Review: Graham Nash, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Graham Nash has been delighting audiences and music lovers for over 5 decades. Firstly, as a founder member of one of England’s leading pop groups of the 60s, The Hollies, then Internationally teaming up alongside David Crosby, Steven Stills and Neil Young for Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young line-ups.
Resident in the United States for the last half-century, Graham’s appearance at Wales Millennium Centre on his current UK solo tour was undoubtedly going to be a special occasion as he cherry-picked highlights from his long career as well as performed new material.
Taking to the Donald Gordon Theatre stage on a warm, July evening, Graham along with guitarist, Shane Fontayne and keyboard player, Todd Caldwell, performed an intimate 2-hour set. As the trio began with a powered version of Pre-Road Downs from the Crosby, Stills & Nash’s 1969 album debut, the acoustics of the harmonies, guitars and B2 organ floated across the auditorium touching the audience’s senses.
The sun-kissed atmosphere of many of Graham’s songs were peppered with entertaining anecdotes that transported the audience to many people and places that have inspired his song writing. While Military Madness recalled Graham’s father serving in World War II as his mother was pregnant in Blackpool, Golden Days echoed Graham’s early years with The Hollies. There were also vivid tales of Graham riding third class alongside ducks, chickens and pigs whilst drinking wine and mint tea on the Marrakesh Express and how an LA shopping trip with Joni Mitchell inspired the song, Our House.
“We’re here performing for you because we want to be here,” said Graham following a magical rearrangement of The Hollies’ 1966 hit, Bus Stop.
There were further treats too. Shane Fontayne’s impressive guitar work fused with Todd Caldwell’s fabulous keyboard playing and Graham’s soaring vocal for a memorable rendition of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life.
Moving moments included Graham recalling his romantic break-up with Joni Mitchell via the uplifting When I Was a King and paid tribute to friend and fellow musician, Levon Helm with Back Home. One of Graham’s more recent compositions with Shane Fontayne, Mississippi’s Burning, remembered three students murdered in America during the 1960s by the Ku Klux Klan and proved to be just as powerful and emotive as anything from Graham’s back catalogue.
The intimate candle-lit stage setting frequently drew the audience in to the performance.
“What an incredibly beautiful place this is to make music,” said Graham of the Donald Gordon Theatre following a rendition of his Hollies’ hit, King Midas In Reverse, before joking, “In the United States they’d knock it down and put up another McDonalds!”
There were plenty to keep the CSN fans happy too, with stories of Graham’s times with David Crosby including composing a song on Crosby’s boat for the White Whales, Wind on The Water and an audience singalong cover of Stephen Stills’ Love the One You’re With.
The concert closed with an encore comprising a tribute to Todd Caldwell’s fellow Lubbock, Texas-born musician, Buddy Holly with Everyday and a rendition of CSNY’s Teach Your Children Well.
Full of love, passion and intimacy, Graham Nash’s appearance at Wales Millennium Centre will stay with all who attended for a long time to come. For me, it will embellish his recordings old and new with an extra dimension of warmth and connectivity for future listening.