David Crosby Deprives Us of the Hits and Calls Out Kanye West at the Fillmore

“If you like good songs, we’ll have a really good time tonight,” David Crosby promised shortly into the second show of his current solo tour. Looking healthy, trim, and resplendent dressed in all black, his full mane of white hair offsetting his features like an eternal halo, Crosby held court for the faithful at the Fillmore Miami Beach on Tuesday night, offering an intimate concert that relied solely on his rich, riveting vocals and the vibrant strum of an acoustic guitar. His first solo outing in 30 years, Crosby admitted he was nervous early on but applauded the crowd for remaining silent during these stripped-down renditions, saying it was “the greatest gift you can give a singer/songwriter.”

Other than the price of admission, that is.

With some tickets going for well over $200 a pop, this was a concert aimed at the true diehard devotee. Given there was only a smattering of readily recognizable songs — a handful of which could be identified with the Byrds; Crosby Nash; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young — it was left to those who were familiar with the deeper cuts from his catalog (“What Are Their Names?,” “Naked in the Rain,” “Rusty and Blue,” etc.) to fully appreciate the vast majority of the evening’s offerings. True, Crosby’s songs all hold some essential elements in common — his compelling yet flexible tenor, the cerebral circumspect, the alluring melodies and impressive imagery — but left to his own devices (and minus the gorgeous harmonies), a solo set by Crosby tends to lean too much in one direction, all rambling lyrics and atmospheric ambiance, with too few hooks to hang on to.

Still, Crosby proved an engaging master of ceremonies, filling the spaces between songs with plenty of reflection, chatter, and self-deprecation. There was this comment about his well-documented ouster from the Byrds: “I was kind of an asshole. I had an ego the size of a barn. Ask Roger [McGuinn]. He’ll tell you.” Or this, regarding his rowdy reputation: “There are a lot of people here tonight who know me really well and know I’m a complete bozo.”

Despite his beatific airs, Crosby let loose on other subjects as well, affirming his well-deserved reputation for political pontificating while also stating his disdain for much of what passes for pop these days. He singled out Kanye West, labeling the rapper a “complete idiot,” an assertion he recently tweeted on Twitter. “I offend people all the time,” Crosby said.

It was that unassuming attitude that provided the concert with much of its allure. Crosby shuffled on and off the stage, looking somewhat shy and slightly intimidated, perhaps by the fact that there were several longtime friends and family members scattered throughout the crowd. Occasionally he forgot a lyric or misplayed a note, using those stumbles to magnify the show’s sense of spontaneity and inject his own humility. 

But it was the more familiar fare that ultimately endeared him to his audience, thanks to evocative renditions of “Lee Shore,” “Triad,” “Everybody’s Been Burned,” “Carry Me,” “Déjà Vu,” and, of course, the beloved “Guinnevere,” which seemed by consensus to be everyone’s highlight of the evening. However, it was what wasn’t included, specifically more from each of his ensembles, that left many in attendance wishing for more. Most of the comments from those who were there echoed the feeling that, Yes, it was enjoyable, but... 

That “but” meaning it was bereft of too many classic compositions. “Almost Cut My Hair,” perhaps? “Wooden Ships”? Just maybe. “Laughing,” “Long Time Gone,” “Renaissance Fair”? Almost certainly.

Still, it’s nice to see the man healthy and productive, especially after his near-fatal tangles with drugs, the authorities, and his own inner demons. He genuinely seems content, which is cause enough for his loyal fans to cheer. That fact alone made this encounter a celebration.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal bias: Crosby's sole cover, a take on Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” was a special treat, especially given her current illness and the fact that it was Crosby himself who produced the beautiful bard’s debut album.

The crowd: The faithful, likely all former freaks and ’60s survivors whose appreciation for Crosby’s work spans the entirety of his career.

By the way: Crosby has quite a history here in Miami, having spent his formative years prior to CSN breezing through Coconut Grove. Surprisingly, none of those early anecdotes was included in his playful patter.

Set List
  • Tracks in the Dust 
  • Lee Shore 
  • Where Will I Be
  • Page 43 
  • Naked in the Rain 
  • For Free 
  • Dream for Him 
  • Triad 
  • Rusty and Blue 
  • Thousand Roads 
  • Everybody's Been Burned 
  • Carry Me 
  • What Are Their Names?
  • What Makes It So 
  • Time I Have 
  • In My Dreams 
  • Somebody Home 
  • Guinnevere 
  • Déjà Vu 
  • Cowboy Movie