Graham Nash is living proof that you can still rock out at 81

The man from Marks & Sparks: Graham Nash
The man from Marks & Sparks: Graham Nash - Harry Herd/Redferns

The Anvil in Basingstoke is hardly Woodstock. But then Graham Nash was – by his own admission – hardly the picture of countercultural nonconformity when he took to the stage of the Hampshire venue for an evening of songs and anecdotes. “They lost my bag in Hamburg so I had to go to Marks & Sparks to figure out what to wear,” the 81-year-old said, looking down at his plain black clothes.

Quite whether the good staff of M&S Basingstoke were aware that they’d had a hippy icon wandering among the Percy Pigs is unclear. After all, Nash is better known for blowing smoke rings on the Marrakesh Express than browsing Autograph chinos. Still, the former Hollies and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young mainstay managed to conjure the spirit of the Sixties and early Seventies with his words, music and artfully boho-chic stage set. More than that, with heartfelt tributes to recently deceased bandmate David Crosby – and others – Nash painted a vivid picture of a colourful era while reminding us, in often profoundly moving ways, that his cohort is sadly shrinking.

There was a peaceful vibe to the show. On a stage festooned with drapes, vintage equipment and dozens of artificial candles, Nash was backed by just two musicians: former Bruce Springsteen guitarist Shane Fontayne and keyboard player Todd Caldwell (who played shoeless, naturally). The pair ably provided the honeyed harmonies that turned Nash’s folk rock songs into breezy stoner classics.

During Military Madness, Nash implored the all-seated audience to sing the line “no more war”. “Let them hear you in Moscow,” he cried in his Mid-Atlantic accent. It was a touch ambitious, given the 2,000 miles and the spirited-if-subdued efforts of the Basingstoke crowd, which included Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel. But Nash is nothing if not idealistic.

His former lover Joni Mitchell featured heavily. He dedicated numerous songs to her, often visibly moved, including Our House (which he wrote about their domestic bliss in Laurel Canyon). But the real punch came when he talked about Crosby, who died from Covid-related complications in January aged 81. He said that he expected the hard-living Crosby to die years ago, and that “I will think of David Crosby every day of my life until the end of my life.”

The evening, then, was both celebration and requiem. There surely won’t be many more chances to see Nash perform like this. “Even at 81 you can still rock,” Nash said at one point. You can. But for how much longer? CSN&Y should perhaps more accurately be known as CSNYM&S these days. But you should catch this free spirit while you still can.

Until September 21. Tickets: