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Stills Live Review
Linda Solomon
NME
February 23, 1974

 

ON THE concert scene, the best part of the Stephen Stills at-Carnegie-Hall gig was Maria Muldaur and her band, who have been opening for Stills throughout his tour.

All Ms. Muldaur needs now is a hit single to cap her success.

Her first solo album (Warners) featured back-up work by Dr John, David Nichtern, Ry Cooder, Jim Keltner, Bill Keith, Clarence White, and Richard Greene. It was good and has done well, but Maria sparks best in live performance. She’s a livewire who skips, dances and tosses off quips while looking totally at ease.

Hassled by a lousy sound system (Carnegie ought to get their sound together), her voice and range came off best on Dolly Parton’s lilting “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” — on which she played fiddle and was joined by Ellen Kearney and guitarist David Michtern.

She could have done an encore, but it was a Steve Stills crowd, and who wants to buck that?

Stills has been doing great business on his tour, and an extra show was added for Carnegie. But with fans expecting something spectacular, I think he felt apprehensive, countering his tension with a loud and generally bland performance, relying on his back-up band to carry much of the weight.

Together only three weeks, the band never slackened and most of the time Stills wasn’t equal to their strength. His voice
sounded strained as he delivered songs his fans had been waiting for — “Love The One You’re With,” “Change Partners” et al.

He opened and closed with hard-rocking stimulants, including an all-electric version of “Wooden Ships.” A turn on the piano with “For What It’s Worth” was cheered as though he were Arthur Rubenstein.

SS_StillsLiveHis acoustic set was gimmicky, with percussive footbeats more expressive than his singing. He played guitar with one hand while feeding himself a drink with the other, and after spending valuable time tuning a five-string banjo, used only one or two strings on the instrument before slapping it around gently as if it were a percussion instrument.

The worst thing was to hear a headliner like Stills blow it completely on a seemingly off-key rendering of Lennon/McCartney’s familiar and sensitive “Blackbird.” This one was wretchedly botched.

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