David Crosby thrills fans at Academy of Music (review)

NORTHAMPTON -- With two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under his belt and millions of albums sold over the course of a music career more than a half-century old, David Crosby isn't done yet.

Billed as "David Crosby and Friends," the renowned singer, songwriter and guitarist performed a career-spanning selection of songs at the Academy of Music on Friday night, twisting and turning old favorites and new material alike into a contemporary blend of the psychedelic rock that Crosby played an integral role in creating as part of the Byrds in the mid-1960s.

The countercultural icon appropriately opened his two-set show with one of the era's classics, Crosby Stills & Nash's "In My Dreams," featuring the band's signature three and four-part vocal harmonies set against gentle guitar and percussion, before jumping three decades into the future for a performance of CPR's "Morrison."

Despite the gap in age between the two songs - and the fact that the latter of the two is already more than twenty years removed from its first performance, Crosby's voice cut through the Academy of Music.

In fact, it was apparent after only a few songs that the Academy of Music's sound system and engineering was more than up to the task of handling an oftentimes dense stage mix, including dual keyboardists, guitar, bass, drums and four background vocalists, allowing each instrumentalist and vocalist to shine both as part of the band and individually.

Fresh of the heels of a live performance on the Tonight Show Featuring Jimmy Fallon, Crosby's first set also featured a performance of "She's Got to be Somewhere" off his upcoming studio album, "Sky Trails," to be released this fall. Stylistically closer to CPR than CSN, the song set a decidedly jazzy, funky groove against Crosby's ageless vocals and harmonies courtesy of session guitarist extraordinaire Jeff Pevar.

All the while, Crosby, dressed in black slacks and a white button-down shirt with suspenders, stood front and center, with the last remnants of his status as a 1960s rock rebel - the hair he almost cut - hidden underneath a knit hat for much of the first set.

And speaking of the "friends" sharing the stage with Crosby, including Pevar and keyboardist James Raymond - Crosby's son - the show's open-ended jam sessions left ample room for improvisation, with Crosby oftentimes taking a back seat to Pevar's mind-bending guitar chops, which oftentimes evoked images of the Allman Brothers' Duane Allman and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour at their very best,

Crosby's second set was perhaps weighted a little too heavily toward material from CPR's two studio albums, 1998's self-titled album and 2001's "Just Like Gravity," including piano-driven standout "Angel Dream" and uptempo set opener "Map to Buried Treasure."

But this shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, even to concertgoers expecting a by-the-book "greatest hits" compilation. Given the on-stage chemistry of Crosby, Pevar and Raymond in particular, the performance seemingly served as a recollection of what Crosby believed to be his most important songs, giving highly personal anecdotes about each song beforehand.

For those looking for more Crosby, Stills & Nash tracks over the course of the set, however, Crosby would not disappoint, having wrapped up his first set with one of the band's signature songs, "Long Time Gone," and finishing off the band's second set with an extended performance of the band's "Deja Vu," featuring individual solos from each of the band's members.

With many in attendance vocal about hearing tracks such as Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Wooden Ships" or "Almost Cut My Hair," Crosby would then stay true to form during a brief encore, ending the show on a patriotic note with "My Country Tis Of Thee."