LIVE: David Crosby & the Lighthouse Band @ The Egg, 12/1/18
Review by Steven Stock
At age 77 David Crosby is crafting new music that rivals his best work with The Byrds and Stills, Nash and Young from some five decades ago. It’s not that he’s found the proverbial fountain of youth, but rather that after a long struggle, he’s finally gained enough wisdom to reconcile the humility of a recovering addict with the self-assured swagger of a consummate artist.
Crosby is so confident in the quality of his new material that he opened his recent concert at The Egg’s Hart Theatre with five recent* songs, and they were stunning, thanks in large part to Crosby’s willingness to share the limelight with his Lighthouse Band. Michelle Willis played keyboards, while Becca Stevens and Snarky Puppy mastermind Michael League switched off on a variety of guitars and occasional electric bass, all three contributing vocals as well. In fact, Stevens’ lead vocal on “Regina” was an early highlight of the first set, while Willis sang “Janet” in the second, affirming Crosby’s expressed pride in his talent-spotting abilities.
There were no drums and only a few songs with bass, so this was more of a folk show than rock – folk with an adult contemporary sheen. The lovely arrangements, honed to something approaching perfection during the previous sixteen dates on this 22-city tour, might have been too tasteful if it weren’t for the occasional hint of grit in Crosby’s emphatic vocals.
Crosby’s 1941 birthdate technically makes him too old to be a baby boomer, but like many members of that cohort, he loves to reminisce about the Beatles. He prefaced “Laughing” by recalling an early Byrds’ trip to London, meeting The Beatles and introducing George Harrison to the sitar, tying this to Harrison’s subsequent embrace of Transcendental Meditation and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Crosby seemed to rue the fact that he never expressed his skepticism directly to Harrison, a chagrin that still fueled his subsequent rendition of “Laughing.”
A succession of strong new material closed the first set and opened the second, with “Look in Their Eyes” standing out as a challenge to recognize the humanity of would-be immigrants. Crosby didn’t preach or hector between songs, wisely allowing the composition to speak for itself.
Crosby’s confidence in his recent work was well-founded, and withholding the classics until late in the set probably enhanced the crowd’s response to them. Certainly the four-part harmonies on “Guinnevere” were received with rapture. After Willis took lead on “Janet,” beautiful versions of “Carry Me” and “Déjà Vu” ensured that the near-capacity house demanded an encore. And here once again Crosby showed some humility.
With gorgeous songs of his own such as “Triad” and “Wooden Ships” still to draw from, Crosby choose to close with exuberant versions of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” and Neil Young’s “Ohio,” demanding that everyone sing along on the latter.
“Ohio” is about a specific incident, triggered by President Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into neighboring Cambodia. On May 4, 1970, 28 National Guardsmen fired 67 shots in 13 seconds at a group of Kent State University students that included protesters, killing four and wounding nine. The song has nothing to do with the current regime, which thus far has sent troops to the southern border rather than campuses, and yet with nearly a thousand people singing in unison it definitely registered a protest.
*Okay, if you want to pick nits, an embryonic version of “1974” was unearthed on an old demo tape. Nonetheless the finished song wasn’t released until this year.
DAVID CROSBY SET LIST
The Us Below
Things We Do for Love
Vagrants of Venice
What Are Their Names
Other Half Rule
By the Light of Common Day
Look in Their Eyes