Roger McGuinn - guitar, vocals; Clarence White - guitar, mandolin; Skip Battin - bass, vocals; Gene Parsons - drums, vocals
Recorded on the final night of a three night Fillmore West run, headlining over Fleetwood Mac and John Hammond, Jr., this is the McGuinn, White, Battin, Parsons lineup early on, one which would last longer than any other Byrds lineup. The band was promoting The Ballad Of Easy Rider LP, where the group continued to explore elements of country and western music, while they headed toward a heavier electric rock sound. Ex-Kentucky Colonels guitarist, Clarence White, is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this lineup and his innovative stringbending techniques and fluid solos are well represented here.
Although not as aggressive as the late show performance (also available here in the Vault) and with a tape mix that improves over the course of the first several songs, this performance captures the band approaching their peak as a live act. Several months prior to the sessions for their half studio/half live Untitled album, which would see the group reunite with their former producer Terry Melcher and original manager and mentor Jim Dickson, this is a newly inspired band reinventing itself and venturing forth into a promising new decade.
The group's live repertoire had become quite eclectic by this point, with McGuinn becoming the primary lead vocalist, but two important aspects of the group's original sound remain—McGuinn's trademark 12-string Rickenbacker twang and the band's penchant for Bob Dylan songs. No less than four Dylan songs are featured here. In addition to their staple "Mr. Tambourine Man," the group opens the set with "You Ain't Going Nowhere" and they've now added Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" to the live repertoire. Former Byrd, Gene Clark's "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" was briefly rejuvenated around this time and appears early in the set. A rockin' version of "Jesus Is Just Alright," their single at the time (later covered by the Doobie Brothers in nearly the exact same arrangement) is also included here, as are one off showcase songs for Skip Battin ("You All Look Alike") and Gene Parsons ("Take A City Bride").
Still, the most compelling performances are the hits, not because they are more familiar, but for the new heavier approach and inspired guitar interplay between Clarence's sizzling stringbending Telecaster and Roger's distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker. Although incomplete, "Eight Miles High" has now become an extended jam vehicle and the interplay between McGuinn and White is quite astounding. On this recording, McGuinn and White's guitars are panned hard left and right (in separate channels) allowing listeners to clearly enjoy the musical dialogue between the two guitarists.
Over the course of the year, this lineup would deliver many a powerful performance and record the most well-received album of their later era, Untitled, before things would begin unraveling for good. But at this stage, as they ring in the New Year with this run of San Francisco concerts, the Byrds were experiencing a driving new sense of direction that permeates this performance.
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