In the summer of 1988, Rolling Stone asked Neil Young if he was willing to reform Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for a tour. They were midway through cutting their long-awaited followup to 1970’s Deja Vu and hadn’t hit the road since their 1974 stadium extravaganza that basically invented the big money rock reunion tour. Crosby, Stills and Nash had toured heavily as a trio in that time, but Young was only willing to take part at one-off charitable gigs like Live Aid and the Bridge School Benefit.
“They wanted to book a tour, and I said no way,” Young told writer Jim Henke. “I don’t want to have anything to do with a tour. When the record’s finished and we know what we’ve got, that’s the time to talk about a tour. Also, everyone needs to really get in shape if we tour. There’s no way getting around the fact that a CSNY tour would be a nostalgia tour to a great degree. CSNY is Woodstock – it’s that era, that whole generation. So why go out there and not be at our physical best?”
By 2000, the group was in a very different place. After a bleak period in the 1980s, David Crosby was recovering from a liver transplant. Many of the old tensions had gone away, and reunion tours by the Eagles, the Who, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss and Page & Plant had proven that the road was a very, very lucrative place for aging rock stars from the 1960s and 1970s. CSNY came together in 1999 to begin work on the new LP Looking Forward, and from the very beginning of the process Young made it clear he was willing to support it with a tour in 2000.
Tickets for the 41-date CSNY2K tour sold out all over the country even though many seats cost over $200. The fans that paid got to see a marathon set that regularly blew past the three-hour mark with 30 songs with the bulk of the show devoted to classics like “Carry On,” “Ohio,” “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Teach Your Children.” They even did a smattering of Young solo tunes like “Cinnamon Girl,” “After The Gold Rush” and “Rockin’ In The Free World” in addition to songs by the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield.
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VH1 broadcast the beginning of opening night at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. Check out this video of “Southern Man” from that night. They play it with the same fire and passion they did back in 1970, even if their waistlines and hairlines had changed a bit in the intervening thirty years. They seemed quite old to many back then, but nobody in the group had even hit 60. (For comparison, they were just about seven years older than Eddie Vedder is right now.) The tour was so successful they did it again in 2002 and then again in 2006 to support Young’s furious anti-Bush disc Living With War.
Young lost interest in CSNY after 2006, and some unfortunate Crosby comments in 2014 about his new girlfriend Daryl Hannah did little to help group relations despite his repeated apologies. But CSN toured every year like clockwork until late 2015 when they had their own meltdown and broke up. All three members still tour individually, but 2018 is the 50th anniversary of their original formation and 2019 is the 50th anniversary of their debut LP (and first tour where a guy named Neil joined them on guitar).
Big money offerings will surely pour in for a reunion tour. While there’s currently no evidence they are even considering such a thing, the band’s history shows anything is possible.