David Crosby and friends, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 16th September 2018

With the current turmoil in Crosby’s biggest post-Byrds band it was pretty clear which “friends” would not be performing at this gig, and as the continuing to thin Crosby appeared on stage promptly at eight o’ clock it was revealed that there would be no support and the friends are actually the band that David Crosby refers to as the Skytrails band. And that is really an expanded CPR – so with his son and long term band arranger James Raymond on keyboards, Jeff Pevar on lead guitar (that’s the CPR line-up) with the addition of Michelle Willis on keyboards and vocals, Mai Leisz on bass and Steve DiStanislao on drums. Not that different from Crosby’s other band – the Lighthouse band – the difference being that The Skytrails band rock a bit harder.

David Crosby has been making up time with his solo releases over the last few years, and has another album out later this year. And it’s not just his writing that’s running at a peak, David Crosby is also in incredible voice, slightly deeper than in his early prime, but still rich and fluid from the first notes of ‘In My Dreams‘. Oddly, as the set developed it was almost as if David Crosby had forgotten he had a solo album out, with the majority of the music casting the net back further over his career giving an airing to great CPR tracks like ‘Morrison‘, a put down of the Doors singer, and ‘Thousand Roads‘ from his late eighties/early nineties solo period. There were also ample selections from the Crosby-Nash songbook, as well as the Crosby lead vocal CSN songs Again this was unlikely to be less than popular – with his band well in tune with him, and Crosby singing so well who wouldn’t want a powerful rendition of ‘Carry On‘ or ‘Deja Vu‘?  A surprise – but a welcome one – was a take on The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High‘, all the more welcome as Crosby has tended to steer shy of this music. It’s given a spin on the underpinning guitar part; Jeff Pevar’s style is very much his own so there was no simple recreation of McGuinn’s guitar work, nor for that matter was there much of a Stills feel to the following song ‘Wooden Ships‘. That’s fair enough as this is Crosby’s band – although he claims they still boss him around – and they are bound to reshape the music to their own strengths. And this is no nostalgia-fest; Crosby is fired up and angry, there’s real venom in “What are their names“.

The encore featured two of the most potent songs that the Croz has been associated with. ‘Almost cut my hair‘ remains Crosby’s definitive counter-culture statement of defiance, delivered blisteringly on this evening. And then the final song – a seering rendition of ‘Ohio‘, which seems strangely topical again, “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming / We’re finally on our own” fits so well with an American society at war with itself, and run by a President who, like Nixon, would seem to be a stranger to the truth. Deja Vu indeed.

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

1 thought on “David Crosby and friends, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 16th September 2018”

  1. Mr. Crosby is the only former Byrd I really don’t like! So from that point of view it’s not the case to write a review ….!!!

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