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Show review: The Yardbirds, City Block Summer Music Series, Springfield, MA

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The Yardbirds
City Block Summer Music Series
Springfield, MA
Thursday, September 1st

One of the most proficient bands to come out of the mid-1960s British Invasion, the Yardbirds provided a launching pad for Eric Clapton, Jeff Back, and Jimmy Page. Though none of the three guitarists rejoined when the group was resurrected in 1992, the current lineup, featuring founding drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, is as musically sharp and hard driving as its predecessors. As shown by their September 1st show, on a downtown Springfield, Massachusetts, outdoor stage, the Yardbirds’ mix of blues, rock, and psychedelia remains as spirit-lifting as ever.

Joined by Keith Relf sound-alike vocalist/harmonica player Andy Mitchell, bassist David Smale, and 27-year-old guitar phenom Ben King, McCarty and Dreja scanned the Yardbirds’ groundbreaking past, delivering solid renditions of tunes like “Over Under Sideways Down,” “Still I’m Sad,” “Heart Full Of Soul,” and “Shapes Of Things.” They paid homage to the Chicago Blues with turbo-charged versions of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” and Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would.” They showed where Aerosmith learned their craft by reviving the cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1956 rockabilly hit, “Train Kept-A Rollin’,” that they first recorded in 1965. A breath-taking medley that closed their 75-minute-long set started with their first hit, “”For Your Love,” went into “Happenings Ten Years Times Ago” and finished with a rendition of “Dazed And Confused” that left no doubt where Led Zeppelin had gotten its musical education. A 10-minute-plus encore of Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man” reinforced that we had been in the presence of masters.

—Craig Harris (Chicopee, MA)

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