Live at House of Blues in Houston, Texas on February 8th, 2014.
Reporting on a tribute band is strange business. Do you focus on the immersion and accuracy of the experience, or does the focus go to the performance of the music? Should the band itself be seen as a novelty act? I guess some of these questions are complicated when the tribute band manages to pull in 1,700 people into a sold-out House of Blues on a Saturday night. For a Zeppelin tribute band, you can’t go wrong with Chicago’s Led Zeppelin 2. The dedication they put towards emulating the ‘70s’ live show is unmatched. With appropriate get-ups, a clear appreciation for the source material, and a familiar setlist of classics and deep cuts, they really do put on an unrivaled and time-bending experience.
With the average age of the attendees being in the 40’s range and few kids being seen, you couldn’t help but have high hopes since many of the attendees were likely fans of Led Zeppelin in their heyday. In other words, it looked like some people had high expectations. And with a snugly-packed venue, stretching back to the bars and seating areas, the excitement of the place hit its max at 9:15 when the advertising projection was finally turned off, along with the house lights. After the opening of the curtains, Bruce Lamont, our Robert Plant for the night, came out and told those in attendance he missed us before exploding into “Kashmir” to start off the show.
After playing through classics like “Heartbreaker” and fan favorites like “Immigrant Song” and their fantastic performance of “Stairway to Heaven”, complete with impromptu guitar solos, the band lay down their guitars and drumsticks for a short acoustic set, starting off with the fan-requested “Thank You”. In this age of social networking, it’s so reassuring to see bands do actually pay attention and care about what the fans write and post online. After noting the yin-yang themes between the acoustic songs, they played a superb rendition of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and it was during this song that I realized just how clear and pristine the mix was; in fact, the whole night the audio department had a top-notch performance, but I digress.
Then it came time for the bizarre experimental “playing my guitar with a violin bow” that Jimmy Page was so well-known for. While it really doesn’t appeal to me musically, it is very admirable and gutsy of the band to stick to their source material and preserve this moment of Zeppelin’s live shows. This didn’t seem to be an issue with Zep 2 at all throughout the night; all four members of the band were in top shape and never did a feeling arise that they were unable to match the original band’s prowess. Of course, the original quartet can never be replaced, but this was damn close.
After thanking the fans several times for selling out the venue and mentioning their hopes to bring a complete Physical Graffiti performance to Houston in the summer, the band began their final few numbers, beginning with “Moby Dick”, with five minute long Bonham-influenced drum solos included. Following their encore break, Lamont introduced the band to us (apparently John Paul Jones wasn’t really a part of the band), and they triumphantly ended the show of over two hours with “When the Levee Breaks”. Reactions from the attendees were unanimous in their lauding of the band’s dedication and musical performances. This young whipper-snapper couldn’t agree more.
Being at the age I am means that I never got to experience the Led Zeppelin show I would’ve liked to. With them being one of the most vital groups of early heavy metal and hard rock, I’m sure plenty of new generations are just now being exposed to Zeppelin, and with that comes a generation who will never be able to see Plant, Page, Bonham, and Jones on a stage together ever again. Led Zeppelin 2 fulfills those needs for every new young fan who wants to sing along to “Stairway to Heaven” or reminiscent fan who just wants to hear the opening to “Kashmir” once again. These guys are an unrivaled authentic Led Zeppelin experience.