I Was There!

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young played three nights of their 1974 tour, August 19, 20 and 21, at the Capital Centre in Largo, MD.

The long since demolished Cap Centre was state of the art when it opened the previous December. Its “Telscreen” was the first video replay system in an indoor arena. Concerts were simulcast on screens suspended from the center-hung scoreboard so the stage could be seen close up, even from the rafters. Turns out they saved the concert videos.* Four songs from those 40 year old shows can now be seen, and more songs heard in the box set of the recently released CSNY 1974:

I was there all three nights — very good seats for one, not so good seats for another and snuck into the third. I am again hearing and even seeing performances I actually witnessed live, a relatively rare occurrence for most concert goers in those days long before cell phones. The shows are as good as I remember them. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young played together in the opening and closing sets. Each of the four did a solo acoustic set in between. They changed the setlist each evening (unlike Jesse Colin Young, whose opening act remained the same, down to the stage patter) and Young came off as the best by far on all three nights. Of course, I am re-experiencing the concerts through a mist of nostalgia.

This set also acts as a marker along the path of my evolving musical taste. Ironically, my then 19 year old self did not believe my taste would ever change. I arrogantly proclaimed that good music was good music and I would continue to listen to the same artists as I grew older, just adding new ones to the canon.

Then punk came along.

Punk wiped the slate clean for me. It slammed me onto a completely different musical path. Not only did I compulsively collect all of the new punk and new wave bands coming out, I also reverse engineered the sound to discover pre-punk bands like the New York Dolls, the Stooges and, especially, the Velvet Underground (I was already somewhat aware of the VU due to David Bowie and Lou Reed’s solo career, but I finally really got them — I had not previously believed in “acquired tastes,” either). Punk also led me to place garage bands — both big, like Van Morrison’s Them, and small, like the largely forgotten Nuggets bands — I thought I knew well in a completely new context; they no longer led to Springsteen, but to the Ramones.

This is not to say I no longer appreciate or even (occasionally) listen to the pre-’77 music that once meant so much to me, artists like Dylan, Springsteen, Little Feat, British Invasion bands, especially the Stones and the Who, and the many roots and branches of CSNY (in other words, ‘HFS’s playlists of the time), but I did not continue to follow their new work. Dylan and Neil Young are probably the only two of those artists whose recent releases I care about. (I also care about Leonard Cohen, but I did not really come to appreciate him as much as I now do until later, backtracking him from Nick Cave, Tindersticks and others. I am looking forward to his new album in a few weeks.)

My taste has continued to evolve and expand since that 1977 reset, adding post-punk, funk, classic and indie R&B, various strains of electronica, classical minimalism, current pop, etc. Still, sometimes it is nice to revisit a landmark from the past, even if it now seems a bit smaller than we remember it.

 

* Of course, this knowledge just whets my appetite for video of all of the other great concerts I saw there: from The Who and Bob Dylan and the Band in the ’70s, to Springsteen, David Bowie, P-Funk (apparently the last documented appearance of the actual Mothership) and Prince in the ’80s, to Janet Jackson and Madonna in 1990, along with many, many others.

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