By Roger Barone
When Graham Nash appeared on stage in Ocean City Monday night, he was greeted by 900 fans whose lined faces, gray hair–if any– created an ambience more suitable for Senior Citizens’ Bingo Night than an evening with a genuine rock and roll legend.
Amid the golden glow of sunset streaming through the glass-enclosed Music Pier, and the Atlantic’s ebbing waves settling into the sands, Nash started his show with a song released 51 years ago, in June of 1966, from his first band: The Hollies’ “Bus Stop.”Moving forward, Nash played another fan favorite “Wasted on the Way,” an upbeat Crosby, Stills and Nash reflection on lost time, silly squabbling and redemption.
Nash, along with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Neil Young have long been outspoken critics of what they see as failing leadership, justice and social policies in America with their popular protest anthems and anti-administration advocacy.
Nash, who recently moved to New York to be closer to his current companion, photographer Amy Grantham, participated in several anti-Trump marches before and after the 2016 presidential election. Nonetheless, Nash is a measured man, with 75 years’ of life experiences and the inherent wisdom that shapes the “code” he lives by.
In contrast to the CSNY “Bush Bashing” Tour of 2006, that disappointed many fans who “paid to hear music, instead of biased opining,” Nash spoke through his timeless songs. “Military Madness,” “Immigration Man” and “Chicago” got the point across. Although hearing Nash singing, “… rules and regulations, who needs them…”seems humorously ironic, considering President Trump’s current deregulation agenda.
The first set ended with a surprising tribute to the Beatles with John Lennon’s “A Day in The LIfe,” featuring a unique arrangement that showcased guitarist, Shane Fontayne’s, creative virtuoso and Nash’s vocal range. As Nash departed the stage for during intermission, he encouraged the crowd to view the tour merchandise available outside in the lobby. “It’s designed by Ivanka Trump and it’s all made in China.”
The disarray in Nash’s personal life has been well documented during the last few years, and singing of the “Simple Man” lifestyle from his first solo album brings him comfort. Equally elevating and emotional are the songs from his most recent album: This Path Tonight like “Myself At Last” as he “… rolls down this lonesome road to lose myself at last,” or the haunting “Back Home” a tribute to The Band’s Levon Helm, who passed away five years ago.
“Mississippi Burning,” inspired by the murder of three Civil Rights conscious college students who were murdered down South, featured Shane Fontayne’s Mississippi Delta back-porch blues played on an 8-string guitar.
The energized crowd rose to its feet for the final segment of hit sing-a-longs: “Our House,” “Chicago,” and the encore of “Teach Your Children.”
Glamorous life aside, being a rock star is hard work. Physically hard work. In Nash’s case, a two-hour endurance test of stamina and patience. Occasionally winded, he shared smiles of achievement and appreciation with Shane Fontayne after some of the more complicated songs.
Nash will be returning to the area when he performs at the Philadelphia Folk Festival that runs from August 17 to 20 in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.