Fillmore Bluebird (Mainstream MAST-130/131)
Fillmore East, New York, NY – June 2nd, 1970
Disc 1: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, On The Way Home, Tell Me Why, Triad, Guinnevere, Simple Man, Man In The Mirror, Down By The River, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Bluebird, Black Queen, 4+20, 49 Bye-Byes, America’s Children, For What It’s Worth, Love The One You’re With
Disc 2: Tuning / Pre-Road Downs, Long Time Gone, Helplessly Hoping, Ohio, As I Come Of Age, Southern Man, Carry On, Find The Cost Of Freedom, Woodstock
Crosby Stills Nash & Young played six shows at the Fillmore East in New York between June 2nd and June 7th. All of the concerts were professionally recorded for the live album 4-Way Street. All but the first and final shows have circulated with soundboards for two of the shows, June 4th and June 5th, released by the Aurora Borealis label on Live At The Fillmore East Vol. 1 (OMS – 010/011) and Live At Fillmore East Vol. 2 (OMS – 012/013) among others.
The acoustic set was extant although didn’t circulate that much. Now on Fillmore Bluebird an acceptable tape of the entire opening night is available with both acoustic and electric sets present. The tape is musically complete with several tape flips between some songs with no loss of music or talking. The sound quality is fair to good with significant levels of distortion in the upper frequencies. It sounds as if the tape didn’t set the levels properly. The electric set suffers much more than the acoustic making it difficult to follow the solos in the general mush of sound.
The show itself is very laid back with both the band and their harmonies being very loose. They were unhappy with the performances from these shows that were the basis for the live album and it’s easy to see why. Their harmony, key to their arrangements sound very ragged throughout the show. At one point Nash jokes “I’d like to leave now”. A heckler loudly responds “ALLRIGHT!”.
“Just goes to show that you can’t please everybody…It just goes to show that we play for ourselves” is his response. The spirit is there and the band become more energetic as the show goes on. “Teach Your Children”, played at most concerts after “On The Way Home” is dropped as is the Neil Young tune “Birds”, replaced with “Down By The River” in the acoustic set. Three songs, “Tell Me Why”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “Southern Man” from After The Goldrush were played three months before the album’s release.
“Guinnevere” sounds sublime on this recording and Nash introduces “Simple Man” as “the simplest song I’ve wrote”. The first set ends with “America’s Children” and “For What It’s Worth” played in an undifferentiated medley on the piano and “Love The One You’re With”. The first highlight of the electric set is the third ever performance of “Ohio”. Nash begins the introduction by saying “this is a very important song for us. It was written by Neil and it’s about Kent State University and the four people who were blown out of existence. He wrote it like last week and recorded it three days later.” Stills continues by saying “I don’t think you’ll hear it on the radio…. This one is called ‘Ohio'”. The song was recorded on May 21st and advance copies were distributed to DJs on May 29th. It was released to the public, with “Find The Cost Of Freedom” as a B-side, on June 5th, three days after this show and receives an enthusiastic response by the audience.
“Southern Man” is another highlight which Young introduces by saying; “this song makes it impossible to play Atlanta and Miami.” Nash replies, “There’s got to be one good person there!” It is interesting to hear a full band version of this song with the harmonies included. The B-side to their latest single is played and the final song is the expected “Woodstock”. The cover artwork is very attractive and they include several shots of the band in the studio and live on the inserts.
Fillmore Bluebird was released in July and was the first release by Mainstream since last December. There were reports that the “backbone” silver labels in Japan like Mainstream, Highland and Gypsy Eye had all gone out of business leaving the collector a choice between the high-priced silver labels or collecting cdrs. Hopefully this isn’t the case and this is the beginning of more activity from these labels. Since this is the only available version of the first New York show it is an important and interesting release that is worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)