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Concert Review: Duo evoke the '60s folk spirit

February 10, 2014|By Michael Miller
  • John York performs during a concert at the Irvine Valley College Performing Arts Center on Thursday.
John York performs during a concert at the Irvine Valley… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Talk about a perfect song for a small crowd on a rainy night.

Thursday evening at the Irvine Valley College Performing Arts Center, former Byrds member John York opened with a truncated rendition of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom."

The song — a solid contender for Dylan's masterpiece, although no entry will hold that title in a catalog as deep as his — paints a picture of stragglers ducking out of the elements to share a vision: "Far between sundown's finish and midnight's broken toll / we ducked inside the doorway as thunder went crashing."

The scholarship benefit performance by York and guitarist Toulouse Engelhardt, held before a damp crowd of a few dozen, may have been short on lightning, but it evoked the early 1960s folk scene in a different way. From the opening moments, in which York drifted onstage unannounced while instrumental music director Stephen Rochford discussed the show's fundraising aim, the atmosphere was casual and loose, as suited to a Bleecker Street coffeehouse as it was to a posh campus theater.

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"I just had a realization," Engelhardt — a.k.a. Mr. Engelhardt, biology and environmental sciences instructor at IVC — said between numbers in his set. "I think I know everyone who's here tonight."

Over the course of nearly two hours, York and Engelhardt played long solo sets and teamed for a pair of duets at the end. Their musical histories have intertwined, as they noted in their comments throughout the show: Engelhardt vowed to learn the 12-string guitar after the Byrds visited his high school in 1966, and York had a brief stint with the group later in that decade. (After York left, Engelhardt toured as the Byrds' opening act in 1973.)

York, who performed first, delved into his former band's catalog with a series of Byrds covers: "Chimes," which the band included on its 1965 debut album, as well as a pair of tunes popularized by Pete Seeger, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "The Bells of Rhymney." At one point, York touchingly noted that he felt obliged to pass on the music of his generation, due to so many peers having died; the mention of Seeger, who died recently at age 94, drew a smattering of applause.

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