Refueling the Blues: The Yardbirds Live

September 14th, 2012 by The Professor


The Yardbirds forge ahead with another incendiary appearance

– by Radio RockonTour host Timothy Tilghman

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The Yardbirds are distinctly British and their signature brand of live Rhythm & Blues is a combination mixture of psychedelic rock, instinctive musicianship, and traditional blues jams. But do not discount the occasional all-out rocker, as these gents know how to launch their performance into high gear on stage.

Drummer Jim McCarty is now the final remaining original member of the British Invasion quintet that ignited in 1963. As the group was preparing to return home at the end of their 2011 tour, Chris Dreja suffered an unfortunate stroke and has been sidelined from stage duty since then. Thankfully, Dreja’s unique rhythm guitar style was archived for posterity on the live performance DVD recently released by The Yardbirds.

Lead guitarist Ben King, vocalist Andy Mitchell, and bassist David Smales now form a formidable quartet along with seasoned drummer Jim McCarty anchoring their sound. With both imagination and inspiration, the four of them have been able to transform the band into a stronger unit even in the face of losing Dreja as a key player in their stage act. Best wishes for a healthy recovery are sent to Chris Dreja for his improved well-being.

Several stage staples reappear in the 2012 repertoire. The classic blues covers never grow stale and King’s fierce fretwork never disappoints even rivaling the mastery of former Yardbirds guitar icons Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. This young man has fire in his fingertips and his lead licks are hotter than friction. King keeps the sharp sound on edge with his ability to intensify the resonance of his guitar leads.

Almost exactly one year to the day, The Yardbirds jammed effortlessly in Annapolis, Maryland on September 12, 2012. There were a handful of subtle changes in the Rams Head On Stage setlist but overall, Mitchell nailed down the spotlight and belted out the blues with gusto. McCarty sang lead vocals on “Back Where I Started”, a 1984 Box of Frogs track from a previous reunion project. Smales’ choice bass playing is always a sincere treat.

The big surprise of the Wednesday show was the first encore delivered on solo acoustic guitar by King. Ben parked himself on a stool and performed the 1967 Page-penned instrumental “White Summer” with subtle support from McCarty; truly an excellent highlight. Later while signing autographs after the concert, Yardbird members confirmed that the band has been rehearsing original material to record another new studio album in the near future.

The Yardbirds, Rams Head OnStage, Annapolis, Maryland, September 12, 2012 setlist: I'm Not TalkingDrinkin' Muddy WaterHeart Full Of SoulTrain Kept A Rollin'The Nazz Are BlueFive Long YearsShapes Of ThingsBack Where I StartedOver Under Sideways DownSmokestack LightningStill I'm SadLittle GamesFor Your LoveHappenings Ten Years Time AgoDazed And Confused * Encore: White Summer * I'm A Man




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