Jason Isbell shared the stage on numerous occasions with his friend, the late David Crosby, but this performance of Ohio from a Santa Barbara show in February 2022 will now carry added gravitas; it was Crosby's last live performance.
And it's a a great one, Isbell and the 400 Unit band driving the song while Crosby provides his usual harmony excellence.
"We loved David and we’ll miss that miracle of a sound he made," Isbell posted on Instagram in memory of his friend, whose death was announced yesterday (19 January).
“What got him out of the house and to the show was that he wanted to come see his buddies," Isbell told Rolling Stone. "And it would have been silly for him to come and not sing.”
The performance of the Neil Young-penned Ohio at the Californian show, which also featured Shawn Colvin, had followed Crosby adding harmonies to Isbell's song What Have I Done To Help in the set, just like he did on the studio version. It marked Crosby's first live performance since 2019.
“That was the last time I saw him,” Isbell revealed to Rolling Stone. “At that time, he didn’t think he was going to be able to do any more touring. He was having trouble with his hands for a long time and getting to the point where it was hard for him to play. I think that had caused him to resign himself to not be able to do any more live shows, but recently I think he was feeling a little more optimistic about it. He was still writing and recording a whole lot and finished another record from what I understand.”
Crosby didn't just leave a musical mark on Isbell – his authenticity was something that would often get the songwriter into hot water with other artists, but it was that sincerity that defined him.
“Rule No. 1 for David was to be honest. So if he complimented you, it wasn’t bullshit,” Isbell reflected. “He was somebody who would challenge even the greatest of his peers, be it Neil [Young] or Joni [Mitchell]. He would challenge them to go somewhere that wasn’t comfortable for them musically. If he got bored with the way a guitar sounded, he’d tune a different tuning that nobody had ever tried before. If he got bored with a harmony part, he’d sing a note nobody expected. He’d sing and if he was out of tune, he’d fix it as quickly as possible, but he trusted his ability to react. He did that on a personal, human level too. He’d just tell the truth and deal with the outcome of it later.”