Monday, November 8, 2010

Get the Led Out: Concert Review

Lots of people love Led Zeppelin. I am one of those people. Nevermind Robert Plant’s impressive and rare vocal range, or Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs. Nevermind John Paul Jones’ technical soundness, or the fact that John Bonham is mentioned in Step Brothers. What makes Led Zeppelin truly great is the vast spectrum of sound one can enjoy while listening to their anthology. I spent an entire week this semester listening to every Zeppelin album, in order. I listened to an album a night while I “did homework”. It was staggering. Bluesy stuff, middle eastern stuff, early metal, folk music, these guys dabbled in everything. Combine the quality of what your ears are enjoying with all the rock and roll intangibles (sex, drugs, Satan, mud sharks {go ahead and Google that one}, sex, long hair, iconic album cover or two, a vomit-induced death, sex) and you’ve got one of the greatest rock bands of all time. These guys were able to own a title like that despite being a little nerdy (come one, The Battle of Evermore? When’s the Dragonball Z marathon guys?)

So while I greatly appreciate what it means to Get the Led Out, my youth had not wnabled me to do so in a live setting. Until last weekend, anyway. I fell into a set of free tickets to “Get the Led Out” at Penn’s Peak. Get the Led out is the east coast’s preeminent Zeppelin cover band. I haven’t written anything non-baseball related in a while and I don’t go to concerts that often so this was special to me. I’ve decided to write a review. Here it is:

All of these guys are knockout musicians. Gangly frontman Paul Sinclair does a terrific Plant imitation and maintains vocal strength all the way through a trying 2 and ½ hours of performing without a set break. Sincalir is a bit awkward on stage, but even the coolest of us (me and Henry Winkler, of course)would have a difficult time looking natural with nothing but a microphone in our hands during long instrumental breaks littered throughout these songs. While Sinclair’s shortcomings as a performer are a bit distracting, they certainly do not over shadow his prowess as a vocalist. Apparently, he also does Aerosmith stuff and I’d be willing to bet he kills that stuff too.

What Sinclair loses in his on stage persona is picked up by co-lead guitarist Jimmy Marchiano. Marchiano is easily the best performer in the group and one hell of a guitar player. The other half of the guitar duo is made up by daywalker Paul Hammond. Both guitarists played Gibson Les Paul guitars for most of the concert, with Fender Stratocasters mixed in where that surf-riff sounding plucking was appropriate. Hammond switched to an SG doubleneck a few times as well, one just like the doubleneck Jimmy Page used.

You guys have to understand that musically, guitar players are a lot like Wide Receivers are in the NFL. They need to have their place in the sun at least a few times each show to remain appeased and if they don’t get that they can become a bit cranky. As such, talented guitar players often indulge in a long, drawn out guitar solo that one might classify as….masturbatory. These guys were no exception. The two of them had a long blues riff, deliverance style solo together that lasted for a few minutes. Other than that Marchiano pretty much played by the book and Hammond’s only other infraction came during the “violin bow solo” during Dazed and Confused. For those of you who haven’t heard that song, go listen to it (just past the 2 minute mark) and then find a live version and watch that, too. The part of the song I’m referring to is my favorite part of the song. The lead guitar player runs a violin bow over his guitar strings creating a noise that sounds like hell is rising up from beneath the earth. It is fucking cool. But the sound itself does not deserve 5 minutes of my time. Hammond thought it did. Other than those two goofs they were great.

Bassist Billy Childs is very good. He looks a bit strung out on stage but while simply looking at his face may lead you to believe he is on the verge of death, looking at his fingers tell a different story. He’s probably the best bass player I’ve ever seen play live. The occupational hazard that comes with being a bass player is that people tend not to notice you. I, as someone new to critically observing live music, am no different. Sorry, Billy.

Drummer Adam Ferraioli is good too. He also engages in the obligatory solo during Moby Dick which lasts entirely too long. Ferraioli is a great drummer and it’s a shame that what I now associate with him is a fucked out drum solo. That said, Zeppelin is no picnic on the drums. The wide array of musical styling, as I mentioned above, requires the ability to play several complicated and compound beats. Ferraioli nailed them all.

The group was rounded out by super-utility man Andrew Lipke. Lipke played some guitar, some keyboards, he sang backup vocals and toyed around with some other cool effects. He is the kind of musician that bands need to be great. Let’s face it, good guitar players are fairly easy to come by. Only the top 1% of guitar players on Earth make their band great (your Hendrix, Van Halens and your Steve Howes). Even guys like Alex Lifeson, Randy Rhoades and Keith Richards are pretty replaceable. As for drummers and bass players, it’s nice to have elite options but it is not a necessity. John Entwhistle might be the best bass player of all time but he’s the last member of The Who you’d be able to name. Guys like Lipke, who can adequately play several instruments and allow flexibility and diversity in the music are the lifeblood of live music. He and Sincalir are the ones who make this band great and are the irreplaceable members of the bunch.

I would have liked to hear more songs, but Zeppelin songs are long and you can’t fit as many into a two and a half hour window as you would at a Green Day concert where songs last 3 minutes. Still, I think they should bag the look-at-me solos and do an extra couple songs. Really that’s the only improvement I can think of. These guys were awesome and I’d be glad to see them again. Here is a link to their website with touring info for the future.

Here is a video of them doing When the Levee Breaks (my favorite Zeppelin song) at the House of Blues a while back. They did not play this last weekend because of those faggy solos.

And here is Kashmir...Hammond is on the right playing the Danelectro specially tuned for Chase Utley's walkup music

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