The Byrds - Live At The Fillmore February 1969 album review

Patchy set from the cosmic cowboy years

Cover art for The Byrds - Live At The Fillmore February 1969 album

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The original Byrds had scattered to the winds by early ’69. Gene Clark busied himself with bluegrass maestro Doug Dillard, David Crosby was immersed in sessions for the first CSN album, and Chris Hillman had formed The Flying Burrito Brothers with another ex-Byrd, Gram Parsons. All of which left Roger McGuinn firmly in charge, heading up a line-up whose best feature was hotshot guitarist Clarence White.

Cut over two nights at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, the four-piece (with new rhythm section John York and Gene Parsons – no relation to Gram) still sound like a band in transition, their timing a little ragged and McGuinn’s vocals lacking punch.

They aren’t helped by either the slightly muddy sound quality – Fillmore owner Bill Graham using The Byrds as guinea pigs for a projected live recording by Mike Bloomfield – or a set list centred on fitful new album Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. That said, there’s a brilliantly woolly version of So You Want To Be A Rock‘N’Roll Star, while White excels on the likes of Nashville West and Time Between.

Caught at the crossroads of country and psychedelia, the live Byrds experience is much better served on the first two sides of 1970’s double LP (Untitled).

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.