By 1973, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had effectively split into two camps. After the release of 1970’s Déjà Vu, clashing personalities ultimately put CSNY on hold as the four members release solo material. The band were notorious for their in-group spats, but things had escalated beyond their control. All four members put out solo albums in the year after Déjà Vu’s release: David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stills’ Stephen Stills, Nash’s Songs For Beginners, and Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush.
But mutual friendships couldn’t keep the individual members away from each other for long. Crosby and Nash became a duo, touring theatres across America as an acoustic act. Young continued with his solo career, while Stills formed the band Manassas with The Byrds’ Chris Hillman. While they may have been swayed by the possibility of solo projects, the band’s call was a strong one. Young was the connective thread between Stills and Crosby/Nash, and when Young invited the three to his California ranch to discuss a new album, all were amicable to the idea.
The idea got as far as a title, Human Highway, and a trip to Hawaii to attempt some recording. Those plans fell through, but when Manassas arrived at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco that October, all four members were in the city. It didn’t take much arranging for the quartet to take the stage together.
During the set break, Crosby, Stills, and Nash took the stage and performed an acoustic set. Then, about halfway through, Young came out from backstage and joined them, completing the legendary quartet lineup of the group and reassembling them for the first time since 1970. It was a moment in musical history that can still send chills down your spine.
CSN play four songs without Young at first: ‘Helplessly Hoping’, ‘Wooden Ships’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘As I Come of Age’. Then, Young comes out to thunderous applause. The quartet unfurl another six songs from there. Starting with Young’s ‘Roll Another Number (For the Road)’, the group burn through a mini-set of ‘Human Highway’, Young’s ‘New Mama’, ‘And So It Goes’, ‘Prison Song’, and ‘Long Time Gone’ from CSN’s 1969 debut. The set ends with a rendition of Stills’ ‘Change Partners’ before the Manassas concert.
The mini-reunion was pleasant enough that the group (minus Young) got together again for another Manassas concert a few days later. From there, the puzzle pieces were finally in place for a full-blown reunion in 1974. That trek, infamously dubbed ‘The Doom Tour’, became one of the most notorious concert tours of all time.
While the news of David Crosby’s death still looms large over the music world, there’s no better time to revisit him at his best: on the stage. Check out the CSNY reunion down below.
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