Sunday, 17 March 2013
"Hats Off To Led Zeppelin" - a fitting tribute
There are very few people who would claim to have seen Led Zeppelin doing pub gigs. By the time the lineup had decided that they could not work as the Yardbirds they were also recognised as far too big a draw to go on the pub circuits. Their first gigs at the Marquee Club proved that fans who had followed the Yardbirds had fully embraced Led Zeppelin and new manager Peter Grant was skilfully manipulating bookers and larger venues to build on that running start. Chances are then if you saw Led Zeppelin it was in a very big room or a stadium would have been nice to have them local though would it not? This brings us to tributes to Led Zepp everybody likes to bash out a bit of Led even me (badly) some bands have it in their blood quite literally. If you were friends or colleagues of the President of the United States or of the genuine Led Zeppelin this year you could have sat and wept at the sheer beauty of the tribute paid by Jason Bonham and Heart, I will play that clip of 'Stairway' until I am called up those stairs ( though certain people have suggested I might be doing the bookings at the other venue) and if Jason and his own band decide to tour the UK I will be there. A few weeks ago I heard that a UK tribute band were going to have a gig at 'The Brooklands Tap' which is very local to me tempered by Jason and friends performance I simply had to go . The band in question was 'Hats Off To Led Zeppelin" and a little research revealed they are very well liked, which built my expectations of a very good night of classic rock. Classic Rock is a funny thing and Zeppelin doubly so because we have heard, absorbed and enjoyed it so many times hearing a live performance brings automatic comparisons with the original vinyl. I know how the phrasing of a song sounds on the album the odd half missed note squeaky strings and kick pedals it is all imprinted but by far the most important factor how it feels when the volume is up high and proud. We were in a fairly modest sized room packed to the seams with rock fans in such a situation it is easy for the Soundman to go Batcrap crazy, turn everything up to 10 and slope off for a beer out of harms way. Happily good sense prevailed at the 'Tap' and the sound was comfortably loud ,clear and free from feedback proving there is no need for the audience to leave a gig hearing impaired. From the first riff it was very obvious that the band feel the same way about Led Zeppelin as I do little details such as the way Robert Plant sings a word is pleasingly just right, how the drumming compliments the guitar riffs rather than being a rhythmic addition to them just as Bonzo would have done it.The welcome appearance of a double neck SG really was icing on this cake few have the kahunas to wield a double but if you are going to be Zepp then you really have to hitch em up high and go for it, just about everything else I'd want about a Led Zeppelin gig was there including some rather fine refreshments. The only missing authentic touch would have been a bunch of crazies outside selling knock off T Shirts and bootlegs before being chased off by the roadies - (happy days). Rock and Roll is one of the songs everybody knows but often gets overlooked on radio (not by us BTW) and is a staple of Led Zeppelin performances a superb up tempo blues romp that starts with that instantly recognisable drum solo and Hats Off To Led Zeppelin nailed it perfectly galloping through it with the audience rocking away. With a start like that I was quickly relaxing into the set letting it flow over me, this was what I remember of Zepp when I was unfeasibly young, glancing at the people surrounding me it was easy to see that just about everybody was riding that wave. I completely forgot to write down the set list as the magic poured off the stage, when I spoke to the band post gig they admitted it was just going so well they were carried away and far from certain exactly what was played. So from what I can recall prompted by the band the great first half included We're Gonna Groove, The Ocean, Trampled Underfoot. However the second set was just plain inspired and featured (in no particular order because frankly I was just lost in the moment, refreshment and a sea of people) Kashmir, The Immigrant Song,Black Dog and more which all flew by. The final songs were/had to include Stairway, Heartbreaker, Wearing and Tearing and last off Whole Lotta Love which just about everybody was mouthing the words? might have been singing too er possibly I was. So in conclusion I'd say if you want to see Led Zeppelin and you are not Dr Who this is your best chance to experience what it could have been back when the Prog bands ruled the earth. I have been told that on bigger gigs they costume up - so time to break out the flowery shirt unbuttoned halfway down and give the velvet jacket the chance of an outing.