Opening for "The Yarbirds"
Hey Mr. DJ
Under The Sun
Here I Go Again
The Crowd & I
by Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
Cambridge, Mass. - June 1, 2003 - The Yardbirds history goes back to the early ‘60s, so many folks are probably wondering what are they doing on tour? Two original members are carrying the torch for the band now, Chris Dreja (guitar) and Jim McCarty (drums). The newest members Gypie Mayo (lead guitar, vocals), John Idan (bass, lead vocals) and Alan Glen (harmonica, vocals) give a younger infusion of rock-blues blood to the mix, making for a perfect combination of the old with the new. The fact is they are playing all of the old songs and new songs on the set list. The recent release Birdland features remakes of the some of old tunes as well as new tracks that are destined to be classics.
I had no idea what to expect at The House of Blues. I was expecting to go to a concert and sit down, was I ever surprised when I arrived there. It is a restaurant/bar with the acts playing on the top floor. There is a bar with floor room to hold 180 people, and two bar stools. I was fortunate enough to secure one of those precious seats half way through the concert because a young lady vacated her seat, probably because she could not see a damned thing with me and others standing in front her. My sore back thanks that young woman, who ever she was. The atmosphere and surroundings were like an old juke joint, complete with Christmas lights around the bar and on the ceiling. I over heard one young man talking about the House of Blues in LA and what a broken down old shack it is out in the middle of no man's land. After hearing that, I had confirmation that the chain of venues was trying to emulate the old juke joints of the South, where the real folk blues are thriving to this day. This may be common knowledge to many of you, but after all these years, this was my first visit to the famous venue.
The opening act was a young band called Common Rotation from LA; they played an appealing blend of rock and folk music with an alternative slant. They were on for about an hour and whisked themselves away, knowing that the crowd was anticipating the arrival of the Yardbirds onstage. The Yardbirds were everything I expected and more. John Idan is an excellent vocalist and bass player, who by the way has the ‘60s look down spot on with his haircut and clothing, and of course the charming British accent. He and the band effortlessly duplicated what they accomplished in the studio to perfection on Birdland and they recreated several of the famous tunes that helped them become a household name in the ‘60s. The old timers McCarty and Dreja had no problem keeping up with the younger members of the band. McCarty pounds those skins as if he was a man half his age and Dreja was animated and totally into what they were doing onstage. They played all the new tracks of their recent release, plus all the old hits like "Shapes of Things," "Over Under Sideways Down," "Mr. You're a Better Man Than I," "Train Kept a Rollin" and "For Your Love." They did some of the old blues classics, then did a smoking version of Led Zeppelin's "Communication Breakdown," that totally blew me away. This band sounded like they were on the last leg of a tour, not opening night just stepping off the bus on to the stage! They were incredibly tight and polished.
I arrived back home at 3AM feeling exhausted but satisfied that I witnessed something I would probably never see again. It is funny how things change but stay the same. Chris Dreja was talking about how they played in Cambridge back in 1968 and Steve Miller opened for them, he commented, "That was a little different than tonight." Yet was it? There was another young band of hopefuls backing the established stars, hoping someday they would make it too. The tale never ends, just the faces change.
One thing I know is that the music the Yardbirds play is timeless and 180 people had a very special night that they will all remember forever. It was a promising beginning for a tour and it seemed so appropriate to kick things off as it all started for them back in England playing all the pubs.