Making Tracks: On Tour 2010 – 2012
starring The Yardbirds
The good news: The Yardbirds are back on tour! The bad news: the only originals are Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar) and Jim McCarty (drums). No sign of Beck, Clapton, or Page, but we paleo-rockers will take what we can get in our dotage. This new band replaces the gods of yore with newcomers Ben King on lead, Dave Smale on bass, and Andy Mitchell tearing it up with vocals and blues harp. What you will need to decide is how important all that is to your early, if fuzzy, memories of a band that broke up about the time Dick Nixon was elected. Let’s run down the pros and cons…
All the hits are here (“For Your Love,” Over Under Sideways Down,” “I’m a Man,” “Heart Full of Soul”) along with some blues standards like “Train Kept a Rolling'” and “Smokestack Lightning.” There are a few nice rarities, including “The Nazz Are Blue” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor,” but there’s nothing new or stunning. You won’t think, “Wow, where have they been hiding THAT new idea?” All of these songs are executed with mathematical precision — no run-on solos, no blown notes, no one misses a cue, and it’s acoustically perfect. While the new men were actually born during the band’s long hiatus, they look like rockers without doing the throwback clothes or hair styles. If you close your eyes, it’s a Victorian tableau, preserving a long-ago memory of glowingly better times.
And that’s the main issue; it’s too almost perfect, too sterile, too planned. The songs are what we heard on vinyl minus the scratches, and these Yardbirds are just as we think we remember. This might as well be a tribute band like Motorheadache or Almost Abba. The Yardbirds play in small but well-attended clubs or the occasional open air concert. The band is largely static; only Mr. Mitchell gets up and dances. In the “making of” doc (a well-conceived and executed piece of film), the band feels like the grandparents are taking their grandkids on a cross country tour and recalling the glory days they can never revisit. Don’t get me wrong, I love the execution of this time capsule, and I’ll listen again, but it is largely a well-tended relic of days gone by. We’re not seeing a band at the height of its power or even in a fitful decline into self-destruction. We are seeing a band that has been carefully reconstructed like the shards of a Grecian urn. It’s beautiful, but it’s behind glass and we know better than to touch it.
The Yardbirds: theyardbirds.com