It’s good to be skeptical at times. It leaves room for wonderment and surprise, the kind that grabs you by the throat at the moment you least expect it. Saturday night at Slim’s in San Francisco on 11th and Folsom proved to be a remarkable night. A band that called themselves Led Zepagain was set to play. I’ve never heard of them up until two weeks ago when my husband found them on YouTube, so yes, I was extremely skeptical. Especially after hearing of bands like the ghastly Dredd Zeppelin that mutilated Led Zeppelin songs for years on end. I’ve been a Led Zeppelin fan longer than I’ve been a Tori Amos fan. Those who have read my previous posts would know how long, indeed, that is. My husband and I couldn’t believe how good they were that we just HAD to see them for ourselves.
This was beyond imitation and flattery. This was beyond cover bands and songs. This was (nearly) a paranormal event staging Led Zeppelin, because in the dim red and blue lights at Slim’s, a lingering buzz from knocking back a few Sierra’s, and the energy that ran through bodies electric, I swear I saw them. On stage. Live. It started with a screening of “The Song Remains The Same” a concert/movie of Led Zeppelin’s tour in 1973 filmed in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Juxtaposed with the bellowing crowd filmed in New York, the audience at at Slim’s lauded as the screen slowly lifed, unveiling Led Zepagain. And then it happened. Once the first chord was stuck, the first word sung, you had no choice but to sing along. Resistance is futile. You can’t help but give in, eyes closed, beads of sweat running down your cheeks, hands up in the air waving like a soft breeze just ran through a meadow.
What Led Zepagain has done (with almost a ritualistic flair) is to pay tribute to one of the most musically complex, intriguing, and controversial bands in the world. Led Zeppelin’s music is dark and captivating with bouts of enchantment and bliss. Their songs are brilliantly written, both divine and arcane that to this day, with a good ear, one can easily tell which musicans have been heavily influenced by the group. Considered as the BEST Led Zeppelin tribute band, the four members of Led Zepagain channel all four Zeppelin members Robert Plant (vocals), Jimmy Page (Guitar) John Paul Jones (Bass/Piano), and John Bonham (drums) with such discernng precision that Zeppelin Heads regardless of age, nationality, sexual orientation, shower-or-no-shower, arrived to celebrate the music, the memory, and the experience that has never again been embodied by any group and musician since.
“It’s amazing how much you sound like us.” “You must have grown up on this because you were inside the music, and you paid attention to detail in your presentation…I can tell you guys really love the music!” – Jimmy Page
The beauty of that is, Led Zepagain is not trying to mark their own territory. Members of Led Zepagain (Swan Montgomery as Robert Plant, Steve Zukowsky as Jimmy Page, Jimmy Wooten as Jonesy, and Jim Kersey as Bonzo) closely studied Led Zeppelin’s music and everything else about them. This group of people are hardcore fans, playing for a cult following of fans (for 18 years now!), determined to keep the music alive. They radiate Led Zeppelin down to the finest details of Robert Plant’s mannerisms. How he held his mic (not to mention his voice), his beckoning stage presence (although no one can EVER be like Robert Plant), and the frail snapping of his fingers while he sang. Zukowsky’s take on Page’s stage antics were spot on: His use of a Theremin (an electric instrument used to create sliding tones by placing your hands in its peripheral area), and the infamous cello bow used in the exact guitar solo. Even the guitars they used are the same.
The band played a wide range of Led Zeppelin legendary hits: Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock N’ Roll, Immigrant Song, Kashmir, Going to California, Ramble On, Black Dog. Of course they were fabulous, as if the band crawled into each of the songs and lived there for a while only to come out emmanating the voice, sound, emotion and energy of each track. But it was the songs that I thought I would NEVER (in my life) hear live that startled me stupid. Not just because some of these songs are difficult to play in front of a live audience, but because these aren’t exactly Casey Kasem’s Top 40 hits material. They weren’t even released as singles. These were songs that made the night worthwhile: The heavily toked up track, Dazed and Confused, The Song Remains the Same (probably one of Led Zeppelin’s best songs in my opinion), Bron Yr Aur Stomp, and the deeply enigmatic, No Quarter.
Led Zeppelin: Circa 1975
LOOK AGAIN: It’s Led Zepagain!!! (Circa 2009)
The music lives on. Someday when the Mothership returns once again and lands on earth for a reunion concert (this time not just in London as they did in 2007!) My husband and I will be in line–up front–with Swan, Steve and the rest of Led Zepagain, waving our golden concert tickets. Jimmy Page will step down in his dragon suit, armed with his 1275 Gibson double neck guitar and a cure for cancer and say, “I’ll take over from here.”