Now, I’m not going to come right out and say that I moved to Austin because Robert Plant lives in Austin. But I’m not not saying that, you know what I mean? It’s a coincidence that we both live in the same city and I totally don’t roam various venues looking for him, because that would be weird.
But I do have a soft spot in my black heart just for Led Zeppelin, but as I missed the boat on that one by about 35 years I now have a soft spot for Led Zeppelin cover bands.
Led Zeppelin 2 is a cover band from Chicago who instead of playing a greatest hits type show, aims to recreate what Led Zeppelin was like in a live performance. Do they do it? I don’t know. I never saw Led Zeppelin 1. But as far as Led Zepp cover bands go? Yeah, they’re pretty alright.
So I saw Led Zepp 2 at Emo’s on Thursday night. This was my first trip to Emo’s, which is a large, one level, general admission venue, probably good for up to 1500 people or so. Nice and dark and a little bit grimy inside, which I also like. The sound was good, and there are three bars around the venue which is always nice, though not a huge selection. The visuals behind the band were not so hot — a high up, small display half-hidden by lights. I don’t know if this is how they always are at Emo’s or if it was just the set up for this particular night, but I can’t image a screen like that flying for other bands or DJs that have a lot of visuals. Apparently this is the second incarnation of Emo’s and it’s no longer downtown, so it’s more of a special venue now and not a place you can stop into on any old night like the old Emo’s was. But in general, not bad. Parking was decent the night I was there, but would be a nightmare for any show with more than 200 people.
Thursday night there were torrential downpours and a flash flood warning, so needless to say, the crowd was pretty small. Also needless to say: an older crowd compared to whom normally would go out on a miserable Thursday night. But damn, people do love their Led Zeppelin. The enthusiasm in the crowd was not done in by the miserable weather and the late start time.
Performance-wise, I do think that Led Zepp 2 did a fair job of recreating the live Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin was never one to play their recordings note for note; instead, they would often improvise and expand within one song. Guitarist Paul Kamp actually played a pretty spot-on Jimmy Page. In addition to just raging on the electric guitar, Page occasionally played a double neck guitar, as well as played his electric with a violin bow, which Kamp also did. And he oozed a bit of Page’s panache as well.
Drummer Ian Lee was pretty great but still shy of Bonzo, but did make up for it in sheer enthusiasm, double sticks and all.
Bruce Lamont, the singer, probably has the hardest role to fill in the band. He was decent. He’s most likely a great lead singer of Yakuza, but as Robert Plant? Meh. Nobody sings like Robert Plant did. Robert Plant doesn’t even sing like Robert Plant did. Had the same swagger, though.
And sorry John Paul Jones, but nobody actually cares about John Paul Jones. Here’s the funny thing about John Paul Jones: in any other band, he might have been the star. Songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist. He just had the misfortune of being the fourth man in a band with three of the greatest rockers in modern music. Is Matthew Longbons a good John Paul Jones? Nobody knows because nobody cares.
Appearance-wise, they do resemble the band (except, of course, for John Paul Jones, because nobody cares about John Paul Jones). They make an effort to look like the band, but it clearly isn’t an overdone wig & costume job. And for the most part, I imagine they all have a similar brio as the first Zepp did. So yeah, Led Zeppelin 2 might be the closest experience you can have nowadays to seeing the band live. And they probably do a better Zepp (or at least the Zepp we want) than if the real Zepp got back together, because the real Zepp is old now. I’m sorry.
But the real question is if we should even be seeing a cover band like Led Zeppelin 2. On one hand, I love that there is something so appealing about live music that cover bands are a thing. We are not content to watch YouTube or only listen to albums. We want to hear music in person and see a musician actually make something in front of us on stage. And yes, hearing the opening bars of Kashmir or Immigrant Song live is AWESOME and makes the life-threatening rain worth it.
But while it’s incredibly fun to see a “band” play songs that you were never going to hear live because you were too young or didn’t have the opportunity or lacked good taste the first time around, there is also something a bit sad about wanting to keep a band in stasis — about never letting them grow old or write different music or change as most musicians (and people) do.
My pictures from this show are terrible — I wasn’t close enough because the person I went with was alarmingly tall and you just can’t railroadyourself to the front with someone like that. However, the pros of going to a show with someone alarmingly tall is that when the band throws t-shirts out into the crowd, they can snatch that shit out of the air without even moving, which is why I’m now the proud owner of a Led Zeppelin 2 t-shirt, which I’m pretty sure is what all the cool kids will be wearing this time next year.