written by Steve Roeser

from Goldmine June 28, 1991

Gene Clark's last performance took place about a mile or so from the spot

where the Byrds took off from 27 years ago- Ciro's nightclub on Sunset

Boulevard in Los Angeles. Clark was booked for a five night stint in

mid-April at the Hollywood Cinegrill in the Roosevelt Hotel, right across

the street from the celebrated Chinese Theatre. Fresh from his January

induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the five original

Byrds (hotel marquee above Hollywood Boulevard had only Clark's name without

associating him with the famed group), this extended gig should have been a

memorable one for this outstanding singer/songwriter. But for whatever

reason, hardly anyone came to see him.

When I saw Clark's appearance advertised, never having seen him perform

before, I knew that I had to make it my business to go. On opening night, a

Tuesday, Clark was scheduled to do two shows. (Admission was $15.). I showed

up about mid-way through his first set, inquired about a ticket to the

second show, and sat in the hotel lobby. As I listened to the strains of

"I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" and other familiar tunes through the

nightclub door, I realized that no crowd was gathering for the second set at

10 P.M. When the music stopped, the club manager came out and informed me

that the second show had been canceled due to the attendance. To call it a

low turnout would be an understatement. It was almost as if no one had been

informed that Gene Clark was playing here.

I walked inside the club, where Clark--decked out in gray tails and tie

over jeans and cowboy boots-- was mingling with a few friends. There were

maybe two or three dozen people all told inside the room, including

documentary filmmaker Andrew Solt and his girlfriend and Steve Hochman, a

music writer from the Los Angeles Times. "By this weekend, this place'll be

packed," I overheard Clark, his eyes twinkling, say to his friends.

The next night, I showed up again-- this time for the opening set. I had

no problem getting a table up close to the small stage. Just like the night

before, attendance was at a minimum. But it wasn't until Clark walked up

there with his acoustic guitar that I realized it didn't matter what number

of people were there to hear him play. This man was an artist and he had a

job to do. Maybe precisely because so few people had come to see him. Clark

seemed content on giving his all for those who had.

Joined by his lead guitarist playing softly and tastefully beside him,

Clark began his set with several slow and mournful songs about lost love.

One of these was "Here Without You" which, like "I'll Feel A Whole Lot

Better," appeared on the Byrds' Mr. Tambourine Man album. In spite of the

sadness Clark was communicating, his singing was so heartfelt it was

uplifting. When he'd completed this group of tunes, Clark took off his

guitar and cracked offhandedly: "All right, let's get the band up here. Come

on, band." The drummer, bass player and keyboard player who then joined

Clark and his guitarist on stage were unknown to me, but I will say this:

these guys were the definition of what the word "band" means. And Clark was

one hell of a bandleader.

They launched into a rollicking uptempo number that had Clark, thin as a

rail and coiled like a spring. bouncing like a jackrabbit to music that was

absolutely irresistible. From that point on, Clark had every person in that

room entranced by his gigantic talent. Here was a performer who could

sincerely take you from the depths of sadness to the core of unbridled rock

'n' roll joy in the space of a few minutes-- and make you feel the essence

of those two extremes. He paced the rest of his soulful hour- long set like

that, pouring out the full complement of human emotions.

Clark's brooding, almost dirge-like, reading of "Eight Miles High" was

certainly a highlight, as was his careful interpretation of Dylan's "I Shall

Be Released." But nothing topped his singing on "Don't Let Me Down," one

of the finest renditions of a Beatles song I've ever heard anyone do. Only

a songwriter as gifted as Clark could fully appreciate John Lennon's

sentiments as he sang the lines: "I'm in love for the first time, don't you

know it's gonna last/ It's a love that lasts forever, it's a love that has

no past."

Clark rocked out a bit more with the band on some of his underrated solo

material, before closing with, "Mr. Tambourine Man." Someone suggested that

Clark's friend, actor David Carradine (seated out front), join him in

singing the Dylan song the Byrds had helped turn into a classic. "No, I want

to hear you sing it," Carradine said. But Clark got everyone to sing along

with him anyway.

No doubt the turnout was a little better for Clark's weekend shows. But

they should have been adding shows, turning people away and extending his

engagement. It was a shame. It's hardly possible that a live performer that

week in Los Angeles had as much to give an audience as Clark did and was so

completely willing to give.

Certainly Clark was luckier than many '60's rockers, in that he'd written

a handful of memorable songs that were still favored by recording artists

right up to the present. Tom Petty included "Whole Lot Better" on his Full

Moon Fever album (Johnny Rivers also did it on his Blue Suede Shoes album)

and Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey recorded "Here Without You" for their

recently- released Mavericks album. The inclusion of ten of Clark's songs

on the Byrds boxed set also ensured that he wouldn't starve. But it was

obvious that Clark's business about protecting the rights to his songs was a

separate issue from the passion he had for his music and playing that music

for people. He proved that during his last stand in Hollywood, the place

where the Byrds made it big.

 

Steve Roeser

from Goldmine June 28, 1991


written by Steve Hochman
from the Los Angeles Times

Ex-Byrd Soars on his Own at Cinegrill

 

Wearing gray tails and tie, Byrds co-founder Gene Clark looked as if

he'd come straight from the group's January induction into the Rock and

Roll Hall of Fame as he began a five-night run at the Cinegrill on

Tuesday.

You couldn't blame him if he wanted to draw attention to the accolade.

He's been largely shut out of the Byrd's glory over the years--a

secondary figure to Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and David Crosby, even

though he was at least as integral to the band's pioneering folk-rock in

its formative heyday.

But the show Tuesday wasn't about the past. Clark did make a couple of

references to Ciro's, the Hollywood club where the Byrds played in the

mid 60's, and made a territorial claim on "Eight Miles High" and "I'll

Feel A Whole Lot Better," the only two Byrds songs he performed in the

75-minute set.

But that was it for the Byrds ties. Where McGuinn's recent music has

invited us to bask in the eternal youth and freshness of the Byrds,

Clark instead reminded of the toll of the time between then and now--his

craggy face and tired eyes matched his weathered voice and weary tunes.

Yet there was a sense of triumph, confidence and even freshness in his

performance.

First, acoustic, then with a loose but solid four-piece band and later

to duet with sometimes collaborator Carla Olson, Clark concentrated on

material from his 25 post-Byrd years, a catalogue of involved, involving

and evocative folk-country songs that may be the richest of the various

ex-Byrds' work.

The biggest toll on the years may be obscurity, the opening-night show

drew only a few dozen people. But Clark, who continues through Saturday,

took that in stride. Before singing Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" to

end the show, he noted, "I remember Ciro's the first night. The Byrds

walked out on stage and there were about 10 people, and they all left.

But two weeks later, there were lines down the street."

 

written by Steve Hochman
for the Los Angeles Times