CPR, Jazz Cafe, London

The mane attraction
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The Independent Culture

Old hippies never die – they just take a lot of drugs, tour, take life-threatening amounts of drugs, collect guns, go to jail, clean up, have a liver transplant, find their long-lost son, with whom they form a band, and then tour some more...

Given the prodigious amounts of cocaine that fuelled (and nearly killed) him throughout the Eighties, it's little short of a miracle to be able to see a relaxed and jovial David Crosby play to a crowd of devoted followers on a hot night in London. CPR, his "new" band (it's been on the go for five years), is a three-pronged affair, the ex-Byrd and mainstay of CS&N (and, occasionally, Y) joined by the guitar whizz Jeff Pevar and the Croz's son, the keyboard-playing James Raymond. Together with the drummer Steve DiStanislao and bass-player Andrew Ford, they form a tight unit that exemplifies the harmony-rich, laid-back West Coast sound Crosby pioneered.

Like his music, the Croz hasn't changed much over the years, though, at nearly 60, the stocky frame has filled out, and the distinctive mane and walrus moustache have long gone white. And Crosby soon makes it plain that he's still letting his freak flag fly. The subdued opening number is the beautiful "Music Is Love", a neat summation of Crosby's philosophy that immediately establishes the group's vocal credentials, a close mesh of three-part harmonies that centres on the front man's still-wondrous voice. A little later, the sun-drenched beauty of the wordless "Tamalpais High" is met in awed silence by an audience many of whose members weren't even born when the song first appeared, in 1971.

But this is no mere wallow in nostalgia. With a new album to promote, there's a wealth of fresh material, from the heartfelt "Eyes Too Blue" to the rocking "Katie Did". Relying more on their vocal dexterity, the band take a while to cook instrumentally. It's only when they segue from the fine new "Gone Forever" into "Long Time Gone" that Crosby reveals one of his other strengths: as an inventive, questing rhythm guitarist. The instrumental interplay boils over in a reworking of the Byrds classic "Eight Miles High" that might not please Roger McGuinn, but has the Jazz Café jumping.

Indeed, it's the dusted-off back pages that have the biggest impact. A long, exploratory "Déjà Vu" showcases Raymond's impressive Keith Jarrett-like chops and a guitar work-out punctuated by Crosby's slashing, syncopated rhythm. But it's the three-song encore that really storms the heavens. Crosby's breathless delivery of the haunting "Just Like Gravity" (the title track from the new album) is followed by two anthems that ring down the years. The first is the proud, defiant "Almost Cut My Hair", complete with a rare, blinding guitar solo from the man himself. Then, Crosby telling the audience, "We don't want anyone to forget", the band charge into Neil Young's "Ohio", its words depressingly apposite in view of recent events in Italy.

As the title of one of Crosby's recent solo albums has it, it's all coming back to me now.

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