Why Graham Nash Changed His Set List in Response to Ukraine War
Graham Nash is no stranger to politics and world affairs, on his own or with Crosby, Stills and Young. So it's been no great surprise that the setlist for his latest tour have been inspired by the war in Ukraine and political turmoil in the United States.
During his "An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories" dates in 2022, Nash has been opening with Crosby Stills Nash and Young's "Find the Cost of Freedom" and his own "Military Madness." "Immigration Man" and "In Your Name," his song castigating those invoking God as a reason for conflict, are also in the early-show mix. Amid those, tracks such as Crosby Stills and Nash's "Wasted on the Way," the Hollies' "King Midas in Reverse" and CSNY's "Right Between the Eyes" take on a different and more powerful kind of resonance.
"I actually changed the beginning of my shows because of what's going on in Ukraine," Nash tells UCR. "I took a chance because normally you want to come out and do a hit to make them all feel comfortable, and get comfortable in their seats and get their jackets off and stuff like that. No, no, no, no. There's stuff going on in the world that everybody is aware of, that everybody wants to escape the news of, but I have to start my show with these songs. I have to say, 'Look, there's something going on here that we need to talk about."
Nash, of course, has been talking about serious matters – of the heart, as well as the world – throughout his career. He contends that "it doesn't make me angry" that the songs remain relevant decades later, but he probably wouldn't mind if they weren't, either.
"It makes me realize that humanity is either fucked or glorious, and there's not a lot of in between," Nash says. "There's incredibly brilliant, wonderful things being done by humanity at the same time we're obliterating Mariupol in the Ukraine, destroying the entire fucking city. They did that with Crimea. ... And I've got to agree with Biden; he's raised world concern that this man Putin has to be taken out of power. This is fucking madness. This is 2022, for God's sake.
"So, yeah, we wrote these [songs] in an effort to stop what we were writing about ... but who knew that 50 years later we'd be going through the same [things]. Does that mean in another 50 years we'll still be going through the same [things]? Probably."
Listen to Graham Nash Perform 'Military Madness'
Fans will get a dose of that topical sensibility on May 6 with the release of Graham Nash: Live, which features performances of his first two solo albums – 1971's Songs For Beginners and 1974's Wild Tales. The LP was recorded in September of 2019 with his regular accompanists, Shane Fontayne and Todd Caldwell, and a fleshed-out band they put together specifically for the occasion.
"They were great New York musicians," Nash recalls. "They knew what they were doing, and it sounded great. I was kind of amazed the band was into the original way of playing those [albums]." His opinion of the performances was confirmed by mastering engineer Bob Ludwig, too.
"He worked on the original Songs For Beginners album, so that's how long I've been working with him," Nash says. "Now, I've never gotten an email from him, ever. He did his job, got paid, done, goodbye. This time he emailed me and said, 'Look, I just have to say I worked on the original Songs for Beginners and you are singing better than that, for sure, and I just wanted to congratulate you.' And coming from a mastering engineer that was a great email to get."
Nash is currently off the road, with a next leg of U.S. shows starting July 22 in Poughkeepsie, with dates on the East and West Coasts. Meanwhile he's busy with an array of other projects. He's "one track short" of finishing his next solo album – his first since 2016’s The Path Tonight – which he's been recording remotely. He's also mixing an album he's recorded with fellow Hollies co-founder Allan Clarke, which Nash hopes to have out later this year. Meanwhile, regular archivist Joel Bernstein is putting together a box set of live recordings by CSNY from 1969, at the start of the quartet's career.
Nash remains "done" with David Crosby – permanently – and he laments that Neil Young and Stephen Stills are still staying off the road. In their stead, Nash is dipping into their catalogs, jointly and separately, and occasionally playing good pal Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," which is about his romantic breakup with her during the early '70s.
"I've realized one very simple thing," Nash says. "Crosby's not going to go out anymore, I don't believe. I think he's done. I think Stephen is not going out any time soon, and who the hell knows what Neil is doing – not even Neil, probably. So if people want to hear any of that music, there's only one place they can hear it right now: That's me. There's been a tremendous amount of music made in the last 50 years by a combination of me and David and Stephen and Neil. I want to keep all that alive. There's no reason for any of that music to disappear just because the people who made it are dying or don't play anymore."
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