Former Byrds leader Roger McGuinn billed this concert as a “one-man play” based on his 1996 CD Live From Mars, which features a collection of live recordings that chronicle his career up to the dissolution of the Byrds in 1972. McGuinn seldom strayed from the music and banter of the CD, frequently changing guitars and singing in his trademark high lonesome voice. His weathered pipes still recalled the days of yore, though they sounded a bit frail without the backup trillings of his former bandmates.
The show began with “Heartbreak Hotel”, which McGuinn explained he had heard on a transistor radio while growing up in Chicago. He explained how he wrote the melody for “Chestnut Mare” in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, touring with the Chad Mitchell Trio.
McGuinn’s performance revealed the origins of many of his musical innovations. On “Wild Mountain Thyme”, for instance, he showed how he added a “Beatles beat” to a traditional Celtic song. That same formula worked for “Mr. Tambourine Man”, a song that also featured a Bach-influenced opening, as McGuinn demonstrated.
The highlight of the night occurred with “Eight Miles High”, driven by McGuinn’s prowess on 12-string guitar. For an encore, he invited the audience to scream during the appropriate parts of “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”.
Throughout the concert, McGuinn showed off his knack for taking the best tunes of the past and present and melding them with the future. On the other hand, the concert didn’t portend much of a future for an artist who, judging from this performance, seems content to rest on his laurels.