Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Yardbirds at the Highline Ballroom

Jim McCarty
Guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page started their professional music careers in the 1960s in a British Invasion blues rock band called the Yardbirds. The band, briefly known as the Blue Sounds in 1963, formed in the suburbs of London, England, taking its name Yardbirds from an expression for hobos in rail yards or prisoners in a prison yard, but also revering jazz saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. Originally playing Chicago blues covers, the Yardbirds became known for its signature "rave-up" instrumental breaks. The quintet gained attention when it replaced the Rolling Stones as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. Joining the British invasion, the Yardbirds went pop, causing the departure of Clapton. Beck replaced Clapton in 1965 and introduced fuzz tone, reverb, feedback, sustain, distortion and hammer-on soloing. Page joined on bass in 1966, but quickly switched to dual guitars with Beck. The Yardbirds split in 1968; Page tried to revamp the lineup as the New Yardbirds, but after a brief tour his band was rechristened Led Zeppelin. Original Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty reformed the brand in 1992, about the same time the Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Yardbirds' fifth and most recent studio album is 2003's Birdland. The Yardbirds presently consists of McCarty, vocalist/guitarist John Idan, lead guitarist Johnny "A." Antonopoulos, bassist Kenny Aaronson, and percussionist/harmonica player Myke Scavone.

The Yardbirds' current line-up headlined tonight at the Highline Ballroom and captured both the spirit and the heritage of the late 1960s. Working through the vintage repertoire, the band sought not to replicate the classic arrangements but to bring the vitality of the present musicians to the past catalogue. Yet, although the earlier Yardbirds was an experimental band, adapting Indian raga sounds and Gregorian chants and pioneering psychedelic and hard rock, the new band was not breaking new ground or toying with left-field influences. Nevertheless, the instrumental prowess of the newer musicians shined throughout the performance. Perhaps this is the best way to preserve a hallmark: remain faithful and reverent towards the original, yet fully utilize the creative abilities offered by the new.

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