Crosby, Pevar & Raymond
6 April 2004
Triple Door, Seattle, WA
To state that my friend and I attended this concert amidst concerns about how much longer David Crosby will be able to perform outside of a prison music room, would be grossly oversimplifying the situation. True, the impending May 2004 hearing on his class-III felony CCW & possession charges in NYC are troubling to say the least, though it's tough to comment because many people don't have any idea why something as awful as this could have happened in the first place. His agent, however, feels comfortable booking the artist for a Summer 2004 CSN tour. Not to trivialize the seriousness of any of the charges, but I personally admire David Crosby as an artist, fully respecting that his personal life is the business of himself and well, [now] the government.
Making the concert extra special was being able to compare musical notes with a friend who appreciates the sophistication of this band's sonic impression better than I ever could have the ability to do. We both like CPR's most recent studio album, Just Like Gravity--Now, it took me about six months to really get the full meaning of its 12 tracks--since then (early 2002) I've really enjoyed listening it to it over and over. Of course, Carolyn understood the CD after just one spin. Hey, she majored in music--all this "Diminished 7th/9th with a suspended 4th," business is second nature to her. Though, I will say that I think we both appreciate things as simple as the timbre of one note on one vocal part, fader graduation on the mix of a Hammond B-3 organ over successive choruses, and strongly visual, metaphoric poetry, etc.
Somehow (don't ask me how) we got front table seats, literally touching the stage at the newly furnished Triple Door (sounds like "Troubadour"), just a few blocks from the downtown Seattle waterfront. Lead guitarist Jeff Pevar, ever the humble one, acts as his own guitar technician, ensuring that his half-dozen or so six-stringers are always ready & up to the task.
No opening act! Cool! Instead, about 2 3/4 hours of finely-honed material from this headliner.
The wispy-haired Wilford Brimley-esque David walked out in an armpit-holed t-shirt, slacks, and a long-sleeve, and Jeff & James appeared in equally subdued attire.
Let me start by commenting on the song arrangements. I could not believe how many of this evening's tunes appeared in dramatically different form, as compared to the respective original studio versions. Take the opener, "Map To Buried Treasure"--acoustic rhythm guitar instead of electric, no intro chorus, and a cocktail jazz underpinning.
Similar modification came to the chorus of David's 1990 composition with Craig Doerge and Graham Nash, "Yours and Mine". I've always kinda thought that the original (CSN) version's chorus was a little too bombastic/obvious. David introduced the song by asking the audience, "Do you remember the CSN album [Live It Up] with the hot dogs on the moon?.....Well, that was Nash's idea.....". I like the album, not just for this track.
The stunning aspect of this evening's performance was the barrage of relatively new material, mostly culled from the 2004 Crosby/Nash double-CD project (almost complete, as of this writing). Crosby introduced "They Want It All" by describing how though he has, over the years, written a string of melodic ballads, ".....this one is simply a 'pissed off rocker!'". This CPR version, in the key of E, differed from the 2003 CSN live version, which utilized the key of B.
After this CPR version, a fan yelled out, "Let It Rip, Dave!" Without blinking an eye, Crosby retorted with a loud, "I JUST DID!!!" I get the sense that ol' Dave still doesn't like to be told what to do!
Other new songs: One about a waitress, "Through Here Quite Often", "Luck Dragon", "Lay Me Down", and one featuring James Raymond on vocals, "American Ghost Town", which David introduced by commenting how much it hurts him to see beggars and homeless people.
On one new track, the name of which escapes me, Croz stated that he himself didn't understand what the song meant. My thought was "Vuja De" (The strange feeling that none of this has ever happened before).....No?
I'm looking forward to listening to these new tracks when they appear on disc, so that I can digest a little bit more.
For those counting, the lead singer cited two ass references. Once, he reprised Monty Python's "And now for something completely different.....a man with three buttocks." The second reference involved him requesting that the lighting technician brighten up the music stand to assist in the performance of a new Raymond song, stating that the alternative was to hold the sheet music up in a fashion that would require turning his back to the audience. This prompted one ticket holder to publicly praise David Crosby's butt. "What ass?" he replied, "Let me tell you, when you get into your 50s, your ass drops completely off."
Every Crosby performance of "Guinevere" causes most viewers/listeners to experience amazement, in terms of how much sound can come out of one Martin six-string acoustic guitar. This of course is in part due to David's tricky non-concert tuning, but also attributable to his gentle fingers.
David continued as the band's spokesman for the entire evening. He particularly praised his three 1970s studio albums with close friend Graham Nash, and extracted the 1975 track, "Naked In The Rain" from the Wind On The Water album.
Jeff Pevar, after non-verbally praising me for my 1998 CPR t-shirt, closely replicated the late Michael Hedges' 1989 acoustic rendition of "My Country 'Tis Of Thee", which Crosby introduced with some strong political commentary. David basically mentioned how many people are criticizing recent government decisions, and how others label such criticism as "unpatriotic". He very precisely cited how the Constitution and the Bill of Rights indeed have nothing stating that such criticism is unConstitutional, and pointed out that such criticism is healthy, and very much in the spirit of the First Amendment. Well said, I thought--public debate is certainly a founding element of why we enjoy the freedom and liberty we have. After all, "The worst kind of disagreement is the one you don't realize you have."
The intro to the 1982 classic "Delta" involved David telling the story about how, only because of the "brow-beating" of Jackson Browne, was the then strung-out Crosby able to finish what turned out to be his last published song before his TDC imprisonment in 1985-1986. I think, honestly, I like the CSN version in the key of F better than this live, E Flat rendition. But, when a song is great, such a key change doesn't eliminate the beauty. And, I may even change my mind in a day or so. Though, I wish we could have seen David at the piano on this one.
After mentioning James between songs, a very loud patron yelled, "WHICH ONE'S JAMES?" David, who seems to become more polite and humble as time goes by, reverently stated, "He's the handsome one.....and I'm proud to say that he's also my son." The show somewhat de-emphasized James' contribution, possibly because of a sub-optimal vocal condition on his part of late?
CPR performed, from their first album, "Little Blind Fish" and Crosby's personal favorite from the disc, "At The Edge".
The relatively less sophisticated "Katie Did", from Gravity, received by far the strongest audience response of the evening--it simply rocked twice as hard as the studio version.
"Deja Vu" was unbelievable. Unbelievable. James' piano solo had probably the most complex chord/melody patterns one could possibly modulate onto the song's relatively simple, repeating E-minor, B-minor, A-minor, G-minor 7th progression on the latter part of the song. Jeff's solo was very eery and otherworldly. I don't think I've ever seen a brighter smile on David's face than the one I noticed during these solos.
CPR felt obligated to throw in a Byrds track, namely the McGuinn/Hillman-penned "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star", with D.C. picking on his "Woody" Fender Stratocaster.
"Ohio" made the end of the setlist. Yes, this was Neil Young's song, but after all, David's the one who handed Neil the Life magazine with graphical coverage of the Kent State shootings, and thus the inspiration for the song. And, David can be heard, louder than Stills, Nash, or Young, on the original 1970 recording, yelling "WHY?" As if coaxed by Neil himself, David proudly placed his axe straight into the sound waves of his amplifier, inducing the type of feedback epilogue heard on just about any Neil Young & Crazy Horse song over the past 20 years.
I really wished they'd performed The Crosby/Nash/Raymond composition, "Angel Dream", "Climber", and "Darkness". But hey, this Crosby guy, who has a SOLO boxed set coming out this summer, has just way too much great material to fit into one show.
I just can't get over how much this band improves from tour to tour! If I'm not mistaken, this five-piece (including Andrew Ford and Steve D.) is the longest-lasting full band combination David has stayed with (~7 years) in his recording career. He "separated from" the Byrds after just 3 years, and the longest-lasting CSN combo endured just short of 6 years.
David Crosby has recorded and performed in public for over 40 years now, for various reasons, including money and fame. His passion for CPR is, to the contrary, out of pure love for art, and the resulting sound is far less commercial than any of his other work, but is much more full and tight. That's saying a LOT.
If we all could peak after age 62 like David Crosby.....
[****1/2] - Steven T.
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