Friday, 15 January 2010

638 ROGER MCGUINN, Jennifer Oniyama, Cardiff St. David's Hall, Thursday 1 July 2004

Continuing my recent retro gig theme, here's another; Roger McGuinn, frontman from 60's icons The Byrds, an inspiration to anyone who's ever picked up a guitar and wanted to make a jangly sound with it. Beef and Tim also didn't need much persuading, so we eschewed the Euro 2004 Semi Final on TV, and hit the road to Cardiff!

The lobby of the St. David's Hall, smack in the centre of Cardiff, was confusingly deserted when we arrived, but all became clear when we took the elevator - this modernised venue had different halls, and ours was on Level 3! Took our seats briefly for a bit of warbling angsty songstress support, then headed for the bar and merch stand instead, conversing with the merch lady whom we subsequently found out was McGuinn's wife (!), and buying autographed CDs.

Back in our excellent 4th row seats as the lights dimmed at 9 and on strolled McGuinn, leather-waistcoated and Stetson in place, already strumming the into to the Byrd's "My Back Pages", like an old-time travelling troubadour. This was a real treat - McGuinn, his pure plaintive voice undimmed by the passage of time, played a virtuoso set of 95% Byrds material, alternating between a fat 7-string self-designed acoustic Gibson, and the more familiar 12-string electric Rickenbacker, and interspersed it with timeless stories of the history of the Byrds, and, indeed, rock'n'roll itself. Despite his deserved lofty position in the pantheon of rock history, McGuinn was softly-spoken and self-effacing throughout, the stories of hanging out with Gram Parsons, and being offered Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to record as, "someone was singing out of tune on the original" (!) so evocative.

And the music? Classic acoustic versions of the Byrds' timeless best - an inspiring "Chestnut Mare", a thrilling "Rock N Roll Star" (wherein McGuinn asked us to scream along at the appropriate time!), a menacing, intricate "Eight Miles High", and of course the plangent melancholy of "Mr. Tambourine Man" were all highlights of a set totally devoid of lowlights! A final encore of "May The Road Rise To Greet You", wishing us well, and off he strode, as he had entered, strumming along. We left elated - long may he strum!

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