There’s nothing like starting your gig-going experience with a £6 bottle of beer in the Piano Bar. Reading the set times stuck to the wall it was a surprise to see an interval halfway through the show but that’s what you get from a gig in a theatre I suppose. It’s not your usual grimy experience from an O2 Academy or the like.
It’s not that often that a genuine legend plays a relatively small venue, but that’s what Graham Nash is. Creator of a raft of classic songs, and sounds, from the 60s and 70s, former beau of Joni Mitchell (“Joni” gets mentioned a few times tonight), former Hollies and current (as times) Crosby, Stills, and Nash man, the Blackpool born singer-songwriter is up there with the biggest. Only he’s playing in a medium-sized venue in Oxford, and it’s a treat to get up close and personal.
The highlights are obvious, ‘Marrakesh Express’, ‘Our House’, and a couple of covers, of The Beatles ‘A Day In The Life’ and bandmate Stephen Stills ‘Love The One You’re With’. The stories are short but give a fascinating insight into Nash’s life; from dropping LCD then writing the batshit crazy ‘Cathedral’, to going out for the day on a boat with “Crosby” and coming back nine weeks later, writing ‘Wind On The Water’.
There’s the history to ‘Immigration Man’ – literally about a bloke at the immigration desk – and ‘I Used To Be A King’ and ‘Simple Man’ both inspired by Joni. There are plenty of anecdotes involving spliffs or acid, and his drug dealer betting him $500 he couldn’t write a song before he left, he did: ‘Just A Song Before I Go’.
It’s a laid back and friendly vibe, with Nash centre of his guitarist (Shane Fontayne) and key player (Todd Caldwell), both excellent, still has the voice that made him famous, though the harmonies are not quite as perfect as with his erstwhile colleagues – though they never could be.
The songs, the vibe, and the voice are timeless, very much in keeping with the venue.