Under the Bridge, Fulham – 15 April 2016
From the first chords of Smokestack Lightning through to an encore performance of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, the Yardbirds captivated the audience at Under the Bridge.
It may be zimmer rock these days, with the crowd heavily weighed towards large, male, balding bus pass holders in black leather jackets, but it still carries a power and self-belief other bands would envy.
The years rolled back as guitarist Johnny A and lead singer John Idan joined drummer and original band member Jim McCarty in the subterranean Fulham night spot to reel through the classics.
From soulful r ’n’ b numbers to out-and-out stadium anthems (which seemed at home beneath Stamford Bridge), the Yardbirds turned in a joyous, united and urgent performance with a well-balanced set.
With Billy Boy Miskimmin on harmonica and bongos – the essential ingredient in For Your Love – and Dhani Harrison on bass, the band performed Heart Full of Soul and You’re A Better Man Than I before launching into I Ain’t Got You… originally the B-side of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.
Miskimmin was having so much fun on stage at this point – waving to his mates at the side and leaping around like a teenager – that the audience was lifted to a new level.
Shapes of Things, the classic 1966 top-five single, followed, with the crowd baying along to the ‘Come tomorrow’ chorus.
The blues roots fully explored, the band moved into more psychedelic territory, with the back projections underlining the change of mood.
For Your Love has stood the test of time, but even it was eclipsed by a rousing rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused.
The Yardbirds were an embryonic supergroup, at one time boasting Eric Clapton in the line-up, then Jeff Beck, then Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, then Robert Plant and John Bonham. It evolved into Led Zeppelin, underlining the importance of the group.
Chris Dreja, another original Yardbird, was in the audience to hear the concert; nodding his approval.
Disappointments? Just one. Evil Hearted You remains one of the greatest songs of the last half-century. Written by 10CC’s Graham Gouldman, it reached No3 in the UK… but there was no room for it in the Yardbirds’ latest set. Having such a wealth of material to choose from can sometimes be a problem.