It was a long time coming.
After four-plus decades of purchasing everything David Crosby released, seeing several Crosby, Stills & Nash shows, a couple of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young gigs and a singular, mind-scrambling Crosby-Nash performance, the time for me to see Crosby solo finally arrived. As much as I enjoyed Crosby’s friends, “C” was always my favorite letter in CSNY. And on most days, Crosby was my favorite male rock ’n’ roll singer; from the shouted storytelling of “Cowboy Movie” to the pained questioning of “Where Will I Be?,” no one spoke to me more than Croz.
The show was what one might call a bucket-list gig.
It was Nov. 5, 2017. And on that night in Kent, Ohio–the city Crosby called “the scene of the crime”–Croz reaffirmed music is love and has the power to heal.
It was a mild, late-fall day, a fair-weather job that gave no indication the 2.5-hour drive from Columbus should take much more than that.
But, with contingencies–and dinner–in mind, I set out early.
Good thing, too.
The weather turned foul early in the drive, bringing early darkness on top of the previous evening’s time change. Rain fell in sheets so thick, driving 35 mph on the freeway felt like reckless risk-taking. Then, the radio began screeching.
I pulled into a rest stop teeming with motorists. The one-story building felt only marginally safer than the road; so, after briefly considering bagging the whole thing and turning south, I continued north. A Crosby solo show had been in my dreams for ages, across more than 700 gigs in four decades, and if I was going to miss it, it wouldn’t be my decision.
The weather stayed hazardous and it was four hours later – and close to showtime – by the time I arrived in Kent. The parking lot was full; the streets were lined with cars; but I finally found a space on a side street.
It was pouring. No umbrella. A ticking clock.
I took off running and made it to the 600-something-seat Kent Stage sopping wet with minutes to spare. I was winded, cold, uptight and stressed out. But a front-row seat awaited, so I headed down front and … no seat.
A very kind and equally apologetic usher got me a chair and I was set. But I was still feeling out of sorts – hungry, drenched and wondering what I was doing in Kent on a school night with a long drive ahead and questions about the road conditions swirling around my head.
And then … the lights went down. Crosby and the Sky Trails Band took the stage and began to play “In My Dreams.” Not five seconds had passed before everything was perfect. Just splendid. I was 100 percent sober and high as a kite, hanging on Crosby’s every number as he and his crack group played a career-spanning set that seemed to illustrate my experience.
“What are their Names?” for all the shelter-seekers at the aforementioned rest stop. “She’s Got to be Somewhere” for my wife, Maureen, safe at home. “At the Edge” for my driving through a potential death storm. “Breathless,” as I’d been when I walked in the door. “Laughing,” as I was internally at the insanity of the voyage. “Homeward through the Haze” to foreshadow the foggy drive home. “Ohio” because … duh. And “Deja Vu,” because the whole experience reminded me of all those times I’d walked into a Grateful Dead concert feeling lousy from the previous night’s Grateful Dead concert only to have every ill feeling immediately wiped away when the lights went down and the band cranked up.
This just happened to be one of those gigs. A show where everything unfolded just exactly perfectly – the kind of concert that doesn’t happen all the time; in fact, Crosby’s gig a year later at the same venue paled compared to this one. And it came at the perfect time. After a road trip that seemed destined to ruin the fun I’d planned, David Crosby came on stage and gave me one more gift after a lifetime of musical gifts.
And now Crosby, who died Jan. 19 at 81, is a long time gone.
I’m gonna miss him.
And I’ll never regret buying that concert ticket.