All at sea with my hero Crosby
HAVE YOU ever wondered whether it’s possible to combine your favourite type of holiday with seeing a band that you’ve loved for 40 years, but never seen live, actually perform? Well I’ve just done it courtesy of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. In a terrific coup for the company, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, Crosby, Stills & Nash were on board for a transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton. I didn’t think at my age I’d actually be giddily excited at the prospect but I was. CSN are currently on a European tour so, for them, it was a great way to get across the Atlantic without jet lag (the clocks go forward an hour a day on the ship which makes it painless) and with their many tons of equipment and their 41-strong crew safely on board with them.
It’s easy to slip into a routine on a ship. Breakfast in your cabin is always a treat and, as the weather was kind for the first three days, I was able to sit on my balcony watching the sea, a very grey Atlantic, slipping by. Then I’d go to line-dancing to work off the calories, something which another 150 or so passengers also chose to do. Crowded, then, but fun.
I had preconceived ideas about Queen Mary 2, mainly thinking I’d be daunted by the sheer size of her. Once on board, though, you’re mostly unaware of it, although I was late for a beauty treatment in the spa, firstly because I got lost which is inexcusable after five days on board!
But the real excitement came with the CSN concerts, four days into the crossing. There were three in all. Each was a one-hour set with the band playing what they knew we wanted to hear — the much-loved songs from the ’60s and ’70s, Marrakesh Express, Teach Your Children, Our House, Love the One You’re With.
I’ve been to many shows on cruise ships and the applause is mostly polite and somewhat subdued but this was tumultuous. David Crosby looked a little bemused a couple of times when —how to put this politely? — older people got out of their seats to bop enthusiastically as close to the stage as possible.
All three are in their 70s now but the sound they’re still making is sensational. As the ship rolled, Nash said that the last time a stage had moved like this they’d all been high!
I spoke privately to Crosby and Nash. Not Stills, alas, but I did watch him work the crowd beautifully at a special question and answer session with passengers. All three of them were charm personified when they did a couple of special autograph sessions, at which eager fans queued patiently, lines snaking through the ship. I asked Graham Nash if he was able to move around the ship and not be accosted. “It’s all part of the job,” he said, “you can’t expect not to react when people come up to you”.
David Crosby, who still has a remarkably sweet singing voice at the age of 74, is known to be an Israel supporter. I’d read a quote of his in which he said: “The Israelis don’t need us” and I’d originally thought it was a little ambiguous but that turned out not to be the case. “I like underdogs, so I’ve been rooting for them all the way along,” he told me. “They don’t want to be dependent on us, they don’t want to be dependent on anybody. I side with them over and over again.” He went on to qualify that further. “Everybody around them is manipulating the situation for their own purposes and they put out a load of propaganda. There are plenty of people who buy into it. I don’t.”
Crosby’s father was an Oscar-winning cinematographer — he worked on High Noon — who went to Palestine in 1946 and made the documentary My Father’s House to show the plight of displaced Jews as well as promote the notion of a permanent Jewish state. “My father loved the region so much he went back with my mother. At that point it was idealism, orange groves out of the desert, kibbutzim. It was a dream coming alive and a sanctuary for people who’d been abused beyond belief. They were there in 1948 and saw Israel being born”. For more information visit www.cunard.co.uk
with David Crosby on board the Queen Mary 2