Tuesday night’s concert began with “On the Way Home,” and the body of the show was weighted toward the beautiful songs. Neil Young, who supplied the evening’s best quips, joked, “We don’t have enough songs for a whole set.” There were only three albums, and they broke up 40 years ago. And thus the show ended 14 songs and three encore tunes later with Young’s post-Buffalo anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World.” That was a little weird.
Though Young is clearly the popular concert draw, and Stephen Stills—who was a little croaky on Tuesday—was always my favorite, the show belonged to Richie Furay. Each song found him in better voice, from “A Child’s Claim to Fame” and “Kind Woman” to “Clancy Can’t Even Sing” and “Sad Memory.” It also seemed weird, until you consider that Furay spent decades famously born again, and missed all those bad party years. People credit Gram Parsons with bringing country back into hippie rock ’n’ roll, but Furay, who spearheaded Poco, might have gotten there more convincingly first.
Buffalo Springfield at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Still, the best parts came when we held our breath with our eyes closed as the band waxed psychedelic. Halfway through the show, it was “Mr. Soul,” and five songs later, they pulled out all the stops on “Bluebird,” which proved convincingly that they can still jam.
“Now we want to play our hit,” said Young, and the anthem that somehow defined the era, “For What It’s Worth,” brought people to their feet. You remember where you were when you first heard some songs, and you wonder that others connect to it, too. It was then I looked around at everyone singing along and realized that this band was too important to be gone.