Black Music Matters Festival

The Byrds

Live at the Fillmore - February 1969 – 2000 (Columbia/Legacy)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

As important as the Byrds were to the evolution of the psychedelic folk of the '60's and the country rock of the '70's, the band was officially documented live only once, for half of 1970's "Untitled." That wrong is finally righted, belatedly and perhaps still not fully here, a disc bundled to come out simultaneously with the last set of reissues. Although this shows a certain charm, the line-up that recorded it - Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons, and John York - is easily not the most potent Byrds line-up, as evidenced by the atypically weak hits medley of "Turn! Turn! Turn!/Mr. Tambourine Man/Eight Miles High." The places where this incarnation of the Byrds truly shines is when they haul through the country material that had become more staple than curiosity by 1969, as on "Close Up the Honky Tonks" and "Buckaroo," which immediately follow the strained medley. Most telling is the fact that The Byrds' Fillmore performances were never intended for release, as they were merely recorded as sound checks for the Mike Bloomfield jam sessions that headlined the four-night stand. Combined with the lesser band line-up and The Byrds' opening status, "Live" stands as an interesting curio for fans but not essential for the casual listener. Still in all, there are moments of McGuinn/White interplay that are inspired ("King Apathy III," "Bad Night at the Whisky," "This Wheel's on Fire," the poignant "He Was a Friend of Mine") that make this set worthwhile on more than just a superficial level.