Monday 29th September 2014
Without a new record to promote it was pleasantly surprising to see Hall 2 90% full tonight as bona fide Rock Legend Roger McGuinn emerged from the shadows, stage right playing the distinctive opening bars to My Back Pages on a beautiful cream Rickenbacker.
As the generous applause died down Roger sat down on a stool; centre stage and replaced the electric guitar with a big ole Martin acoustic; before regaling us with the first of several Bob Dylan anecdotes when he introduced You Ain’t Going Nowhere.
It was already apparent that McGuinn’s voice had seen better days; but on occasions like this when the artist on stage actually changed the course of music as we know it, in his younger days it’s easy to find it in yourself to forgive them any shortcomings.
As you will know if you’ve seen Roger in the last twenty years his stories are nearly as good as his songs; and the Byrds songs are as good as just about anyone else has ever recorded and my favourite in the first half was when Roger placed his phone in front of the mic, smiled pressed a button and the theme from the Twilight Zone boomed out as the graphics behind him began to swirl; what was he introducing? The 5th Dimension of course!
As the first half drew to a close Roger’s story about being asked to supply some songs for a little road movie was like hearing a Grandparent telling a Fairy Story; as the punch lines were blatantly obvious and the cheer we greeted the opening bars to Theme from Easy Rider was like that Grandchild hearing that the Princess got saved.
The oddest thing; for me was that every time that Dylan’s name cropped up (and it was a lot) huge cheers erupted from parts of the audience; even the mere mention of the Rolling Thunder Review elicited applause from a handful of fans. Now I know that this is going to be contentious; but this was a Roger McGuinn concert and the tickets weren’t cheap; so why get excited by the name of someone else; let’s face it (here’s the contentious bit) without the Byrds turning Mr. Tambourine Man into a hit Pop song; who’s to say Dylan’s career would have taken off the way it did?
I said earlier that Roger’s voice was a bit ragged; but his guitar picking was still exceptional; unbelievably good at times, especially Knocking on Heaven’s Door and So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star; which is still one of my favourite songs of all time.
All of Roger’s stories were ‘well told’ after so many years; and one I’d not heard before was his introduction to Tom Petty (Dylan managed to get shoe horned in here too!) by hearing a song he thought was one of his (I thought the same when I heard it for the first time too) and he went on to perform an impressive version of American Girl much to our delight.
Another couple of memorable stories were concerning his love and admiration for Gene Clark and the formation of the Byrds when he was introduced to a ‘chubby kid called Dave’….well; it made me laugh.
It’s a very hard heart that wouldn’t have enjoyed tonight’s concert even with abridged versions of the hits and a few too many Bob Dylan anecdotes, but when you sit yards away from the Master as he sings Chestnut Mare and Mr. Tambourine Man in all their glory.
Not everything was perfect of course; I appreciate Roger is still carrying a torch for the traditional Folk songs he grew up listening too; but choosing one as the second encore song was a bit of a mistake.
As I type this up I’m smiling at some of the memories my notes have brought back; but if all is well with the world I presume Roger McGuinn will return for his bi-annual visit; but I doubt if I will be there to see him.
http://www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/mcguinn/ (Roger McGuinn inc FREE downloads)