Non-Led Zeppelin fans, please skip to the * * *
I’m not someone who is prone to hyperbole (that means “extravagant exaggeration” for all you word-power wonks out there). In fact, I’m often accused of going the other way — of being too negative, too nit-picky. That said, last night’s performance by The Song Remains the Same was a freak-of-nature quality thing of extreme beauty. I say this having literally been raised by Led Zeppelin — John Paul Jones used to help me pick out my clothes for school in the morning while John Bonham made me waffles and Robert Plant helped me brush my teeth. Jimmy Page was the lazy dad who always ran downstairs with a newspaper in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other while struggling to put on his suit jacket as he kissed my mother goodbye.
You get the picture. I know Led Zeppelin. It’s just about all I listened to in high school. That said, The Song Remains the Same is the next best thing to being there. Consisting of drummer Javier Ochoa, bassist Bunny Geist, guitarist Corey Weber and singer Jason Pollard, the band is a dead-on sonic replica of Led Zeppelin — in fact, a few people who’ve seen Zeppelin in person said they might be even better. Believe me, I’ve seen more than my share of lousy covers of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” over the years. These guys are eerily good, almost too good for their own careers, unless their goal in life is to be in the best Zeppelin tribute band in the world.
It’s all there. They know every lick of every song, but are smart enough to avoid trying to duplicate it. In other words, they capture the essence of Zeppelin instead of providing an exact replica. Still, any Zeppelin fan would marvel at what I heard at The Waiting Room last night. Ochoa’s muscular style and technical process is impeccable, as evidenced by their cover of “When the Levee Breaks” and Bonham solo tool “Moby Dick.” Geist’s bass playing made me rethink John Paul Jones’ role in the band — absolutely integral (The only thing missing was a keyboard).
Which brings me to Weber and Pollard. Weber is no Jimmy Page, but there can be only one Jimmy Page, and Weber knows it. He doesn’t do a note-for-note dupe of Jimmy’s solos, instead he makes his solos work enough to push the songs forward. More importantly, he nails the Page riffs that defined the band’s sound. Unbelievable guitar tone. Powerful. Accurate. Groovy.
Finally, Pollard. The story I was told last night is that he was discovered by Geist singing karaoke at Grandmother’s. Pollard is a freak. He even physically resembles Plant (with a little Kenny G thrown in). I promise if you see this band you will marvel at his vocal prowess. He has the full range of a Robert Plant at age 20. He knows every nuance, every vocal riff, every little touch that any Zeppelin fan would recognize. You expect him to disappoint you during the high notes on the classic songs off I and II, but he never does. It left me shaking my head with my mouth wide open. He even does some the telltale gestures that we all know from hours of live Zeppelin footage that we’ve all seen in the movie the band is named after. The pointing hand, the side slouch, the mic-chord wrist whip. He prances, he preens.
Look, I’m not overselling here. People around me, people I talked to afterward, were agog. Yes, they’re that good. In fact, I’m certain they could tour the country doing this if Pollard’s voice could handle singing like that every night (and I don’t know how it could).
You could criticize them for their stage presence — Weber was wearing an untucked western-cut shirt, Bunny wore a Thin Lizzy T-shirt. On the other hand, if they wore ruffled velvet suits or if Pollard was shirtless and wearing a vest, it might push the whole thing into campy/kitsch territory… that is, until they started playing. Once you heard them, you wouldn’t care what they were wearing.
Wisely, they selected mostly songs from the early albums (Pollard said II is his favorite). The high point was “The Ocean,” the low point was “Dazed and Confused” (but even that sounded respectable). Between sets (that’s right, they did two long sets), Weber asked for requests and I said anything off III, but specifically “Tangerine.” They didn’t have that one ready, but instead did “Out on the Tiles.” Awesome.
Yes, I know I’m going on and on about a tribute/cover band. I don’t care. I haven’t had that much fun at a show in long, long time.
* * *
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress. But wait, before we do, I can’t forget The Third Men, who played a set of covers before TSRTS with new drummer Matt Bowen. Pretty awesome stuff. I’ve heard a number of these songs performed by them before, specifically Wings’ “Jet” and Richard and Linda Thompson’s “Wall of Death.” Both better than ever. The set also included some Bowie, Soft Boys, The Necessaries, Status Quo and The Knack, among others.
OK, on to tonight’s marquee shows: First, Eagle*Seagull and Kite Pilot at Slowdown Jr. E*S’s new stuff is top-drawer indie dance rock that’s irresistibly catchy. It’ll be interesting to see how well it goes over with the Slowdown crowd. This will be one of the last times you’ll get to see Kite Pilot with guitarist/vocalist Austin Britton before he heads back to the left coast. $5, 9 p.m.
The Terminals and The Shanks at The 49’r. You could argue that these bands play too often, except for the fact that you never know what’ll happen at one of their shows. Terminals are always easing in new material. This being at The Niner, I suspect that someone will probably get hurt during The Shanks’ set (and boy, will it hurt so good). Shanks will be hawking a new 5-song limited edition (only 50) CD EP, unpleasantly titled Urine Heaven. I assume (and you know what happens when you assume) that it’s out-takes from same sessions that produced their new “Big Feelin” 7-inch, which is a violent and abrasive joyride. Translated: A must have.
Over at O’Leaver’s, it’s Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship w/ The King Hen. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Finally, over at The Saddle Creek Bar (they’ve been busy lately), it’s The Screens, Paper Owls, Seymore Saves Saves The World, and Shiver Shiver. $5, 9 p.m.
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