David Cassidy At BB Kings, Saturday, March 4th, 2017, Reviewed
“As some of you know, no flash photography or video. As some of you know, I’ve had five eye surgeries, I am going next month for my sixth eye surgery. And my eyes have become so sensitive to light that when people like that, I ask them to turn it off, they don’t. Turn it off or go. Please everybody, no flashes, no flashes. No videos. We do this all natural. Everything you hear tonight… I ask you not to yell at me, scream at me. It’s hard enough for me right now. It’s such a beautiful night for all of us, especially for me. Just don’t yell or scream at me for awhile. Otherwise I’ll stop it here, I’ll leave. You fantastic people are here and supporting me for what might be the most special night since my Broadway debut at the Broadhurst Theatre, 1968. So what I’m going to ask you that if you want tp applaud fine, but not while I’m talking… Please.. If you wouldn’t mind…. That’s all I ask, just be here…. I asked you not to do that, will you please not do that…. No… No… I don’t know how many times I have to ask you. Stop. If you want to shoot, shoot without a light. I CAN’T SEE VERY WELL, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I’VE HAD FIVE EYE SURGERIES. Please don’t ignore me, tonight’s a great celebration for me and you’re ruining it for everyone… I will walk off this stage right now….”
We aren’t half way through the first song of David Cassidy’s final tour date and it is exactly what you probably thought it was going to be, only on steroids. I have come to praise Cassidy if I possibly can. The son of the actor singer Jack Cassidy, the stepson of Shirley Partridge, has just been on Dr. Phil to announce he has dementia after a disastrous West Coast performance. He also announced his retirement from touring, though not from live performance entirely and not from the entertainment industry. This is it folks and the last thing we want to do is send him off with a spanking.
But he makes it difficult.
In keeping with his strange and extreme career, from selling out the world twice over in 1972 to bankruptcy in 2015, the former ridiculously gorgeous 20 year old actor singer is estranged from his daughter and his son isn’t at the farewell performance ( according tto E!, after watching his mother’s decline from dementia, he told his 26-year-old son, Beau Cassidy, “I want you to promise me you’ll find a way to let me go. Don’t let me live like that.”), is an alcoholic, has risen and fallen and risen to a degree again. He spent seven years tending his mother so he knows what he is in for and isn’t in great shape at BB Kings, his final show.
“Please don’t do that. I don’t know how many times I have to stop and ask you. Just be grateful to be a part of what for me is the end of touring, I’m not retiring, I may do a show or two who knows, but touring is over for me. And I’ve done it for forty-seven of the forty-nine years I’ve been a performer. Thanks to you, thanks to you. So please respect the fact that I really, really am suffering and when you get five eye surgeries, you’re in serious trouble, man. And I am. But I’m gonna go and I want you to be with me, and I don’t want to keep stopping and asking people to stop videoing me. And no lights or flashes. That’s all. That’s all I ask. Be with me, ok? Don’t do it. ARE YOU DEAF, DUMB AND BLIND? Do not do it, as I’m asking you not, you start doing it…”
We are not three songs into the set and I seriously regret showing up. For some bizarre reason, we were kept in the freezing cold for half an hour before being let in. I’ve been to BB Kings countless times, hell I’ve been there on New Year’s Eve, and it has never ever been like that. They have seriously oversold the room, I arrived at 630 for an 8pm show and couldn’t get a table, there were so many people standing around fights were breaking out. What were they thinking of? Cassidy claimed he was offered the Beacon Theatre but turned them down and chose BB Kings instead and I bet he could have filled Radio City as well.
As noted, Cassidy came on stage and gave us all some tough love, before launching into a two hour set of which half was reminiscing and half was performances that he clearly couldn’t sing. Because he had laryngitis. No, really. But that wasn’t all. He can’t play guitar for more than a song or two because he has arthritis. The man is a walking disaster area.
Still, we got Cassidy as usual, here is Lennon and David in LA, there is Cassidy carrying “Lucille” for BB King as the still unknown David follows the blues giant out of the Whiskey-A-Go, here he is working at the mailroom while auditioning, there he is with Davy Jones -his new bff. We’ve heard these stories before, but he expanded upon them (the David meets BB at the Grammys is new). While David claims it is a trip through his back pages, the show has always also worked as a tribute to his heroes as well. “I’ll Meet You Halfway” is the Gerry Goffin lyric track Cassidy did years and years ago, “In My Life,” “Daydream Believer,” “Sweet Little Angel…”
“Please. No flash photography, no video, no shouting while I’m talking. I want this to be such a great night for me, and for you… I want you to understand how much I appreciate the way you’ve given me this gift.” When he is not telling us to shut up, he is calling us the greatest love at all.
But Cassidy should have kept his voice for his singing because he croaked his way through the 120 minute show (he usually plays 75 minutes). Before singing a song he was taught by his dad when he was 4 years old, “Night And Day,” David admits that he has no voice but was gonna sing it anyway, and really, he has no voice for it tonight but he gives it everything he has. I kinda admire him for it. The early version of “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque” is the worse I’ve ever heard but it didn’t feel like that because he was trying so damn hard it was difficult to dismiss it. Really, the song was his career in miniature: he is a limited talent who got very lucky and wants so much to emulate his hero but is an unlikely sad sack. On the Partridge Family, his Keith is deflated and made normal by the family from his exalted position of pop star narcissist. And so in life. From a true rock god who wanted nothing more than to be Mick Jagger, he just couldn’t do it and ended up (like his father) an alcoholic, and like his father, a mediocre talent but still a true talent.
Bounce guitarist Larry Lachmann called it the feel bad tour, and that’s what it is. Cassidy’s voice let him down so he couldn’t give the performance he wanted, the audience wouldn’t listen to him, he wanted to love us but we wouldn’t abide, his stories rambled, his band should have NEVER EVER been given the chance to solo, and the man whines and whines and whines and yet… there was something oddly disarming about his performance. It was too similar to his career. And by the end of the evening, a beatific “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” followed sharply by “I Think I Love You,” he was rewarded with the adulation he once had. Could it end any other way?