"Thank you, we're Buffalo Springfield," Neil Young announced early in the band's June 1st show at the Fox Theater in Oakland, the opening date of the Springfield's first tour since the spring of 1968. "We're from the past," Young added drily.
They were not – he could have added without fear of contradiction – stuck in it. For nearly two hours, in a performance comprised almost entirely of songs from nearly half a century ago, Buffalo Springfield's surviving members and original vocal-songwriting front line – Young and singer-guitarists Stephen Stills and Richie Furay – played like a band genuinely reborn: thrilled to be on stage again, determined not to let their songs or legacy down. There was jubilant fraternity in the close-harmony singing, especially by Young and Furay in the soft vocal rain at the end of "On the Way Home" and their gleaming Morse-code flourishes behind Stills' grainy tenor in "Rock and Roll Woman."
There was also nerve. After a 15-song set that veered from "Hot Dusty Roads" and "Everybody's Wrong," a pair of gritty Stills numbers from deep inside the 1966 debut LP, Buffalo Springfield, to Furay's great lost ballad "Sad Memory" from 1967's Buffalo Springfield Again, Young opened the encore by leading the group through "Broken Arrow," his epic frontier daydream at the end of Again. A complex studio creation, it was recorded by Young as a solo piece, with session men, and never performed live in the Springfield's first lifetime. Tonight, the song featured Stills at the piano, Furay flying next to Young in the chorus harmonies and its original honky-tonk country coda. This was more than exciting resurrection – it was a kind of justice, the way the Springfield would have played and recorded Young's suite if they hadn't been so busy falling apart at the time.
Formed in the spring of 1966, Buffalo Springfield played their last show in May, 1968 in Long Beach, California. In between, they were one of the most gifted and fractious bands of their day, ultimately better known for their precedents – like the strong early whiff of country in their rock – and aftermaths: Crosby Stills and Nash; Furay's great twang-rock band Poco; Young's solo triumphs and eccentricities. The original Springfield, with bassist Bruce Palmer (who died in 2004) and drummer Dewey Martin (who passed away in 2009), made only one album, 1966's Buffalo Springfield, before tensions set in and Young started his comings and goings. Again and 1968's Last Time Around were more like anthologies, comprised of songs made by versions of the group, depending on who wrote the song and led the session.