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.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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