Yardbirds - photo by Michael Sherer
The Yardbirds started in London, England way back in 1963. With a bunch of hits such as “For Your Love”, “Heart Full of Soul”, “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down” and as one of the inventors of the “rave up” and British psychedelic sounds, they are one of the most influential and copied groups of modern times. They were also one of the earliest British groups to earnestly cover American blues artists, including the Chicago blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James. Songs such as “Smokestack Lightning”, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, “Boom Boom”, “I Wish You Would”, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” and “I’m a Man” all came of this reverence and made their young audience aware of these relatively obscure black, American blues artists.
Additionally, the group launched the careers of guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, as each of them, in that order, started out in the group. It was Beck that initially brought fuzz tone, sustain, reverb, feedback, distortion and hammer-on soloing that fit well and helped propel the increasingly raw style of British beat music which spawned heavier groups such as Birmingham’s Black Sabbath.
The Yardbirds had a very short original run, breaking up in 1968. Jimmy Page was the only member still standing at the end when a few Scandinavian dates needed to be fulfilled, and briefly had a new group around him called The New Yardbirds. The other members of the group were Robert Plant on vocals, John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham on drums. They soon became, you guessed it - Led Zeppelin.
For the next twenty four years The Yardbirds lay dormant. In 1992 they reformed, with only drummer Jim McCarty and guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja as original members, but the spirit was resurrected. They’ve been active ever since, but sadly Dreja had a stroke in 2012 and needed to leave the group, leaving McCarty as the sole original member. They’ve had many other members come and go, and have a stellar current line up of John Idan on rhythm guitar and vocals, Kenny Aaronson on bass, Johnny A on lead guitar and Myke Scavone on harmonica, percussion, backing vocals. Idan was in the original reformed line up, but took a leave of absence from 2009 to 2015 after having a son. The twin guitar set up in the band offers both more attack and counterpoints, as well as allowing Idan to also concentrate on his strong lead vocals.
The band sounded great, and the intimacy of the 700 person capacity Highline Ballroom was an ideal setting for them. It was much like their formative club beginnings, when they were they house band at London’s Crawdaddy Club, succeeding The Rolling Stones. Kenny Aaronson is an especially adept bassist, so as a rhythm section with band leader McCarty they have a formidable combination, as McCarty is still playing with energy and at a high level fifty five years after the formation of the original band.
There wasn’t much talking during the set, as it was mainly about the classic music. It was a robust set, with twenty songs played. They were, in order: Heart Full of Soul, Muddy Water, I’m Not Talking, The Nazz Are Blue, You’re A Better Man Than I, Ain’t Got You, Little Games, Shapes Of Things, New York City Blues, Back Where I Started, Evil Hearted You, Lost Women, Over Under Sideways Down, Smokestack Lighning, For Your Love, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, Dazed and Confused, Mystery of Being, Train Kept A Rollin’ and I’m A Man.
Here’s hopin’ that this seminal British confection keeps a playin’ for as long as they can stand it. Rave on, mates!