Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Déjà Vu Live

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Based on the title, it's hard not to think that Déjà Vu Live finds Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reaching back into their past, perhaps even performing their classic 1970 album in its entirety. That's not true, although there is an album that comes close to being performed in its entirety here, and that's Neil Young's 2006 political manifesto Living with War, a controversial record that Young supported by re-teaming with CSN for a tour -- a tour that was documented in the Young-directed feature documentary Déjà Vu Live. Got that? It's a series of circumstances a bit too confusing for music that's so straightforward, as the Living with War tour was as direct as the album itself. Direct, yes, but it also was a bit softer than the record, as it was bathed in the warm glow of the reunion of Young with CSN, whose presence helps Young's songs seem elegiac instead of bitter. There's no disguising what this is: this is a set of aging hippies lamenting the way things are now by connecting to who they were back then, reuniting for the new songs and mixing up relevant older ones -- including, yes, the warhorses "For What It's Worth" and "Teach Your Children" -- to provide a bridge to the past. CSNY don't run from their age, as they can't escape it: some voices have grown gravelly, the harmonies are shakier, there isn't quite as much muscle to the guitar. But by not running from these signs of age, CSNY wind up with a live album that has a bit of resonance, as when it's contrasted with the rangy, restless 4 Way Street, it's hard not to be a little moved and marvel that the bandmembers feel so comfortable here, especially considering their tortured history. This winds up being the overarching impression left by Déjà Vu Live, as despite the topicality of the set list, Déjà Vu Live feels curiously isolated; there may have been controversy on the tour, all chronicled on Young's film, but it doesn't feel engaged with the culture at large, which could be a side effect of the digital dislocation of the 21st century, or it could be a sign that CSNY are growing older and simply don't stir things up the way they did back then. But for those who are listening, their message has resonance -- and so does the music, as this live record winds up being a nice understated grace note to their tumultuous career.

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