Nothing beats rocking out for a good cause, and Saturday night legendary rock act Crosby, Stills, & Nash performed at Club Nokia as part of Light Up The Blues, a concert benefitting Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. The star-studded event, hosted by Stephen & Kristen Stills and emceed by Jack Black, raised over $250,000 for children with autism and special needs.
The event began just outside the Wolfgang Puck VIP Lounge at Club Nokia where the evening’s performers and special guests gathered on the “red carpet,” which was actually blue in honor of autism awareness. Actors Max Burkholder, Michael Chiklis, Jack McGee, Gary Cole, David Marciano, and Christina Applegate rubbed shoulders with emcee Jack Black and musicians David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Chris Stills, and Don Felder. Good nature and enthusiasm for the cause flowed freely as the stars posed for photos and mingled with event coordinators.
This was my first time at Club Nokia, and I was greatly anticipating this event. Perhaps that’s why, in my haste to reach the venue, I neglected to pay very close attention to where, exactly, the garage in which I parked my car was located.
After snapping photos at the blue carpet, I hotfooted my way back out to the street with a half-hour until showtime, intent on dropping off my camera at my car and returning to Club Nokia post-haste. Instead, I found myself retreading the same few city blocks over and over in a frantic search for the elusive garage in which I’d parked.
After an hour, I began to think I was fated to miss the show and wander the streets of downtown LA for all of eternity. Fortunately, with the help of a very kind parking lot attendant who ferried me from garage to dilapidated garage in his SUV, I finally located my car…an hour and a half into showtime.
I dropped off my camera, raced back to the venue, ran up three escalators, and burst through the doors to Club Nokia. “Am I too late?” I asked the ticket-taker breathlessly. “Have Crosby, Stills & Nash performed yet?” She shook her head no, filling me with gratitude of biblical proportion, and ushered me into the club.
I arrived just in time to catch singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones give a rousing performance of her biggest hit, “Chuck E’s in Love,” with supporting vocal from CSN’s Graham Nash. She followed this with a stunning acoustic rendition of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” If one were trying to explain blues music to someone who had no knowledge of it, a few seconds of Jones’ unique vocalization would suffice as adequately as a 500-page thesis on the subject.
Next up was Miracle Project Fly Singers member Nick Guzman, who strummed guitar and belted CSN’s hit “Almost Cut My Hair.” With his Crosby-esque vocal — and long locks appropriate for the tune — Guzman’s performance was a true testament to the success of The Miracle Project, an organization formed to provide autistic performers with opportunities to express themselves in the creative arts.
Emcee Jack Black’s enthusiasm was contagious. “This may be the greatest concert of all time,” he said with a grin, eliciting cheers from the crowd. He led a high-spirited auction of two Fender guitars, donated specially for the evening by Fender and signed by each of the evening’s performers. When the figurative gavel came down for the last time, the guitars had sold to two audience members for $16,000 and $17,000 respectively, all of which went to the cause.
Finally, headliners Crosby, Stills, & Nash took the stage, opening their set with “Marrakesh Express.” I was pleased to find that the years have barely touched the group’s distinctive harmonies; vocally, their performance was as solid as on their debut album — pretty impressive for three guys hovering around 70 — and Stephen Stills shone on guitar, ripping out killer solos on “Marrakesh Express,” “Long Time Comin’,” and the Buffalo Springfield hit “Bluebird.”
The guys got down to hard-rocking business with “Triad,” the Crosby-penned tune that “got David kicked out of the Byrds,” quipped Nash. (No small wonder — it’s about a ménage a trois. David, you scamp!) After fan favorite “Our House,” shouted requests (“Wooden Ships!” “Helplessly Hoping!”) rang out from the crowd. “Y’know, if we played every song we know, we’d be up here for days,” was Nash’s wry response, which was met with raucous applause.
The highlight of the performance was the band’s extended jam-filled rendition of “Déjà Vu.” In true blues fashion, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (on harmonica) kicked off a round of solos from each member of their five-piece touring band: organ, guitar, bass, piano (featuring David Crosby’s son, pianist James Raymond), and drums.
After a bluesy version of the Stephen Stills hit “Love the One You’re With,” the show ended on a high-energy note as all of the evening’s performers and guests took the stage to perform the CSN hit “Teach Your Children,” a fitting way to wrap up an evening dedicated to the 2 million people living with autism in the U.S. today.
April is Autism Awareness Month. For more information on autism research and what you can do to help, visit Autism Speaks.