London, Sunday, September 16, 2018 (Photo by R. Cruvellier)
David Crosby has come to the end of a trail, the trail that is the European stint of his Sky Trails tour. The concert is presented as David Crosby and Friends, and given Crosby’s tendency of being in bands named after the first letters of the members’ surnames, I’d like to rename this evening, An Evening With CRPLD&W – after the great bunch of musicians gathered on stage this evening: Guitar player and lead vocalist David Crosby, Keyboardist and backing singer (and Crosby’s son) James Raymond, guitarist Jeff Pevar, bassist Mai Leisz, drummer and backing vocalist Steve DiStanislao and keyboardist and backing vocalist Michelle Willis.
Crosby enters the stage slowly and sturdily, like an old man. And, let’s be real, he is an old man. But unlike many other famous singers of his age, his voice has remained intact; whether he sings a quiet folk song or one of the rockier songs, his voice is strong and on top of everything, even the loud electric guitar which sometimes stands out too much for my liking in the soundscape. The set consists of a collection of songs, several of which I don’t know, some a bit rocking, some a bit jazzy, some a bit folky. But the setlist is chosen wisely and the songs all go well together. Though the band is at times prone to slightly longer solos than what I usually appreciate, I get it; they’re musicians and their job is to play – and play they sure can. And those harmonies. If Crosby is known to be in bands where singing beautiful harmonies is key, then he certainly continues that tradition with this group of musicians, who all deliver beautiful harmonies to go with Crosby’s impeccable voice.
For this fan of The Byrds, Eight Miles High, is a welcome part of the setlist. What an awesome execution of the song. I can’t imagine The Byrds ever played it better than it’s played this evening.
For the encore, Crosby and his Friends launch into a raunchy Almost Cut My Hair, which is as topical for still-long-haired-after-all-these-years Crosby, as when it was released in 1970 – his hair is as long as ever, and long may it keep growing.
The last song of the evening is the ultimate CSN&Y protest song, Ohio, originally sung by Neil Young, but tonight Crosby sings it with as much gusto and conviction as when Young sang it upon its release in 1970, following the shootings of four students by National Guardsmen on campus at Kent State University in Ohio. It’s no longer the sixties or seventies, but kids are still getting shot in educational institutions, and governments still seem to represent their own personal careers more than the people they were elected by, rendering this song as sadly relevant as ever.
Nothing swept under the rug
Earlier in the evening, as an introduction to the CS&N song Delta, Crosby tells us an anecdote about the time his friend and fellow musical legend, Jackson Browne, forced the drug-ravaged and depressed Crosby to sit down at a piano and finish the song – the result is a stunningly emotional song with evocative lines such as, ‘Got the soul of a ragpicker, got the mind of a slug, I keep sweeping problems, under my rug.’ Whatever problems Crosby might have had over the years, they certainly don’t show tonight; with a voice in perfect shape and a brilliant band to back him up, the carpet he’s been standing on all evening is for comfort only – tonight’s concert has no problems to sweep under any rug.
The end of the Sky Trail
David Crosby setlist
1. In My Dreams (CS&N song)
2. Morrison (CPR song)
3. Naked in the Rain (C&N song)
4. Thousand Roads
5. At the Edge (CPR song)
6. Guinnevere (CS&N song)
7. What Are Their Names?
8. Long Time Gone (CS&N song)
9. Déjà vu (CSN&Y song)
10. The Lee Shore (CSN&Y song)
11. Homeward Through the Haze (C&N song)
12. Sky Trails
13. Delta (CS&N song)
14. Janet (lead vocals by Michelle Willis) (Michelle Willis song)
15. Eight Miles High (The Byrds song)
16. Wooden Ships (CS&N song)
17. Almost Cut My Hair (CSN&Y song)
18. Ohio (CSN&Y song)