When the rejuvenated Yardbirds took the stage at B.B.’s, the packed house looked at the youth of some players and seemed to withhold judgment. If Drummer Jim McCarty and guitarist Top Topham had had embarrassing high school flings, they could have been playing with their grandchildren. As the evening progressed, however, the band proved-just as they did when Eric Clapton was replaced by Jeff Beck (with Jimmy Page on bass)-that new blood can be a good thing.
Original (and now visiting) guitarist Topham performed in addition to new lead guitarist Ben King (no relation to the many other guitarists in the King-dom); King added just the right nuances to old favorites like “Heart Full of Soul” and “Smokestack Lightning,” a tune familiar to every American no thanks to Howlin’ Wolf or the Yardbirds, but to the erectile dysfunction epidemic. Andy Mitchell, on vocals and harmonica, reminded us how the British Invasion revitalized the blues as he dug into “Five Long Years.”
The new blood fits in, but the old blood is still pumping strong. Jim McCarty’s drumming hasn’t lost a beat, and neither have his vocals, which shone on “Back Where I Started.” Top Topham’s muscular chords revved up the crowd and proved—as anyone sitting in a club called B.B. King’s should know—nothing tops experience.
– Suzanne Cadgene