How do these guys do it?
Surely this is the question that was asked by many in the close-to-capacity crowd in attendance at Classic Albums Live: Led Zeppelin III at Confederation Centre of the Arts' Homburg Theatre last Saturday night.
I know people must have been asking this question because, well - being a rock musician who has seen and/or played at thousands of shows by this point - if I was trying to figure it out, then I'm fairly certain that a lot of others were, too.
To fill in the blanks here, the real question is: How do these guys (meaning, the Classic Albums Live performers - on this night being Nick Hildyard on vocals, Johnnie B on bass (also the road manager), Rob Phillips on guitar/vocals, Clifton David on guitar/keyboards, Dom Polito on lead guitar and Rick Vautour on drums) do it? And by that I mean nail the sound of the most definitive heavy metal band of all time - Led Zeppelin - not only in the show's first-half note-for-note rendition of the band's third album, Led Zeppelin III, but also in the show's second half greatest hits extravaganza of songs?
It's the mystery that keeps Classic Albums Live fans coming back time and time again.
Now, if you are a musician and you go to one of these shows, it can be a different kind of experience. On one hand, it is as though the magic of it all is lessened some - in that you know the basics behind how the performers are doing what they're doing and playing what they're playing and can, for the most part, see how it can be done.
But then, on the other hand, you can have that much more of an appreciation for what's going on because you know how freaking difficult it truly is to musically mirror to the degree that they're doing as a tribute act.
In the first-half's cut-for-cut performance of the 1970-released Led Zeppelin III, there were many highlights that the fired-up crowd enjoyed. If I were to name a few I would cite the seven-and-a-half-minute-long Since I've Been Loving You, featuring an impeccable Les Paul guitar solo by the night's bang-on Jimmy Page, (Polito) and some incredible high vocals by the wildly-impressive Robert Plant of the night (Hildyard), Gallows Pole (just drivingly rocked) and Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp (that got everyone clappin' along) as main high points.
After the rightful standing ovation that the first-half received, the second half just turned into one fantastic Led Zeppelin hits party, with standing ovations galore.
Drummer Vautour, in particular, received about three standing ovations for his absolutely tremendous solo work in Moby Dick.
But with a set that included Whole Lotta Love, Dazed and Confused (probably one of the hardest-rocked of the whole night), The Lemon Song (that featured great bassing by Johnnie B), Communication Breakdown and Rock and Roll, the only way for us to send them off was with one final standing ovation for Classic Albums Live's last performance of this tour leg.
So, to reiterate, I still don't know the exact answer to the question. I'm sorry. I've failed you.
The only answer I can give is to generally say that it takes relentless passion for the music, unyielding precision, hours upon hours of group but more so individual practice and an abominable ability to rock out in a perfectly-emulating way.
If you want to take a stab at answering it for yourself and be wowed in the process, Classic Albums returns to the Homburg Theatre on April 21 with The Doors: L.A. Woman.
Next week: I'll be telling you about seeing Belle Starr with Liam Corcoran at Baba's Lounge in Charlottetown.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won't be offended if you don't.
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