Stephen Stills has lost his voice. The Woodstock alum and master songwriter of so many groups, Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young to name a few, certainly doesn’t quite have it the way that he used to. As Stills took the stage at Philadelphia’s Keswick Theater, one could almost feel the sinking feeling overtake the audience as he started to sing.
After two songs of voice cracks and notes that were just simply wrong, people almost started to leave. Stills’ voice did warm up, but only enough to make the concert bearable. Fortunately, Stills’ guitar playing didn’t leave much to be desired, as he effortlessly worked his way through complex fingerpicking and stellar riffs. In fact, it might’ve been the only thing that kept most of the audience actually at the show.
The show was divided into two sets, the first was an acoustic set that featured a mostly solo Stills doing covers and songs from his storied career. One highlightwas a cover of the Nashville Skyline version of Bob Dylan’s Girl From The North Country. Stills mostly stuck to covers and other legendary songs during his acoustic set before closing out with the famous Suite Judy Blue Eyes which still proved phenomenal despite Stills’ ailing voice.
After a brief intermission, Stills came back out and performed a markedly improved electric set. His band seemed engaged, taking solos that showed off their incredible talent, and Stills’ guitar playing skills were able to take the spotlight, rather than his lackluster vocals. Solos on the overwhelming majority of songs in the electric set were the highlight of the whole show, mostly because Stills and his band simply looked like they were enjoying themselves more.
After performing a diverse set of songs from Stills’ career, they ended with Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World followed by Stills and Young’s shared protest track from their Buffalo Springfield days, For What It’s Worth. Stills then called an audible and instead of leaving, the band launched right into Stills’ biggest hit, Love The One You’re With.
Stills has an impressive career full of legendary songs to draw back upon. A period of smoking, drinking and general irresponsibility has certainly left him worn out, but though his show wasn’t as great as it could have been, the quality of Stills’ past songwriting and the timelessness of his catalogue made the show an overall enjoyable experience.