From the mid-1960's right up to the present day David Crosby has been a pivotal figure in the pantheon of popular music.
Certainly , he has had his ups and downs, his highs and lows, but ,at the age of 77 , he is still going strong and making some of the best music of his long and illustrious career.
Looking fit and healthy , he sauntered onto the stage at the historic Palace Theatre to rapturous applause and , in ebullient mood, he bellowed "It could be one of those nights". It certainly was!
One of only two UK shows on his European tour , tonight was billed as "David Crosby and Friends"and it was abundantly clear that he is very comfortable playing with the superb musicians who are collectively known as The Sky Trails Band, after the title of his latest [and quite superb] album.
And what a band they are! If the title "And Friends" gives the impression of an informal , loose aggregation , this could not be further from the truth as the STB are one of the tightest and most proficient groups that anyone could wish for.
Back in the late 1990's /early 2000's , David joined up with his keyboardist son James Raymond and ace guitarist Jeff Pevar to form CPR [ Crosby Pevar Raymond , not as David joked, Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation] and I was lucky enough to see them play at The Jazz Cafe in London back in July 2001. Well, Jeff and James were with David tonight , along with superb drummer Steve Distanislao [ who is David Gilmour's drummer of choice] , marvellous Estonian bass player Mai Leisz and talented Canadian songwriter, singer and keyboard player Michelle Willis.
It was clear that David was fired up for this gig as he declared " I'm about as happy as a human being can get" and this set the tone for a superb journey through David's monumental back catalogue.
Although David has recently released three new albums of new material, only one song from these, the title track of "Sky Trails" [ a lovely duet with vocalist Michelle] made it onto the setlist.
Otherwise , the two-set show featured the best of David's contributions to CSN and CSNY , with glorious renditions of "In My Dreams", "Guinnevere", "Long Time Gone", "Deja Vu" , "The Lee Shore", "Wooden Ships" , "Almost Cut My Hair" and a rousing finale of Neil Young's "Ohio".
There was a nod to David's time in The Byrds , with a contemporary version of "Eight Miles High" and from the CPR days we had "Morrison" [about the late Doors vocalist ,Jim Morrison] and the gorgeous ,harmony-filled "At The Edge" ,which is one of David's least-known but best songs [and one of his own favourites].
Although his name was not mentioned, David sang a couple of the songs that he recorded with Graham Nash , "Naked In The Rain" and "Homeward Through The Haze".
David Crosby is not averse to making political comment and the beautiful a cappella version of "What Are Their Names?" is just as pertinent now as it was when it was recorded for his first solo album in 1970.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the evening was when David described how he wrote the song "Delta" ,when he was at his lowest ebb as a junkie. He told how Jackson Browne coerced him into finishing this most personal of songs about "choice and chance" and David sang the heartfelt lyrics with utter conviction.
The entire eighteen song performance was absolutely superb , with wonderful musicianship and glorious vocals . It was truly heartwarming to see a great artist like David Crosby at the top of his game and , so clearly, enjoying his rapport and interaction with an adoring audience ,in stark contrast to certain other "big names" who come to these shores and who shall remain nameless.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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