Crosby, Stills, and Nash, plus wine, balloons, and a vase

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Stills, Nash, and Crosby start to play as hot-air balloons settle in behind them.

Stills, Nash, and Crosby start to play as hot-air balloons settle in behind them.

For those of us of a certain age, it is comforting to attend a concert where people even older than we show that they can still rock out like they were in their 20’s. So we had quite a good time Saturday at a Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville. Considering how old they are (73, 69, and 72 respectively) and how many drugs Crosby and Stills did, it was a pretty amazing performance. It gives hope to the rest of us.

We went over early enough to take a tour of the winery. The basic tour is a pretty good deal. It’s free and you get to taste three wines. (More extensive tours and tastings are available for a price.) Most California wineries that I’ve visited charge for tours. It’s only a half hour, but our guide was excellent and very knowledgeable about wine.

Chateau Ste. Michelle bottles only white wines at the facility in Woodinville. Reds are bottled in the Columbia Valley in eastern Washington. That’s also where all the vineyards are, because the climate there is more conducive to growing grapes than cool, rainy western Washington. But Woodinville is the corporate headquarters, and it’s a huge facility.

The facility includes the concert venue, which is a big field with a reserved-seating area and a lawn where people can picnic and then watch the concert. For our East Coast friends, it’s sort of a less-fancy Wolf Trap.

The concert schedule appears to cater to an older demographic. The previous night’s act was Frankie Valli. Other performers this summer included Ringo Starr, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Manhattan Transfer, ZZ Top, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

We bought a nice blackened-salmon Caesar salad from one of the local vendors lining the perimeter of the field and a bottle of wine from the Chateau Ste. Michelle tent and settled in to be entertained.

As the concert was about to start, three large hot-air balloons, one of them quite low, sailed overhead. For a minute I thought that Crosby, Stills, and Nash were making a big entrance. (The low balloon had to be Crosby.) But it wasn’t so. They came on stage as the balloons sailed on by.

The trio went into full rock mode at the outset, starting with “Carry On.” They slowed down some later, doing a wide variety of their own and others’ songs. Their skills seemed for the most part undiminished. Stills’ voice has lost some of its timbre, but that made him the perfect choice to do a Bob Dylan imitation and then sing Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.” His voice has not degraded as much as Dylan’s has. And he remains one of the great rock guitarists, closing the first set with a solo that would have blown the doors off the venue if the venue had had doors.

Crosby and Nash still sounded great, especially Nash, and the three voices still blended beautifully. Crosby was as funny and as political as always, going on a brief rant about how they didn’t really like either party and were especially unhappy with the influence of big money in politics. That drew a big ovation from a crowd that probably included few Republicans.

At one point, as smoke rose from the stage, Nash said, “Croz, this looks the way your apartment used to look.” Crosby replied, “Hey, it’s legal here.” Truth to tell, a certain odor could be detected here and there.

Nash got a little political too, recalling the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk during the Vietnam war and noting the more recent immolation of 128 Tibetan monks to protest China’s treatment of Tibet. That introduced a newer song called “Burning for the Buddha.”

The concert lasted for more than three hours, with a 20-minute intermission. Quite an exhibition by three old guys. They dedicated the encore performance of “Teach Your Children” to Joe Sample, the jazz-funk pianist who had died that day.

The concert ended up costing me, however. Nash sang “Our House,” which includes the line “you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today.” (That’s “vahz” as Nash sings it.) After the concert, we drove back to the island and up to see our friends at the Rob Schouten Gallery, where Robin bought a vase she had been eying, took it home, and put flowers in it.

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