Roger McGuinn - guitar, vocals; Clarence White - guitar, mandolin, vocals; Skip Battin - bass, vocals; Gene Parsons - drums, vocals; Jimmi Seiter - congas
Recorded a few weeks prior to the closing of the Fillmore East, this show was to be the last concert played by The Byrds at either Fillmore. Having undergone numerous personnel changes, The Byrds, by the summer of 1971, were at their expressive peak as a live band, having sustained a consistent lineup for almost two years. At a time when many of their contemporaries were either breaking up or losing their creative potency, The Byrds had redefined their sound the year before with the double album Untitled. A new generation of fans had developed, and after years of struggling on stage, they had finally gained a reputation as a great live band. The success was due in no small part to the contribution of ex-Kentucky Colonels guitarist Clarence White, whose innovative string bending techniques combined with McGuinn's signature sound to extend their exploration of country music and create a heavier electric rock sound in concert.
This recording is possibly the best example of these two guitar players' unique chemistry one could hope for. The tape mix is very well balanced, allowing one to clearly hear the musical dialogue between Clarence's sizzling, string bending Telecaster and Roger's distinctive, 12-string Rickenbacker.
Unfortunately, the first song of the set is missing from this recording. The second song begins in progress, with the band in full electric mode performing Dylan's "My Back Pages" followed by a rocking "Baby What You Want Me To Do." Next up is one of the earliest covers of a Jackson Browne song, "Jamaica Say You Will." A rare treat follows, as the group performs a mini-set of four acoustic numbers, including the traditional instrumental "Black Mountain Rag," Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Pretty Boy Floyd" and a cover of Leadbelly's cocaine song, "Take A Whiff On Me." The band returns to full electric mode for a wonderful version of "Chestnut Mare" followed by a rocking "Jesus Is Just Alright."
The set then builds to possibly the most astounding version of "Eight Miles High" the band ever performed. The Byrds were never considered much for their jamming abilities, but this performance would go a long way toward correcting the criticism. Usually "Eight Miles High" would segue out of another song, but here it begins on its own, with a sizzling improvisation featuring a propulsive bottom end by Battin and Parsons with McGuinn and White absolutely blazing on guitars. A truly mind-blowing performance, the song cooks for a solid 18 minutes before ending the set. Following a standing ovation and calls for more, the band returns for a quick encore of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" to close the night.
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