Photos by Arnie Goodman
Always in good form, the Yardbirds made a particularly spectacular ending to their recent, all-too-brief tour. Ramping up the pleasure, the event took place at the historic Paramount Hudson Theater, in the center of scenic Peekskill, NY, where the daytime Hudson River views are spectacular, the pre-concert dining is excellent, the sound at the theatre is impeccable and—incredibly—after-6 parking is free. (A quick note about the Paramount Hudson Theater: it is impressively friendly, has great acts and perfect sound, a trifecta rarely found in NYC venues. ‘Nuf said.)
Yes, only one of the original Yardbirds, drummer Jim McCarty, still plays in the band, but the music did not suffer from personnel changes. With Kenny Aaronson (Rolling Stone‘s Bassist of the Year) and guitarist Johnny A, Myke Sciavone (Ram Jam, of “Black Betty” Fame) on vocals and harmonica, and the band’s vocalist, John Idan, who has been playing with McCarty since the late ’80s, the Yardbirds are as impressive as ever—and this is the band that launched Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
Starting off strong with “Heart Full of Soul,” the Yardbirds barreled through nearly 20 of their many hits, some of which seemed a hair faster and punchier than the originals. An instrumental duet on “Little Games” matched McCarty’s lightening drum licks with Aaronson’s near-impossible speed on the bass, a memorable pairing which evolved into a creative drum solo before resuming the song.
McCarty, on lead vocals on “Back Where I Started From,” began with a call-and-response, singing “Ah-Ha” with the audience; he continued heating it up right through Johnny A’s smoking guitar solo. Idan continued the audience-participation theme by counting us in with loud “Hey!” for “Over Under Sideways Down,” but the thrill level cranked up to 11 on their version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.” The classic tune started off with the prodigious talents of Myke Sciavone on harmonica, showing how he can bring the band together, and followed up with an incredible guitar solo by Johnny A, whose work stands up to the trio of Yardbirds’ guitarists who preceded him: no resorting to power chords, he built this solo with individual notes, like building a wall out of bricks, not slabs. These five guys put out a lot of sound, and I’d swear every damned note of it is good.
A medley beginning with “For Your Love” ended with their version of “Dazed and Confused,” the last song Jimmy Page contributed before forming Led Zeppelin, and the Yardbirds’ version sent chills down the spine.
By the encore, the entire house was standing and dancing in the aisles, and the band was on fire. “I’m a Man,” the last song, was as tight as Johnny A’s jeans. The band, cranked up and wailing, huddled up to face Jim McCarty, their backs to the audience, and played rock and roll exactly as it should be played—wildly, for the pure joy and the love of music.