An Evening with David Crosby
Carolina Theatre, Durham
Tuesday, June 16

Tuesday night brought David Crosby to Durham, still hot on the road in support of his 2014 album Croz. Unlike the show that I saw last year at Northern Virginia’s Wolf Trap, this was a solo gig, leaving his band at home and giving us a more intimate Crosby. I grew up as a direct product of the 1960s and early ’70s culture my parents participated in, and some of my earliest and most lasting memories are hooked into the records and tapes my folks played. I can remember late autumn mornings waking up to the sound of CSNY Déjà Vu playing powerfully through the wall to my room from the stereo on the opposite side of the wall, feeling the cold hardwood floors and plaster walls while my mom made breakfast to Carry On. David Crosby was my alarm clock for at least 10 years, and since then I’ve only grown to feel more connected with the man through his records, his books and his Twitter. With a couple of beers, I sidled up to my seat in the left orchestra with all the other Garcia Band, Further and CSNY T-shirts in attendance.

I put down my drink and Croz came out, shirt untucked, running his hand through his hair and greeting the audience with a big smile on his face. This brief introduction led to three songs I didn’t recognize but the banter between them broke the air of unfamiliarity. There were many references to how much LSD Crosby has taken over the years, explaining he was so high he once tried to hunt geese with a rake. Other topics of interest this evening involved weight loss and his prison time, giving that as a reason for the abundance of cursing throughout the entire show. This led into “Naked in the Rain” and Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” where he suggested we all keep Mitchell in our thoughts while she’s ill and that she should be remembered down the road more than Bob Dylan. The first set slowly rolled to a close with The Byrds’ tune “Triad.” Crosby prefaced the song with, “This song is not the reason they kicked me out of The Byrds, I was an asshole back then.”

By the time the second set began the audience was noticeably looser. Head bobbing, whoops and hollers accompanied references to the best times they barely remember and The Byrds “Everybody’s Been Burned” rolled into “What Are Their Names,” the first song of the evening from Crosby’s desperate and mournful 1971 solo record If I Could Only Remember My Name. The tune is a classic long-hair protest about “The men who run this land” that David claims he wrote “around the end of the Civil War.” Big laughs on that one. In between the guitar tech dropping off a re-tuned Martin, Croz spoke about his very active Twitter account in which he’ll respond to any question he can. Examples include “what is your favorite breakfast?” or “have you ever barfed in your own raccoon skin hat?” Turns out, his favorite breakfast is caramelized onions with Gruyere in an omelet.

The last four songs were all burners, with “Somebody Home” hitting me especially hard. I was feeling pretty far out at this point, and though I can’t remember what he was singing about, the emotional weight of the performance left me feeling pretty fuzzy. The only thing that brought me back was the opening to “Déjà Vu,” which got the biggest applause of the evening. After the dust settled, Crosby gave a dedication to his partner of 38 years with the song “Guinnevere.” With an abrupt end, Crosby was off the stage. His exit was followed by a standing ovation with whistles and applause and the encore for the evening, which was the perfect length and my personal favorite for the night: “Cowboy Movie.”

A polite wave goodbye, and Croz was off the stage again, leaving all of us to file slowly out of the theater. Now, this night did not require heavy, active listening. In fact, there were long periods of time where I completely spaced out and just stared at him. What Crosby did provide was a warm and jovial atmosphere for those in attendance to relive some of their hazier years to some of the songs that helped move them through complex times. The only thing missing from the evening was my dad to continually remind me: “I was there, man.”