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Monday, 18 May 2015

Review: Roger McGuinn fills the night with songs, stories in Ann Arbor

Roger McGuinn performs Saturday night, May 16, at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor (Photo by Chuck Finley/NSF Photography) 
ANN ARBOR -- One night after Bob Dylan played in Detroit, he was very much on the minds of those at the Michigan Theater -- and the guy on stage there.
Dylan is a big part of Roger McGuinn’s back pages, so it was appropriate the Byrds co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer began his storyteller-style solo show on Saturday, May 16, with the band’s arrangement of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and laced plenty of other Dylan songs through his two-hour and 15-minute (including intermission) performance. There’s more to McGuinn’s story than the myriad Dylan connections, of course, but those were certainly among the most potent and attention-getting of the many tales he told between songs.
And when McGuinn related that “Ballad of Easy Rider” began with lyrical notes Dylan scrawled on a napkin for actor Peter Fonda and told him “give it to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do wtih it,” the references were clearly more than impressive name-dropping.
Over the course of 24 songs, McGuinn gently and good-naturedly established himself as a musical innovator, whether it was creating the folk-rock form with the Byrds by morphing Dylan’s then-unreleased “Mr. Tambourine Man” into a Beatles-style pop song or laying the groundwork for country rock with the group’s landmark 1968 “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” album, from which he drew the nimble picking of Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd.” Switching between his trademark Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar, his custom-made seven-string acoustic, a 12-string acoustic and a five-string banjo, McGuinn talked about playing in the Greenwich Village folk scene, hanging out with the Beatles and Rolling Stones in England, playing with and writing for Bobby Darin, and being part of Dylan’s famed Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975-76.
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