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Manassas – Long Beach Arena
October 7th, 1973
Author: Judith Sims
Journal: Rolling Stone
Date: November 8th 1973

 

Stephen Stills and Manassas have been steadily but efficiently erasing the bad impression they left earlier in their career when they played the Hollywood Bowl and made their disastrous In Concert appearance; both times Stills sounded near death and the band was only slightly better. But that was then and things have changed. Despite a few mistakes, the Manassas concert was the best rock & roll event in Los Angeles this year.

Fuzzy Samuels was on bass, bringing the group back to its original complement. They opened with a long medley off the first side of the first Manassas album, then closed the first part of the show with “Johnny’s Garden” and a strong “Go Back Home.” After a break Chris Hillman and Al Perkins did a mini-set of three songs (“Six Days on the Road, a Hillman-Richie Furay tune called “Safe At Home” and “Devil In Disguise”). Perkins is probably the most versatile musician in the group, playing electric guitar, steel guitar, dobro and banjo.

When Stills (looking years younger without his beard) emerged for his solo acoustic spot, David Crosby was with him, which caused pandemonium in the already crazed audience. Stephen said, “We don’t know a whole lot of songs together,” which seemed true – they did only four, including one by Stills (“Change Partners”), one by Crosby (“Lee Shore”), one by Neil Young (who didn’t show, despite his appearance, with Crosby and Graham Nash, at an earlier Manassas concert in San Francisco) and another by Stills – “You Don’t Have to Cry” from that first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Stills finished by himself with “Word Game,” not one of his best songs, but certainly an audience favorite. They interrupted with cheers and “right ons” every other line.

The group returned for a bright “Cuban Bluegrass,” during which Stills forgot some words; Hillman sang “Empty Bottle,” an old country classic that featured some fine piano work by Paul Harris and cardboard box percussion by Joe Lala.

Then came the moment I’d been dreading; Stills went to the piano for his obligatory “49 Bye Byes” and “For What It’s Worth,” the time traditionally reserved for his political ranting. But he didn’t do it. He didn’t say anything, he just sang and played. It was wonderful. It was a relief.

Crosby returned for the last two songs, “Gypsy Woman” and “Carry On,” the latter sung with all vocal stops out, and Stills’ voice stretched into a bellow.

The show seemed brief, it was that good. For an encore Stills came out alone with a somewhat disappointing song, one of his “we can do it if we try quasi-political songs, ending with “Find the cost of Freedom,” with some unnecessary blues shouts for which the group and Crosby joined in (someone was way off-key).

Manassas at times seemed sloppy and careless. But it was such a treat to hear a really good band play fine music most of the evening that those objections don’t matter much.

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