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David Crosby’s mini-Woodstock in Las Vegas feels like a family outing

Updated September 14, 2019 - 4:47 pm

A few days ago I was on the phone with the filmmaker behind the breakout documentary “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”

It wasn’t an interview. It was, “How are you holding up?”

He responded with such words as “insane,” “surreal” and “overwhelming.”

He is A.J. Eaton. He is the talented and determined documentarian who captured Crosby so effectively in that movie.

A needed qualifier here to offset family bias, as A.J. is also my cousin.

“Remember My Name,” which premiered at Sundance in January and was swiftly picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, opened this weekend in Las Vegas at Regal Red Rock Theaters. In tandem with the film’s arrival in our city, Crosby and his Sky Trails Band performed before a full-throated, capacity crowd Friday night at Red Rock Ballroom.

The movie seems to have given the 78-year-old rock legend a re-awakening, a renewed vigor. “Remember My Name” is routinely and accurately described as unflinching, unvarnished, and completely honest. Defying any personal bias, the movie has since earned a 93-percent positive review score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The inside-out story of the movie’s development covers more than eight years, and references to “Croz” have peppered conversations with my cousins throughout that span. Crosby became prominent in the family unit when he took an interest in Marcus Eaton, A.J.’s younger brother and a fantastic guitarist/singer/songwriter and (seriously) falconer.

Reaching even further back, the guys’ father, Steve Eaton, is a well-known artist in the intermountain west who penned many songs for superstars dating to the 1970s (including the Righteous Brothers, Art Garfunkel and the Carpenters).

Marcus began working on “Croz,” Crosby’s first solo album in 20 years, toured in Crosby’s backing band and appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” among other national appearances. About seven years ago, I was actually on the phone with Crosby for an interview before a show in Vegas and mentioned to him how Marcus and I were related. “You’re (kidding) me!” was his response.

As the son of a songwriter, A.J. took an interest in Crosby’s revival (making four new albums in three years), and was frequently shooting footage of Croz and Marcus working in the studio. He finally convinced Croz to make a documentary, a real documentary, of the rock legend’s roller-coaster life and career, enlisting none other than Cameron Crowe to produce and interview a characteristically prickly subject.

Crowe was the ideal, and maybe only, interviewer for this project as he and Croz have known each other for 40 years, dating to the period that inspired “Almost Famous.”

Some scenes in the movie are emotionally staggering, as its subject essentially doesn’t give a stitch about how you feel about him. He is simply and admittedly living on borrowed time, with nine stents in his heart, a liver transplant from 20 years ago, and suffering from diabetes.

Crosby seems born with a pugnacious personality; friends from long ago are not talking to him — including Graham Nash, who is credited with saving his life for, oh, 45 years. Neil Young still is stinging after Crosby made some disparaging comments about Young’s then-girlfriend, and current wife, Daryl Hannah (for which Crosby has since apologized).

The lingering animosity is why it is extremely unlikely we’ll ever see a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or a CN&Y reunion. As you observe Crosby’s stark re-telling of his own story, you are left wondering how your own interpersonal relationships can go awry — and how Crosby appears resigned that he will never fix the fractures he’s created.

In that backdrop, Croz also is a recovering heroin and cocaine addict, telling me Friday he’s been clean for 14 years. In an instant-classic moment from the film, Crowe asks Crosby why he is still alive. “I don’t know,” he says. “No idea, man.”

The making of the film was a grind, artistically and financially. A.J. talks of nearly losing his apartment in L.A. as the money ran dry, and my aunt Chris Lark and her husband, Tom Lark, helped keep the project above water and steer it until music company BMG arrived with financing to its final cut.

A.J. has since became a hot figure in the film industry, his name splashed across mass media and social media. Crowe, Croz and A.J. appeared together on a series of red-carpet events and also headlined a New York Times “TimesTalks speaking engagement.

Where all this leads now is up to the forces of the movie industry. Some national outlets, including “Good Morning America” and IndieWire, have forecast the film among contenders for an Academy Award nomination — along with “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary.” It’s certainly a heady topic, but totally out of the director’s hands as the film’s subject continues to live out his final chapter.

The 1,600 fans in attendance Friday turned Red Rock Ballroom into mini-Woostock. Multiple standing ovations, a roaring sing-along to “Ohio,” and even a late push toward the stage to take some final pics. David Crosby says music is the only thing he has left to offer. Those who have followed his saga are fine with that.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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