David Crosby

Bergen PAC, Englewood, NJ

Bergen Performing Art Center - December 5, 2018
Review & Photos - Rebecca Wolf

If one didn’t know David Crosby, and passed him on the street, one might judge this man to be a random unassuming, down-home, salt-of-the-earth individual. With his ruddy complexion, thick white mustache, and shock of white hair emerging from his knit cap, he could appear to be a sailor/fisherman, a tradesman, a small-town local gent. It would not be surprising if one didn’t recognize that this man has been twice induced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as part of the Byrds and Crosby, Skills and Nash), played at Woodstock, and has had multiple top 40 hits with these bands. 

You see, David Crosby has never been one to follow the conventions of many typical rock icons. He has never shown an outward care about his attire, his hairstyle nor cared about flashy materialistic possessions. Over the years, Crosby has been very vocal about his personal opinions about politics and drugs, and has himself been in involved in several legal situations. There has also been enough dissension between Crosby and former band members Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young, that Nash has announced that CSN would never perform again, due to poor relations with Crosby. 

However, Crosby is seemingly not one to care what others think or to make excuses for himself. Currently working with three young, extremely talented bandmates, four decades younger than himself, Crosby commented during his December 5th performance at Bergen PAC, that others thought (maybe hoped) that having these collaborators would potentially tone him down. As Crosby shared this with the audience he chuckled at this notion, as it’s obvious he has no intention of allowing anyone to alter his bold, outspoken ways. This comment aligns with Crosby’s recent description of his interactions with his current bandmates, given during an interview with Rolling Stone, where he noted he was “the child” in the group, despite being four decades their senior. 

Crosby’s three bandmates, Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, and Michael League, are given second billing on his newest solo album, Here If You Listen, released October 2018. However, the album is essentially a collaboration of all four musicians, who wrote the majority of the songs together and traded lead vocals. The three also worked with Crosby on his 2016 album Lighthouse. All three band members have their own musical careers, which Crosby was proud to share with the audience. These are talented singers, songwriters, snd musicians in their own right. Michael League is a multi-instrumentalist, leader of the jazz/rock/funk band Snarky Puppy, who runs a studio in Brooklyn, produces for multiple artists, and manages a record label. Guitar player Becca Stevens, a jazz/folk/indie-rock artist has collaborated with a variety of instrumentalists, bands and ensembles. Keyboardist Michelle Willis, performs regularly as a solo artist, as well as with a number of bands.
Both women have warm, sweet, ethereal voices and all three band members beautifully harmonized with Crosby. Crosby continues to sings well at the ripe old age of 77, but the vocal blend of the band members performing with him created a rich, textured, dimension to the music. That Crosby was lucky enough to find these talented singers/songwriters/musicians to work with (on stage, in the studio and at the writing table), was a gift for him, as much as for the fans. It’s obvious Crosby holds his bandmates in high regard, and the connections between them were relaxed, warm and endearing.

Throughout the performance, Crosby was open and relaxed with the audience, and was his typical outspoken self.  He comfortably interacted with the fans and enjoyed peppering his communication with profanity. These words were not used in a nasty way, but rather were Crosby’s natural way of adding emphasis to what he was saying. And, Crosby definitely likes to emphasize what he’s saying and assure he’s being heard.  Multiple times during the performance he called out individuals seated near the front of the theater, upon noticing them texting or searching on their phones….the light of the screens giving them away. “Hey, you with the phone. I see the light on your phone. You in the blue. Yes, I’m talking to you,” he called out, until the guilty party realized Crosby was speaking to them. “Stop texting, put your phone away.” Crosby was not being a technology police, as you see in so many concerts nowadays, where phones and photography are banned. (The debate continues about the merits of taking photos during a show versus purely watching and enjoying it.) Crosby expressed no displeasure with fans using their phones for pictures. However, it’s understandable that texting, especially to a man of Crosby’s generation, did not seem to be congruent with sitting up front at a concert of one of rock’s biggest icons. You would’ve thought with one individual being reprimanded, others would learn that Crosby has no qualms stopping mid-sentence and pointing out an “offender”.

With Crosby’s recent release of Here If You Listen, many of the songs from the album were showcased during this performance, as well as songs from Crosby’s prior album, Lighthouse. “Glory”  and “1974” from Here if You Listen, feel soothing, touching and intimate, as do “Things We Do For Love” and “By Light of the Common Day” from Lighthouse. These songs provided the perfect opportunity for Stevens, Willis and League to share with the audience their amazing singer/songwriter/musician talents. Several CSN and CSNY songs, “Guinnevere”, “Deja Vu”, “Ohio” and the Joni Mitchell cover, “Woodstock”, were also performed, to the thrill of the audience, who thrived on hearing those beloved classics.

David Crosby is continuing to write music, is planning another album and will hopefully be making the tour rounds again. Nothing seems to stop this “childlike” rock icon…the icon beneath the fisherman/tradesman/small-town/mustached/knit cap appearance. And, that’s how Crosby wants it. He’s definitely his own man….bold, outspoken and beyond talented….
and this has brought Crosby to 77 years old, still making music, still touring, still entertaining fans and still enjoying himself the whole way! What more can you ask from life!
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