution of the shows. This all added to the feeling of spontaneity. Crosby and Still's voices had measurably changed and the harmonies were often ragged in comparison to four years prior, but when they sang together, the magic remained. Additionally, Neil Young was at what many perceive to be a creative apex during this time. Not only was he churning out new material at an incredibly prolific rate, he was writing with more lyrical depth than ever before. Some of his most intriguing work of the 1970s was written during this time. Much of this material rarely surfaced outside this tour and remains unreleased in any form.
This concert, recorded at Westbury, New York's Roosevelt Raceway, was the final stop on this legendary tour. The group would play one more massive concert at London's Wembley Stadium, but this was the last one of the North American Tour proper. As such, it is a truly marathon night, with the group onstage for nearly five hours, and that was following memorable sets by openers, Jesse Colin Young, as well as Joni Mitchell and the L.A. Express.
The show features a very lengthy set list and a wide range of material. Generally speaking, the electric music tended to have a significantly harder edge than the previous tour, in no small part due to the biting guitar tone Still's was favoring at this time. This was also a time when cocaine overindulgence was extremely prevalent, which no doubt was fueling the nervous energy level in general.
1970's Déjà Vu album is well represented. Crosby's title track gets the heavier electric treatment here. Nash's anthem, "Teach Your Children," is seen her in an electrified arrangement. However, it is often the solo material, either new to the audience or never heard by the group as a whole, that is the most intriguing. Stills' "Myth Of Sisyphus" has a nice creeping vibe to it with nice backing vocals from Nash and Crosby. Stills and Nash primarily work up new arrangements of material from their first albums outside the group. Crosby, despite having a wealth of his own material, seems to have relegated some of his stage time to Neil.
This turned out to be very insightful, as Neil had new material that still remains some of the most intriguing of his entire career and Crosby may have been the first to recognize this. "Long May You Run," featuring Joni Mitchell on harmony vocals, is delightful lighter fare originally intended for the next CSNY album. The version of "Don't Be Denied," the most overtly autobiographical song Neil had written to date, is spectacular here, with the group sound jelling perfectly and a passionate vocal delivery from Neil. However, with one notable exception, it is the material from his On The Beach album that remains some of the most memorable of all the great material performed this night. The rarely ever performed "Revolution Blues" is Neil at his most demented, however, it's "Ambulance Blues," performed during the acoustic set, that stands out most. It is simply mesmerizing and a testament to Neil's focus, as he performs this lengthy, lyrically intensive number under such distracting circumstances. Neil also tosses out a few of his more overtly popular songs, such as "Old Man."
This recording captures a pivotal moment in time, not only for the musicians involved, but also for the touring end of the rock music industry. The tour was monumentally successful from a musical, as well as financial standpoint. They all did a superb job of supporting each other onstage. The camaraderie remained strong enough for them to convene at Neil's ranch and continue working on a CSNY album following the tour. However, it wasn't long before the inevitable ego and lifestyle clashes would resurface and send them back on their separate paths, with varying degrees of success to follow. They would periodically reunite over the forthcoming decades and perform before highly appreciative audiences, but this concert, as well as the Wembley concert that ended this 1974 reunion, remain as a defining moment signaling the end of a golden era for the group. Things would never be quite the same.