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David Crosby kicks off tour with musical history lesson at Pantages

David Crosby

David Crosby Photo provided by the artist

David Crosby has been making up for lost time.

The first five decades of Crosby’s career saw the release of as many arrest reports as solo albums (three), but the singer/guitarist has put out four records of his own in the past five years, and he’s been just as busy on the road. The 77-year-old hippie legend, who has performed over 200 concerts in that short span, kicked off his Sky Trails 2019 Tour at Minneapolis’ Pantages Theatre Friday night.

The two-hour, 18-song set was a musical history lesson, spanning Crosby’s career from the jangly pop songs he made with the Byrds in his 20s to his time with folk supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the adventurous numbers he made as a member of jazz-rock trio CPR near the turn of the millennium.

Curiously, Crosby called upon his solo material the least, only playing one song from 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name (a hymn-like “What Are Their Names”), the title track from 1993’s Thousand Roads, and the world debut of a yet-to-be-released tune called “I Think I.” Instead, he shared the onstage wealth with his five-piece backing band, giving plenty of solos to eldest son/keyboardist James Raymond and guitarist Jeff Pavor (they rounded out CPR’s lineup) and lending bassist Michelle Willis the mic for her own original, “Janet.”

That left ample room for Crosby’s best-known work, the songs he made with sometimes-pals Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young. He played five of CSN’s biggest hits (including a barn-burning take on “Wooden Ships” and a haunting “Guinnevere”), in addition to four more songs from when Young joined the band (a fiery “Déjà Vu” took the show into intermission) and two more he made as one half of Crosby & Nash (“Homeward Through the Haze” was one of the night’s highlights).

The twice-over Rock and Roll Hall of Famer also proved he had the stories to back up his songbook. He prefaced a beautiful rendition of the 1982 CSN track “Delta” with the fascinating, star-studded tale of how Jackson Browne physically forced Crosby, who spent nine months in jail on drug charges that same year, to sit at a piano at Warren Zevon’s house and finish writing the song before he went for another fix. “It’s not the age that makes me look decrepit,” joked the man with a famously bushy mustache and frazzled hair. “It’s the pot.”

Gray hair aside, Crosby actually appeared as ageless as ever at the Pantages, and his voice carried the tunes like it was 1974. The vitality and defiance still present in the show’s final two numbers, CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Ohio,” suggested that, as Crosby heads into his seventh decade of rocking, he’s far from finished.

Overheard in the crowd: When one audience member requested “Wooden Ships” early in the show, Crosby asked him, “Do you really think you’re gonna get through a whole concert of mine and we won’t play that?” Later, when someone else in the crowd called out for “Almost Cut My Hair,” Crosby jokingly suggested he wasn’t going to play that song just to spite him, then addressed everyone else: “I can fuck with him, right?”

Setlist
In My Dreams
Morrison
Naked in the Rain
Thousand Roads
At the Edge
Guinnevere
Long Time Gone
Déjà Vu
The Lee Shore
I Think I
Homeward Through the Haze
Delta
What Are Their Names
Janet
Eight Miles High
Wooden Ships
Almost Cut My Hair
Ohio