24 July 2010
L2 Arts & Culture Centre, Denver, CO
For years David Crosby has publicly stated that he would be interested in again working with Roger McGuinn (and Chris Hillman), as they did (some times better than others) in the 1960s (and 1970s, 1980s, 1990s). Roger has however stated that he is not interested in being in a band--no offense to David, with whom Roger continue to have a good friendship.
As as solo artist, for what seems like almost two decades, Roger has accompanied himself with a few guitars, and decades of amazing stories about Rock & Roll history, a large part of which he was a significant contributor.
Roger still likes to dress in black as he has for years. His Ben Franklin glasses are still signature, though now his lenses don't darken as they had previously.
As be did 7 years earlier, he walked out to an extremely polite audience with his signature Rickenbacker 370 12-string electric and a wireless microphone as he began performing Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", and then sat in a chair for most of the rest of the show.
Roger embarked on a 2-hour, two-set history of Rock & Roll of over literally eight centuries. He described how, up until the 1100s, people made music with their voices, but then subsequently augmented vocals with stringed instruments. Amazing to think how, for a significant part of human history, people were left to communicate with each other possibly without any recognized musical instruments.
Roger's show points out how a root of all Rock & Roll music is indeed folk music, and described an almost unbelievable list of names of people he had the opportunity to meet before becoming a star, including Bob Gibson, Woodie Guthrie, Bobby Darin, Judy Collins, Peter Yarrow, Roger Miller, the Smothers Brothers.
To a significant extent on his current tour, Roger chooses to perform shorter versions of, thus, larger setlists of songs. Tonight' setlist included, but was not limited to:
McGuinn ended the first set with "Mr. Tambourine Man", both in an abbreviated, wryly sung acoustic version, as well as a memory-chilling Rickebacker electric version. And, he began the second set with Gene Clark's "Feel A Whole Lot Better".
The most pleasant surprise of the evening was his brilliant resurrection of "Don't You Write Her Off" from the McGuinn, Clark & Hillman days.
In a touching performance, Roger, after 42 years, paid an incredible tribute to the late Clarence White by performing a song Clarence introduced to the band in 1968 called "Black Mountain Rag", which, if you listen to on record, you become hard pressed to find more impressive flatpicking. Well, Roger pulled it off this evening, and 42 years would probably seem like the right amount of time it would take to learn that dynamite performance.
For much of the set, Roger played a guitar that he specially requested of the Martin Guitar Company, a seven-string model in which the third (G) string is doubled up with an octivated string. Roger praised the guitar of offering the flexibility of a six-string, but also a critical sound element from the 12-string. It sounded excellent! Roger has always been one of the most innovative individuals in Rock & Roll history, often as a result of him making relatively simple suggestions that prove to offer powerful implications, time after time.
Roger made several references to the making of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, describing the late Gram Parsons as one who brought an excitement about country music that was "infectious". He further expressed a little resentment in how Gram, on the spot, changed the Byrds' setlist during their live Grand Ol' Opry performance, specifically by adding Gram's "Hickory Wind". Following that Opry gig, when Roger handed Ralph Emery a copy of their latest single, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", Ralph expressed reticence, asking, "What is this song about?", to which Roger responded by saying, "How should I know? It was written by Bob Dylan!
Roger left most Byrds classics in the setlist, including, "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Chestnut Mare", "Turn Turn Turn", "5D", "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star", and "Eight Miles High".
His encore included his 1996 composition with Camilla, "May The Road Rise To Meet You".
In general, these days Roger seems a little less uptight, perhaps a little more humble, but the same Roger we've known in a variety of ways. At 68 years old, he is as fit, witty, talented, and physically skilled vocally and instrumentally as he has ever been. He is truly defying time.
[****1/2] - Steven T.
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