June 1, 2002 at the Virginia Highland Summerfest, Atlanta, Georgia
I was driving around Atlanta on a Saturday afternoon with my friend from Texas, Bill. We were running various errands when we happened upon the local classic rock station, Z93 on the car radio. They announced a free concert with Roger McGuinn at the Virginia Highlands Summerfest. Having seen McGuinn twice before, I knew this was a must see show! However, the last two times I saw Roger, he had a full band. When we arrived and saw the stage, we realized it was an acoustic solo performance!
With an intimate crowd of only about 1000 people, Roger entered the stage for an all-acoustic set dressed all in black, with black pants, shirt and hat. He had the van dyke beard circa 1969. The park was definitely NOT crowded, so we were able to get a front and center spot about 30 feet from the stage! He alternated playing his Rickenbacker electric 12-string and an acoustic 12-string.
He did a quick sound check playing snippets of "My Love Don't Care About Time" and "Daddy Warlord". Frank Marino (morning DJ at Z93) entered and did a little introduction, mentioning that he just met Paul McCartney the week before! To read Frank Marino's interview with Paul McCartney Click here
Roger started off with "My Back Pages", followed by a medley of "Ballad of Easy Rider" and " Wasn't Born to Follow". He introduced the next song as a song about truckers, "Driving, Drive-On Low". Next was a Ledbelly song, "They Hung Him on a Cross". Roger then talked about how he always wanted to go into space and that was the inspiration for his next song, which he called his first country-rock composition, "Mr. Spaceman". Then he talked about the SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO ALBUM and played, "You Ain't Going Nowhere", followed by "Chestnut Mare". After a little introduction to the next song being a Gaelic song, he played, "Finnegan's Wake". Two Byrds classics followed, "Chimes of Freedom" and "Mr. Tambourine Man". Roger then told a humorous story about when he finally got to play in Wales. The people in Wales said that he had been miss-pronounced the name for 30 years! It is pronounced RUM-NEY, not REM-NEY. So, in the version he played he sang the corrected pronunciation in "The Bells of Rhymney".
Roger then talked a little about Tom Petty, joking that when he first heard one of Tom’s songs he joked, “did I write that?”. He proceeded to play “American Girl”, a song originally intended for McGuinn (it is actually on one of his solo albums, although the Tom Petty version is better known). Next was a song that Roger wrote with Tom Petty called, "King of the Hill". Another solo album tune followed, "Cardiff Rose". McGuinn announced the next song as his favorite Gene Clark song, playing the Byrds power-pop masterpiece, "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better". Two more Byrds classics followed, "Turn, Turn, Turn" and “Eight Miles High". On “Eight Miles High” Roger played a cool raga-styled intro and outro on his acoustic.
For an encore, McGuinn played "So You Wanna Be a Rock 'N Roll Star", getting the crowd to cheer to simulate the crowd noise on the original recording. He also changed the lyric line to "just get an acoustic guitar and learn how to play" from the original "electric guitar". Roger ended with a version of Dylan’s "Knocking On Heaven's Door". Who better to interpret Bob Dylan than the man who led a band who showed that Bob Dylan’s songs could be rock ‘n roll!
In his concise set, Roger McGuinn covered his entire career from the Byrds to his varied solo career. Quite a feat indeed! Plus, his guitar playing an voice was amazing. After the show Roger met the crowd at a little tent behind the stage. I got an autograph from Roger and then hung out with the "Fifth Beatle" Frank Marino from Z93. I’m still kicking myself for not bringing my electric Rickenbacker 12-string for him to sign!
To read the EAR CANDY interview with Roger McGuinn (Sept 1999) Click here