"The tone moved from mellow to defiant during an evening of finely crafted solos and rock-solid harmonies”
“….this was an inspiring masterclass.”
David Crosby and Friends, Shepherd’s Bush Empire — late-septuagenarian protest rock
The tone moved from mellow to defiant during an evening of finely crafted solos and rock-solid harmonies.
David Crosby ambled on to the stage of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire dressed in a grandad gardening outfit and woolly hat, and shared a beatific smile. A couple of audience members raised their phones to capture the proceedings, and were immediately shouted down. This was neither the time nor the place for modern concert-going rituals. Crosby picked a chord on his acoustic guitar, and a three-part harmony from his “friends” floated into the hall. Phones were put away, the vibe palpably transformed.
That was only the second-greatest thing that happened in the first 10 minutes of the show. It was topped during the second number, the little-known “Morrison”, when guitarist Jeff Pevar adorned the song with such a tasteful lick that Crosby simply burst out laughing. For those who had come to bask in 1960s nostalgia, here was the first surprise of the evening: the 77-year-old singer-songwriter had put together a seriously capable band, and they were in the mood.
Crosby will always be best known for his work with his fellow SoCal troubadours Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, but in recent years he has moved in a jazzier direction, making critically acclaimed albums with his son, James Raymond, and Pevar. Both shone here. There were shades of early Steely Dan in some of the playing, and vocal harmonies were rock solid.
Crosby’s playful warning to his audience — “I was never the one who wrote any of the hits; I wrote the weird shit” — was not be taken too seriously. CSNY’s “Guinevere” and “Déjà Vu” sounded like fresh songs, the latter, rockier than the original, treating us to a round-up of finely crafted solos.
After the break, Crosby visibly loosened up, and the earlier mellowness was replaced by a tone of defiance. There was an apology for the state of America, a candid and moving monologue on his recovery from drug addiction, and a climax to the show that further ratcheted up the emotional intensity: a funked-up “Eight Miles High”, “Wooden Ships” and “Almost Cut My Hair” (he still hasn’t).
Crosby left us with a rasp of bitterness, Neil Young’s anthemic “Ohio”. If late-septuagenarian protest rock is to become a thing, this was an inspiring masterclass.