Although it was 11 p.m. and between two sold-out shows at New York's Bottom Line, nothing management did could convince a few dozen hard-core Byrds' fans that it was time to clear out so the club could prepare for the next performance. Grasping CDs, records, and scraps of paper just big enough to hold an autograph, fans — most in their late 30s and early 40s — crowded the backstage entrance, waiting to catch a glimpse of former Byrds leader Roger McGuinn.
For McGuinn, it was a chance to test the waters for a half-dozen soon-to-be-recorded songs for an upcoming solo LP, and receive a well-deserved ovation for gracefully performing almost every key song from his past. Sporting a black T-shirt and the bone-colored Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar he made famous, McGuinn showed great prowess as he effortlessly performed songs such as "Eight Miles High," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn."
Pausing during a block of new material, the Chicago-born McGuinn announced that he'd recently signed a contract with Arista Records. The signing comes more than a decade after he played in McGuinn, Clark and Hillman. As fans cheered loudly during most of the 75-minute set, McGuinn spoke candidly about a recent jam session in Boston with Elvis Costello. McGuinn asked the prolific British rocker if he "had any spare material." Costello obliged, and gave him "You Bow Down," which has almost the identical trademark jangly sound of The Byrds.
McGuinn also played "The Reason Why," which appears on Tom Petty's latest effort, and he asked everyone to join in the chorus of Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," a song which was recently re-done by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He joked about the 20 years that passed before the song became a hit.
"Great show," declared one fan who managed to shake the entertainer's hand at the end of the set. "Do you know where I can get any Byrds sheet music?"