Seeing seven members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in one night in two concerts in the Twin Cities doesn’t happen too often. It did Saturday night with Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the PACER Center benefit (each is a two-time Hall of Famer, with, respectively the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies and, of course, CSN) and Prince with another late-night cameo performance at Paisley Park.Here are separate reports.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Let’s be honest: The audience at the annual PACER Center benefit is a little bit staid compared to your typical rock crowd; they’re supporting the cause – helping children with disabilities – as much as they are watching musical heroes. Moreover, there was palpable sadness Saturday at the PACER event because the organization’s longtime executive director and cofounder Paula Goldberg’s son, David, 47, a California Internet executive, died unexpectedly Friday. She was not at Saturday’s event.
But somehow the crowd was more into the music than usual, thanks to a stellar performance by CSN. Their harmonies were impressive. So were the solo voices, especially those of David Crosby and Graham Nash. Their duet on “Guinevere” was glorious, an intricate vocal workout.
Stephen Stills, who has sounded ragged in the recent past, held his own vocally, and he was smokin’ on lead guitar, especially on Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and “Wooden Ships.” The five-man backup band was first-rate all night long.
CSN was generous with its time – they played 80 minutes compared to a mere 47 minutes by Diana Ross last year at the PACER affair – and spirit. Stills spotted a young man in a seersucker sport coat about 8 years old dancing with abandon in front of the stage and he pronounced the kid part of the act.
Knowing he was in Minnesota, Stills spoke about Walter Mondale and Bob Dylan. He did an impression of Dylan singing CSN’s “Helplessly Hoping” and did his own version of Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country.”
Nash gave an encouraging shout-out to Joni Mitchell, who has been hospitalized recently but is improving, before singing “Our House.” He joked about the costumed folks heading to ComicCon in another part of at the Convention Center. And he spoke eloquently about PACER and its championing of children with disabilities before closing with the apropos “Teach Your Children,” which turned into a giant sing-along.
Two weeks after doing his own thing to celebrate Record Store Day at Paisley Park, Prince got topical again Saturday night at his studios in Chanhassen. In an invite posted on Twitter, he urged party-goers to wear gray to honor Freddie Gray, who died of injuries while in police custody in Baltimore. Earlier in the week, Prince’s publicist had distributed vague info about Prince recording a new song -- titled "Baltimore," according to a press release on Monday -- about the Gray incident. There was no release date but there was a graphic (below); Monday's press release indicated that the record is not finished.
Prince didn’t offer a preview of the song -- either a recording or a live version -- on Saturday but he did thank the 500 or so fans for wearing gray. With 3rdEyeGirl, he performed for nearly an hour, starting with the timely “Chaos and Disorder” and “Dreamer,” which featured some extended guitar fireworks and an endorsement from Prince about not having to fear the Chanhassen police.
(Tell that to the woman from Philadelphia whose rental car was pulled over after the concert. She was allegedly traveling 80 mph on Hwy. 5, even though she had driven only from Audubon Rd to Powers Blvd. -- less than half a mile, seemingly too short to accelerate to that speed. She didn’t get a ticket or much of an apology from an officer who identified himself as a Carver County sheriff.)
In a set devoid of his own hits, Prince covered the Tommy James classic “Crimson and Clover” and did his own “Guitar,” which segued into the instrumental powerhouse “PlectrumElectrum.” He encored with an interpretation of the Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon,” which featured Prince playing some phat and funky bass over a drum loop and no other musicians participating. It was an intriguing performance on a night with a full moon.
Like he did at the Grammys, Prince made a short but pointed speech. At night’s end, he referenced Baltimore, talked about how we need to take care of one another and then declared, “It doesn’t matter the color – we’re all family. You’re family, my family.”
Then, with the drum loop still playing, he sang “Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore, peace forever more” and then asked the crowd to sing along.
Don’t know if that’s a line from his new song, a tip of his stocking cap to Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe or just a smart ad lib.