Graham Nash at Victoria Theatre, Halifax, UK – 17th July 2019

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday Jul 17, 2019 Under Folk, Rock

Review by Andrew Lindsay

Opened in 1901 the Victoria Theatre provides a splendid venue for Graham Nash’s visit to Halifax.

Billed as “an intimate evening of songs and stories” Nash has been touring the show for the past three years with few changes (covers of Young’s ‘Ohio’ and Crosby’s ‘Orleans’ were retired out four months ago; covers of two of Stills’s songs remain). Now aged 77 years Nash’s trim figure and bone-white mop of hair puts all of his former collaborators and most of tonight’s audience to shame. He has aged well. More importantly the voice has barely changed… he hits the high notes on ‘A Day in the Life’ in a way that McCartney and Young can now only dream of.

Graham Nash 2011 Birmingham_DSC9326 copy

Graham Nash in Birmingham 2011 by John Bentley

Over 55 years of performing have elevated Nash to a master showman. He creates an intimate atmosphere and in concert he comes over as a likeable chap (the same cannot be said for his 2013 memoir Wild Tales). His band consists of Shane Fontayne (guitars) and Todd Caldwell (Hammond B3 Organ). The absence of bass and drums is welcome and allows Nash’s voice and the trio’s harmonies to project clearly.

The thousand or so audience is engaged from the outset with a tale of Nash’s visit earlier in the day to nearby Shibden Hall, the setting of the recent BBC drama Gentleman Jack. The whole show is dedicated to that most remarkable woman. He notes that the Hall dates back to 1420 and quips “that is almost older than Crosby”. Much of the show is peppered with affectionate jibes about his former friend that it makes you wish Croz had the emotional wherewithal to kiss and make up.

“Look around me, I can see my life before me”, Nash sings from 1982’s ‘Wasted on the Way’. The show is very much a reflection on the path trodden but not in the portrait of the artist way employed by Springsteen on Broadway. The ‘stories’ element is underplayed. We get the oft-repeated tales of Nash’s encounter with a U.S. immigration official at the Canadian border and the $500 wager to write a song in 15 minutes (‘Just a Song Before I Go’). What would have been more apposite would be his reflections on ‘Our House’ – another rapidly written song – which generated rather greater returns as a consequence of being used in a television advert by the Halifax Building Society (whose head office was based directly across the road from the theatre).

‘Bus Stop’, the 1966 Hollies top five hit, is dedicated to his ex-band mate and oldest friend Allan Clarke. The song, written by a neighbouring Salfordian, a fifteen year old Graham Gouldman later of 10cc, is much enhanced by Fontayne’s recreation of Tony Hicks’ fabulous guitar intros and outros.

‘I Used to be a King’ follows and it is another strong performance. The sound is perfect and the solos short and sweet. It is another song written for Joni Mitchell who is clearly still a significant factor in Nash’s life. An accomplished photographer, Nash’s merchandising stall is selling prints of a particularly fine photograph he took of her back in the day.

“Here’s one I’ve enjoyed playing lately”, says Nash as he settles down at the keyboards and adjusts his harmonica. It is a rare and notable outing for ‘Carried Away’. The first set closes with the two strongest performances of the evening. The intensity of ‘Wind on the Water’ leave Nash visibly drained. The mood is then lightened with a superb arrangement of The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’.

After a twenty minute interval ‘King Midas in Reverse’ is dedicated to his sister and her family who are in the audience tonight. ‘Right Between the Eyes’, Nash’s reflections on an affair with a married woman and his best moment on the 4 Way Street live album, is warm and tender with fitting solos from Fontayne and Caldwell. ‘Golden Days’, the sole selection from Nash’s last studio album 2016’s This Path Tonight works well as Nash leaves the guitar aside and just sings with much affection of his early life. Even better is the ensuing co-write with Crosby ‘Taken At All’, with Nash’s most affecting vocal of the evening.

From Mayor Daley to Donald Trump Nash continues to speak out against the populist right: ‘Chicago’ is the first of the encores. A cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday’ is a joy with the trio tightly harmonising as they huddle around a single microphone. The show ends, as always, with a mass sing-a-long to ‘Teach Your Children’. It maybe clichéd but it was a lot of fun and a far cry from Bob Dylan’s entertainment in Hyde Park the previous week.

Last year Nash said that he “wanted to play small, intimate theatres where I can see my audience. I want to look in their eyes and make sure I make a connection. Two things for my audience: They need to know that I want to be there and I want to give them value for their money”. Mission accomplished in Halifax.

Set list

Set 1: Pre-Road Downs; Wasted on the Way; Bus Stop; I Used to be a King; Carried Away; 4+20; Immigration Man; Military Madness; Wind on the Water; A Day In the Life

Set 2: Marrakesh Express; King Midas In Reverse; Right Between the Eyes; Love The One You’re With; Golden Days; Taken At All; Just A Song before I Go; Cathedral; Our House

Encores: Chicago; Everyday; Teach Your Children

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