Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Sat 21 Jul.
How many ways are there to say awesome, spectacular, amazing? Actually Led Zeppelin Masters – brought together by classically-trained Zep Boys frontman Vince Contarino – is almost indescribably brilliant and after 32 years on the road it’s so thrilling that they have finally brought home their amazing Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin Masters stage show.
The Black Dog Orchestra, 36 handpicked musical artists conducted by the dynamic Dom Harvey, open with Zeparture – the powerful, soft and beautiful compilation – which sets the mood for a spellbinding night… a night that saw a mosh pit (complete with audience member stage dive) in the Festival Theatre – a sight, I suspect, no one ever expected to see in their lifetime. But, this near capacity audience was possibly like no other ever seen in this grand theatre space, and one that erupted like they were witnessing the heart and soul of the real thing. I swear that the Festival Theatre may never be the same again!
As Zep Boys join their orchestral band mates on stage, they jump straight into Good Times Bad Times, followed by Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Contarino’s powerhouse vocals command attention from within every note, and the sum of the collective musicianship make it hard to rest the eyes on just one performer – such is the brilliance of these artists and the electric atmosphere created by them. The audience was completely immersed, from well-seasoned fans to the children and grandchildren who came to witness the live ‘Zeppelin experience’ with them.
A change of pace and the orchestra take a dramatic launch into Ramble On. In Dazed And Confused Tzan Niko is an absolute delight to watch as he gently caresses his guitar with a violin bow and, in fact, the way he moves his fingers across the strings is almost hypnotic in seemingly effortless precision. Rock ‘n’ Roll is a crowd favourite that finishes of the first half and has much of the audience up and out of their seats. How any of us stayed seated for that long will forever remain a mystery! Ha!
Act Two and solo violinist Abdul Nanou takes to the stage and silences the crowd with his phenomenal precursor to Kashmir. A special moment in the evening saw a beautiful memorial tribute paid to the band’s musical director and pianist Paul Gray [Wa Wa Nee] with the performance of No Quarter; Warwick Cheatle momentarily steps out from behind his bass to honour Gray on keyboards as they remembered a cherished friend who left the planet way too soon.
Brad Polain’s truly outstanding drumming skills exploded with a mind-blowing solo that imploded the audience’s collective minds. Powerful, expressive and almost unnatural, Polain’s speed and stamina is something to envy and admire. If that was the last drum solo I ever got to see in my lifetime, I would die happy having witnessed and felt every heart-pounding beat of that magnificent syncopated lead up to Moby Dick. Adelaide is home to so many talented artists – forty of the best of them were on the stage tonight!
While Polain took a moment to breathe, Contarino, Niko and Cheatle each took to a seat with guitars in hands to perform a stunning version of Going To California – a true but perfectly placed contrast to the previous song – before belting out Stairway To Heaven. Ending with Heartbreaker and Black Dog, the entire theatre crowd are up and rocking away and a standing ovation heralded an encore with Immigrant Song and Whole Lotta Love.
This in one amazing band, one incredible orchestra and one very happy audience whose admiration for what they experienced tonight spills out into the foyer and can be seen on every beaming face. To some, Zep Boys may be just a tribute band, but they are a world class tribute band that travels the globe spreading the Led Zeppelin love as if it were their own. Adelaide boys, making us so proud!
Janine Spearpoint, with additional words by Catherine Blanch
Images courtesy of Janine Spearpoint
Good Times Bad Times
Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Over The Hills And Far Away
All Of My Love
The Song Remains The Same
The Rain Song
Dazed And Confused
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Kashmir (including violin solo by Abdul Nanou)
Moby Dick (with drum solo by Brad Polain)
Going To California (acoustic)
Stairway To Heaven
Whole Lotta Love