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The Yardbirds at Grande 50, 5 things to know
Detroit's Grande Ballroom wasn't opened specifically for the Yardbirds, but the timing was fortuitous.
The British group was breaking out in the U.S. with its biggest singles, "For Your Love and "Shapes of Things," at the time the venerable concert hall opened on Grand River Ave. Jeff Beck was the resident guitar ace, with Jimmy Page soon to hop on board. And a generation of to-be-rockers, including Aerosmith and the members of the Alice Cooper Band, were as enamored with the Yardbirds as anything else coming out of England, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The Yardbirds only lasted until 1968 but regrouped briefly during the early 80s and then for good in 1992. Drummer Jim McCarty is the sole remaining founder, and during the intervening years he's shepherded a variety of players through the lineup. The Yardbirds are still having a rave-up, though, and McCarty is happy with the shape of things in the band these days...
As the last man standing in the Yardbirds, McCarty feels a responsibility to keep the group's name and legacy alive. "I think circumstances are that I'm sort of there, still, and I love the repertoire," McCarty, 73, explains by phone. "I think it's a really strong repertoire that's stood the test of time and still stands up. We've got a good following in the U.S, a lot of loyal fans. A lot of people want to see the band, no matter who's in it. And I enjoy coming to the States. So it all works out. I don't know how long I'll keep doing it, but I'm still enjoying it."
That continuing appeal, however, isn't something McCarty expected ?? years ago. "I'm quite surprised it's still going and still popular," he says. "I suppose the real song for the Yardbirds was 'Smokestack Lightning; We're still playing it and sometimes I get a bit of goosebumps 'cause it's still got that fabulous riff, something magical about it. Then the hits -- 'Shapes of Things,' 'Over Under Sideways Down'...they still stand up. It's just a timeless sort of music."
Last year the Yardbirds celebrated the 50th anniversary of their first big U.S. hits, "For Your Love" and "Heart Full of Soul," mainstream radio songs that polarized fans of the group's original, blues-oriented approach. "Some the purists didn't really like it. They thought we'd gone a bit mad," McCarty recalls. "It was just spreading the word and spreading the style. We sort of started wtih the blues, then put lots of different aspects to it and tried to give it our own original slant. And we all put our ideas in the pot and went from there. Someone like Jeff Beck,, he had all those sounds and really made it quite original."
McCarty is very happy with the Yardbirds' current lineup, a particularly strong group that includes established veterans such as Johnny A on guitar and Kenny Aaronson on bass. "They're good musicians, seasons musicians, and they're all very enthusiastic," McCartey says. "There's a really good feeling about it all."
So can we expect a new Yardbirds album in the future, a followup to 2003's "Birdland?" "We're not sure," McCarty says. "There's a certain experimental thing about this line which we're not quite sure about, but we're gonna see where it goes. It's quite a challenge, really , do do a new, original album go get it to that high standard. You never really know with the Yardbirds. But it's very possible, so we shall see."
The Grande Ballroom 50 Anniversary, featuring the Yardbirds.
10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. The Yardbirds perform at 8 p.m.
Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn.
Tickets are $50.
Call 313-943-2350 or visit dearbornfordcenter.com.
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