There are bands that will always be legendary and considered by many of us as the pinnacle to what great music is all about. Led Zeppelin has to be at the top of everyone’s list, they revolutionized rock music in the late 60’s and early 70’s and some may argue that they are more influential than the Beatles to popular music let alone hard rock. It’s worth keeping in mind the term “Heavy Metal Music” was first published in January 1970 by Lucian K. Truscott whilst reviewing Led Zeppelin’s second album.
Since the death of drummer John Bonham brought about the demise of Led Zeppelin in 1979 tribute bands have popped up in just about every country around the world including Australia. Adelaide’s The Zep Boys grew up with Led Zeppelins music and started to play their catalogue in 1986, attracting a legion of fans who probably wished they had had the chance to see the real thing live when they were together. One of those fans was orchestra conductor Nicholas Buc who wondered what it might have been to hear the music played in a concert hall with an orchestra backing them up.
The Zep Boys are today regarded as one of the best Led Zeppelin tribute bands anywhere and it was only last year when they finally had the chance to put together a show appropriately titled Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin Masters,accompanied by a 35 piece ensemble conducted by Nicholas Buc known as The Black Dog Orchestra, at one of the most fitting venues in the world for such a gig:The Sydney Opera House. For fans who missed out then The Zep Boys and The Black Dog Orchestra announced that they would be bringing the show back this year.
Last Saturday night, The Sydney Opera House concert hall was filled to capacity and no one even noticed there had been no support act as The Zep Boys and The Black Dog Orchestra came right on stage to a rousing applause. The orchestra began by teasing the audience with what was to come by playing short sections of “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven”. Singer Vince Contarino praised the idea of spending a Saturday evening listening to Led Zeppelin’s music as something worth living for and the band got straight into their bold rendition of “Achilles Last Stand” followed by a passionate version of “All My Love”.
The show comprised of two halves with an intermission and the set list was well balanced with powerful blasts from Zeppelin’s heavier repertoire such as “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, “Good Times Bad Times”,“Kashmir” and “Black Dog”and classics low pieces such as“The Rain Song”, “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Going to California”. “No Quarter” was executed with an outstanding piano solo whilst “Moby Dick’s” epic Bonham drum solo was received with a standing ovation.
Contarino entertained the audience between songs with his Australian humor, putting on “Bogan” accents and telling Rodney Rude Jokes. Coincidentally during the intermission there was a fireworks display behind the Harbour Bridge which was an added bonus to the spectacle of the show. Fans were also not disappointed by the epic renditions of“Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir” which are clearly the most recognizable songs in Led Zeppelin’s cannon and The Black Dog Orchestra added a whole new dimension to these timeless masterpieces. As an encore the audience was treated to “Immigrant Song” and “Whole Lotta Love”, a moving farewell and passionate salute to one of the greatest bands to ever rock the earth.
In their brief decade of existence Led Zeppelin created plenty of anthems to pay tribute to and as a fan of their entire catalogue I was expecting “Dazed and Confused” or “Trampled Underfoot” to be on the set list and was rather disappointed by their exclusion, however The Zep Boys did justice to the songs they did pick without deviating from the original compositions at any point. The Sydney Opera House concert hall was the picture-perfect venue for an orchestral rendition of Led Zeppelin’s music to be heard. With the show running 3 nights in a row, it attracted young and old, mostly old of course but still a mixed crowd. Led Zeppelin with all four original members played their last ever gig 11 years before I was born, yet for me this show was more than just a tribute, the performances from all the singers and musicians on stage were excellent and for older fans it brought back the days of when rock n’ roll ruled the world.