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by Dr. John “Jack” Hart, professor of Communication


A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his first band is credited with starting Country-Rock music. His second band was a supergroup that debuted at Woodstock. Not Woodstock 3. The Woodstock. His first solo album had Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton as guests. He is on the list of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 50 guitarists.

He is Stephen Stills, and he played at the intimate Hawai‘i Theatre on August 10. The show was announced with little fanfare or advertising but quickly sold out. The event was billed as “An Evening with..” meaning two sets, no opening act.

Stills first rose to fame with the band Buffalo Springfield, which had a politically charged single “For What It’s Worth.” The band popularized a country –rock hybrid sound that would allow bands like The Eagles to dominate the popular music charts in the ‘70s. Stills was next involved with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and sometimes Young, still considered one of the great supergroups in rock. Since then he has released many solo projects.

In Honolulu, Stills was ending a 50-city solo tour, his first in several years. He seemed in good spirits, joking and talking story with the audience. Gamely fighting an ear infection, his voice was understandably ragged and off-key in several places, but the guitar still showed flashes of a musician who once played with the best.

And then there were the songs.

Few rock artists have a stronger songbook than Stephen Stills. In the entire show, only three songs were covers. Stills played two hour-long sets, the first acoustic, the second electric. He opened with “Helplessly Hoping,” with the full band, and then sent them offstage for the rest of the set. Set highlights included “Ballad of the Treetop Flyer,” “Change Partners,” “Johnny’s Garden,” “Find the Cost of Freedom,” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

After an intermission “because people my age have to use the bathroom,”

Stills came back for an electric set with the full band. He started on organ for a cover of the standard “Old Man Trouble,” then came the hits, one after the other: a hot take of “Southern Cross” got the crowd to their feet, followed with “Isn’t It About Time,” a cover of “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Love the One You’re With,” “For What It’s Worth,” and “Woodstock.” Stills returned for an encore with a latin- rhythmed “Dark Star,” featuring his best guitar playing of the evening.

If you missed the ‘60s, or just cannot remember them, promoter Tom Moffitt brought you as close as you could get.

 

 

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