The Yardbirds: One of the Best Gigs I've Seen This Year

I bet you didn’t know The Yardbirds were still around. Up until a month or two ago, I didn’t know either. Well, they are, and they’re fantastic.

Back in the Sixties, The Yardbirds revolutionized rock music by elevating the guitar soloist to superstar status. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page are just three of the guys that passed through their ranks, and classic albums like Roger the Engineer, Little Games and Having a Rave Up sound better and hipper with each passing year.

Earlier this summer, I received a press release saying that the band, with original members guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty, was playing in the UK and I was intrigued.

I bought their 2006 album Live at B.B. King Blues Club not expecting much, and I was shocked. It was terrific, especially their young lead guitarist Ben King.

Featuring songs new and old, King was not only tasteful and true to the essence of the original band, but he also added enough of his own spin to keep them sounding smart and contemporary.

I flew to London in July to see the band in the flesh and dragged my good friend, photographer Ross Halfin, along with me. Ross, who has seen thousands of shows in his lifetime and is good friends with both Page and Beck, thought I was out of my mind. In fact, he called me the politically incorrect term for “mentally handicapped.”

But the band did not disappoint. As they tore through songs like “Smokestack Lightning,” a rollicking “Little Games” and a killer “I’m Confused,” Halfin also became a convert.

The band is on a short tour of the U.S., and I saw them last night at B.B. King’s in New York City. Once again they played a sophisticated set, filled with the kind of sensitivity to dynamics and detail that is all but lost these days.

If they are coming to your town, go and see them. I hear they might be back at the beginning of next year. If they return, I’m gonna see 'em again.

Brad Tolinksi is the editor-in-chief of Guitar World.

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Brad Tolinski

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away Brad was the editor of Guitar World from 1990 to 2015. Since his departure he has authored Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page and Play it Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound & Revolution of the Electric Guitar, which was the inspiration for the Play It Loud exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 2019.