Review & Photos | David Crosby | New York City

Words By: Chadbyrne Dickens
Images By: Greg Cristman via Brooklyn Vegan

David Crosby :: 2.1.14 :: City Winery :: New York, NY

"Music is magic. Music bridges the gap between human beings. It's been mankind's universal language since mankind started." - David Crosby

One feels a little different when soaking up music from a man who has been performing quality music for over 50 years. One can't help but feel fortunate to witness moments of pure magic. City Winery, New York City's best kept secret and distinctly unique music venue, is known for showcasing 'has-beens' or those determined to ascend the ranks. However, on Saturday, a living legend performed an energetic and euphoric third concert of his four-night run. David Crosby, of CSN and formerly of The Byrds, shared an eclectic mix of tunes from his storied career in front of a sold-out house.

[Photo by Greg Cristman via Brooklyn Vegan]

Crosby, 72, has an impressive resume that puts him in the rarified air of American music royalty. He is one of a few that has performed at historic events such as Woodstock, the Altamont Free Concert, Live Aid and the 25th anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert. David has been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Byrds and CSN. Along with his son, James Raymond, he led the band CPR from 1996-2004. He even took a turn at acting in Hook, Backdraft and Thunderheart.

The L.A. native's personal life has been fodder for the media with various arrests including a stint in prison in 1982 for drugs and weapons charges. He had a much publicized liver transplant in 1994 that was paid for by buddy Phil Collins. Currently Crosby states, "I've got my health, but I've not no wealth. I've got a great family, I've got a fantastic job, and I was supposed to be dead 20 years ago." Despite his legal and health troubles, his voice has always been so well-regarded that singer Melissa Etheridge used Crosby as a surrogate father for her baby in 1998, in no small part hoping to pass on his angelic pipes.

However, it is his varied and impressive work with CSN that mark his greatest triumphs. Ever since winning the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1969, his low-end vocals have contributed to the most respected group harmonies in the history of music for decades. While with CSN, he wrote classics including "Guinnevere," "Almost Cut My Hair," "Long Time Gone" and co-wrote "Wooden Ships." The last CNSY record was 1999's Looking Forward. His last released album was 2004's Crosby and Nash before dropping his fourth record, Croz, last Tuesday. Crosby's first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, reached #12 on US Charts in 1971 and Croz marks his first attempt at new solo material since Thousand Roads in 1993 and has led the grizzled veteran on a massive tour.

A noticeably older crowd filled the up-scale, bustling, warm and comfortable City Winery venue in hopes of catching more than just another nostalgia act. The fans called out varied selections from Crosby's storied catalog from the get-go. In reaction to a husky- voiced man's request, the always jovial and witty Crosby retorted, "with a biker voice like that, it reminds me of prison!" A king of self-deprecation, Crosby uttered, "I know, I used to be better looking." Clad in a suit jacket and pants, the groomed Crosby still managed to hold onto his eccentricity with pants that went way past the cuff and adorning an over-sized top and keeping his patented bald head with long hair he has owned since the late '60s. Using frequent hand movements to accentuate his speaking, he calmly stated, "We know it's risky to play the entire record first but we like it..."

[Photo by Greg Cristman via Brooklyn Vegan]

With band mates, son James Raymond (keys), Kevin McCormack (bass), Marcus Eaton (guitar), Shane Fontana (guitar) and Steve DiStanislao (drums), we were meticulously led through the personal cuts from the new album. "What's Broken" was an upbeat and bouncy opener (with Mark Knopfler playing guitar on the studio cut). The harmony was soulful and satisfying, if one didn't take a moment to compare it to CSN's brilliance. Crosby said that "Holding Onto Nothing" was a meaningful and personal song that "resonates with me deeply." A seasoned professional, he sang without even noticeably using his diaphragm.

Crosby introduced "Radio" and its sailing metaphors that he co-wrote with his son Raymond by stating, "You can reach into someone's life and make a difference" and the powerful song was a first set highlight. The lyrics included, "For you to look out, look down, reach your hand into the water, for you to look out, look down, and pull someone out of the sea." Other songs included "If She Called" about what a prostitute must be thinking of when she is having sex. The song is classic morose yet hopeful David. Although, David admitted to be feeling under the weather and didn't understand how the fans could handle the frigid local weather, he did exclaim, "New York City, this is the shit!" The musicians on stage managed to keep the crowd's attention with the bevy of quality new songs even though most were there to hear the well-known ditties.

David played acoustic guitar during the first set but came out wielding an electric when the second set commenced in an incendiary fashion. He stated, "There was a rumor I was gonna grow up, but it didn't take" before pouncing on a punchy take of "Eight Miles High." He stated that the late Pete Seeger was "one of the most stand up guys ever" before sharing a story of when Seeger called and thanked him for recording a version of his "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and how the #1 hit had given him newfound credibility at a tumultuous time for him. Seeger would have been proud of the passion with which it was played. A fan yelled for the iconic classic, "Almost Cut My Hair" to which Crosby quickly replied matter of factly, "Don't cut your hair cuz chicks like it!" "That House", a song about using demonstrated the band in full unison on the same page during the explosive, "One foot in front of the other" chorus. He dug deep for "Bittersweet" from the 1975 Crosby and Nash album Wind on the Water.

[Photo by Greg Cristman via Brooklyn Vegan]

Finally, the crowd erupted in adulation when the opening chords of the CSNY classic, "Guinnevere" permeated the air. He dedicated it to his wife of 36 years as he always has each time he performs it. The colorful Crosby, with his signature walrus look that could never be mistaken for Wilford Brimley, was brimming with enthusiasm as the final leg of the show was developing. Starting solo acoustic before the others joined, he delved into a tasty and warm "Deja Vu," which was the highlight of show. The song is the title cut from the monumental CSNY album that went straight to #1 in 1970. Crosby remained smiling while having fun on a song he has performed endless times. The final lyrics "we have all been here before" resonant as Crosby plays it as if it were the first time. Naturally the encore was the intense and iconic "Long Time Gone" which Crosby had penned in heated response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The version was much faster and more bouncy than usual and the encore was suitably apropos "It's been a long time coming, It's going to be a long time gone." One could say the same thing as we wait for the next Crosby show.

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[Published on: 2/4/14]

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