David Crosby - guitar, vocals; Stephen Stills - guitar, vocal; Graham Nash - guitar, vocal
Over Halloween weekend of 1986, Bill Graham presented two monumental nights of music at Madison Square Garden. Promoted as "Crack Down" these special concerts featured a stellar roster of musicians with profits benefiting New York City's ongoing fight against crack addiction, which had become a serious problem over the course of the 1980s. The November 1st concert featured Santana and Ruben Blades headlining a night devoted to the cream of the crop of Latin artists, but Halloween night was the most memorable night, as not only did Santana and Blades perform, but this evening would see the Allman Brothers Band reunited for the first time, joined by a long list of notable guests and include an acoustic performance by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The King Biscuit Flower Hour was also on hand, capturing the night for posterity, with highlights of these concerts broadcast nationwide over the weeks to come.
This segment of the Crosby, Stills and Nash performance from Halloween night finds the group in good spirits and surprisingly harmonious form. Crosby's well-publicized battles with drug addiction and his subsequent incarceration on drugs and weapons charges had him locked up since December of 1985, which likely saved his life. He was finally paroled and after several weeks in a halfway house, regained his freedom at the tail end of August 1986. With this concert occurring just two months later, Crosby was a welcome sight indeed. Not surprisingly, being forced to kick his addictions had done him a world of good. He was now healthier than he'd been in many years and his velvety voice had returned along with his motivation to sing and perform. With just their acoustic guitars, the trio had joined forces again, much to the delight of the New York City audience.
The recording begins with a monologue, in which Crosby and Stills humorously condense the history of the band as an introduction to Graham Nash's "Wasted On The Way." With lyrics that now resonate stronger than they ever did in 1982, when the song was originally released, this immediately shows the three voices harmonizing better than they had in well over a decade. Prefaced by David Crosby advising the audience to "treasure your loved ones because you never know how long you'll have them," a truly passionate reading of "Guinnevere" follows. This is a wonderful performance that proves, despite all the turmoil and self-abuse of recent years, the blend of Crosby and Nash's voices remained extraordinary.
The remaining two numbers are both Stephen Stills songs from the group's debut album. Stripped down to just acoustic guitar and voices, both serve to emphasize what brought the trio together in the first place. "You Don't Have To Cry" is followed by "Helplessly Hoping" which quite literally serves this purpose, being the very first song the three of them ever sang together. Featuring lovely acoustic guitar work from Stills, both of these songs showcase the special vocal chemistry between these three musicians.