Roger McGuinn review – raconteur rocks the house with tales of Bob Dylan

City Varieties, Leeds
Influential ex-Byrd shares songs and stories from a remarkable career plus lesser-known gems

Without the influence of Roger McGuinn’s chiming 12-string guitar, bands from the Smiths to REM to the La’s to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would arguably have never sounded like they do. These days, the former Byrds frontman is a surprisingly youthful, effervescent 71-year-old, who tours the world with two guitars and songs and stories from a remarkable career.

There’s the one about the time he recorded Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere and got the lyrics wrong, so when Dylan recorded it himself he added a cheeky line about McGuinn. Another time, the ex-Byrd reveals, he transformed a Dylan song so radically His Bobness didn’t even recognise it – which turns out to be All I Really Want to Do.

Although it’s been a long time since McGuinn’s played these songs with a band, when he strides from behind a curtain playing So You Want to Be A Rock’n’Roll Star on his shiny Rickenbacker, he sounds uncannily like he did in 1967.

With the beat provided by his winklepickers and the occasional audience clapalong, McGuinn could – and does – bash out glorious versions of Chestnut Mare and Turn! Turn! Turn! all night long, but it’s a treat to hear lesser-known gems such as solo tune Russian Hill or the 1979 McGuinn/Clark/Hillman minor hit Don’t You Write Her Off.

McGuinn has also become quite the raconteur, reeling off tales such as the time he was unexpectedly invited on stage at a Tom Petty concert but was unfortunately wearing white shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He reveals that the Byrds came up with their name while staring at a Christmas turkey and fancied a misspelled name like the Beatles, but – thankfully for the course of rock history – managed to avoid lumbering themselves with the initial suggestion, the Burds.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Pop review

The Lowry, Salford

Dave Simpson

28, May, 2001 @11:00 PM

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of the Byrds – audio interview

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman talk to Jon Dennis about jangly guitars, psychedelia and country rock

Jon Dennis

06, Oct, 2006 @10:45 AM

Article image
All aboard the Bob Dylan express! How Rolling Thunder revved round America
When Dylan chanced upon a huge Roma gathering in France, he was transfixed – and formed his own travelling supergroup. As Martin Scorsese brings its ragtag magic to screens, we hitch a ride back to 75

Richard Williams

11, Jun, 2019 @2:26 PM

Dylan LeBlanc – review
LeBlanc is a raw, throaty singer whose songs balance self-absorption with an often beautiful, melancholy tunefulness, writes Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

18, Jul, 2012 @4:19 PM

Article image
Roger Daltrey – review
Daltrey may forget the occasional lyric but, after Tommy, works like a curator, dusting off gems the Who haven't played in 30 years, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

05, Jul, 2011 @6:30 PM

Article image
Eagulls review – 'Bitter tales of anguish'
Stark lyrics, punchy choruses and brilliant melodies lend this band style, but their vitriol needs greater variety

Betty Clarke

09, Mar, 2014 @10:00 AM

Beach House – review

Beach House inevitably sacrifice some production gloss for an edgier live sound, which made this gig diverting but rarely compelling, says Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

27, May, 2012 @3:55 PM

Dylan LeBlanc | Pop review
100 Club, London His first trip to London seems to have lifted the spirits of lank-haired Louisiana native Dylan LeBlanc, writes Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

17, Sep, 2010 @8:47 PM

Article image
Bob Dylan review – relaxed, mellifluous and wholly intelligible
Dylan and his audience seem equally comfortable with his present incarnation as a crooner of old favourites from the great American songbook

Richard Williams

22, Oct, 2015 @10:17 AM

Article image
Natalie Prass review – pristine heartbreak tales
The Nashville singer-songwriter proved her mettle as a great country balladeer – and plenty of other things besides, writes Stevie Chick

Stevie Chick

29, Jan, 2015 @11:33 AM