Andy Mitchell - photo by Michael Sherer
While The Yardbirds are often thought of as serving as the starting point for, respectively, guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, they are in fact one of the most important rock, blues and pop bands of the ‘60’s, and a big influence on many musicians. For examples, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith are major fans, which led them to cover The Yardbirds’ “Train Kept A Rollin,” which featured Beck on guitar. The band didn’t become huge in mass popularity like their British counterparts The Beatles, Stones, The Who, The Kinks, etc., but did have some notable hits such as “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things,” and “I’m a Man.”
Currently, a young lead guitarist named Ben King steers the band, and he’s excellent. The only original members of the band are rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty. Singer Andy Mitchell is fantastic as both singer and harmonica player, (see photo) which allows the band to continue doing their legendary “rave ups,” which are extended, often frantic jams that have a lot of guitar and harmonica counterpoint. Along with bassist David Smale, all the other band members outside of the core two originals are far younger than they, which brings fresh and energetic air to the sound. They mesh together very well, and look cool and relaxed while doing it. Sadly, Dreja suffered a recent stroke, and was not on this tour. There was no replacement for him, so King had to step up and play more than he would have. He handled this superbly.
The blues was framework that the band started with in its earliest days is what comes through most. While they strayed into more pop territory a couple of years into their existence, (a primary cause of blues purest Clapton leaving) they are, at heart, a blues band by and large still. Their high quality musicianship and commitment allows for a depth and flexibility in their sound, and it’s worth repeating that the high energy and zeal of the younger members of the band truly propel the music.
Irving Plaza is a smallish and funky old venue in hip Union Square, and it was well suited for the band. The acoustics are good, and the club like setting is how the band started. I find it’s much more effective for a blues based act to perform in an intimate setting rather than a large one, as the blues itself is intimate in its own way. I was smitten with everything overall, and recommend to anyone that wants a classic, swinging, British ‘60’s aesthetic in a modern package to catch dig on this classic band as well.