The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

WHOLE LOTTA LOVE – Led Zeppelin Celebration
Burswood Theatre, Perth
Friday 3rd December 2010

 


They were all out in force for this celebration of Led Zeppelin’s music – baby boomers, generation X and Y couples and hipsters, Dad’s chaperoning teenage sons and daughters, middle aged ex-rocker couples sporting faded black t-shirts declaring their love of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and (everywhere) Led Zeppelin themselves. In fact the only demographic thin on the ground was long haired rockers – maybe the refined surroundings of the Burswood Theatre (more used to hosting George Benson, the Nutcracker Suite and stand-up comedians) scared them off?

 

Anyone who stayed away missed a fantastic night of some of the very best rock music ever written – and a Celebration it most certainly was: joyful, loving and impassioned, not to mention riveting from start to finish!

 

Reasoning that no single singer could adequately represent the entire canon of Zep’s work, the show features no less than FIVE vocalists, each with a vibrant and riveting personality of their own.

 

 

Opener ‘Rock and Roll’ dispelled any fear that this was going to be a cabaret act – the core band rocking hard and faithfully, whilst still expressing themselves and not being mere copyists.

 

Simon Meli of Sydney band The Widowbirds took the crease for this first delivery, and throughout all his tunes tonight his soulful textured vocals proved a revelation.

 

Screaming Jets frontman Dave Gleeson was next up, throwing himself about the sparse stage like a demented Aqualung looking figure. The band slink through ‘The Ocean’ with Gleeson, playing funky, heavy rock with an emphasis on the roll. Magnificent stuff!

 

 

Demented chicken-haired man boy, Steve Balbi of Noiseworks, looks like the product of a twisted union between Black Crowe Chris Robinson & Tyla of the Dogs D’Amour, as he joins the stage for a mandolin driven ‘Black Country Woman’ which – like pretty much every song tonight – evokes the spirit along with the sound of the masters.

 

 

Adelaide singer Zkye delivered a fantastic, emotionally powerful ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, full throated and blues soaked with a touch of Joplin to her voice, this rendition alone might be enough to make Pagey kick himself for not thinking of the multiple-singer approach when auditioning for an alternate vocalist after Robert Plant pulled out of the much-vaunted Zep reformation tour!

 

Calderazzo plays his fingers off, sounding and looking like a beardy-era Page, finally stating “Okay I think we’re warmed up now” as he takes a seat with an acoustic guitar for the mighty ‘Ramble On’, again featuring Meli, lad in super skinny jeans, oversized sideburns and a denim shirt, and a viola solo adds a lush depth to this fantastic pastoral rocker.

 

The show is constructed like a Led Zeppelin performance might be, complete with ebbs and flows, and it’s a beautiful thing – a moody John Paul Jones keyboard intros ‘No Quarter’, which goes on to feature a fine piano solo courtesy of Charmaine Fuller, then Zkye is back for a dramatic ‘Immigrant Song’, featuring a fiery solo from second guitarist Peter Northcote.

 

Obviously the joker in the pack, Balbi returns from the intermission to barnstorm his way through a stomping ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’. His playful mad-hatter sense of joy brings a real levity to the proceedings as he runs around hitting cymbals and bass drum, tickling and playfully pushing Calderazzo during his solo. “Steve Balbi, ladies and gentlemen – you never know what he’s going to do next”, Calderazzo announces as the wild one wanders off stage right.

 

Then Gleeson is back doing what he does best – rocking hard – on ‘Black Dog’, thrusting his groin every which way as he does repeated bog laps of the stage, punctuated by random outbursts of headbanging and face pulling, before the tone is changed again for Steve Balbi to eke out the playfulness of the Led Zeppelin III classic ‘Bron-y-aur Stomp’.

 

 

Over East they’ve been known to use up to nine singers at a show, and whilst budgetary restrictions must limit us to five tonight, perhaps for future tours they could consider a local performer? I’m sure I’m not the only one who can imagine the divine Abbe May tearing some bluesy early Led Zep numbers apart with her amazing vocal talents…

 

Zkye strolls assertively to centre stage next, and accompanied only by viola, violin, cello and piano, dazzles the crowd as she surrenders herself to a dynamic and magical ‘Going To California’.

 

 

‘Stairway to Heaven’ starts acoustically with orchestral help, Meli giving a classic reading of this old favourite.

 

I never thought I’d be lucky enough to hear these immortal songs performed by a troupe as accomplished as the original band, but tonight was as exhilarating and magical, not to mention diverse and rocking, as anyone could have hoped for.

 

Finally the fifth vocalist for the night - Blue King Brown singer Ngaiire - appears on stage and lends an ethereal and mystical quality to ‘Friends’ as she dances around the microphone exuding an infectious and earthy voodoo mother vibe.

 

Zkye dances on for ‘Four Sticks’, Meli performs out front of a lush and beautiful string laden version of ‘The Rain Song’, dancing to every instrument at the same time, then Gleeson stands uncharacteristically still for ‘Battle of Evermore’ while Ngaiire dances behind him, shuffling back and forth as if in a trance, their voices weaving together seductively over the Lord of The Rings inspired lyrics

 

 

Malbi makes room for a beautiful violin solo on ‘Kashmir’, allowing every bit of the passion to seep through this magnificent favourite, then asks “Is it good to be alive?” - Oh yes – with music this fantastic performed so flawlessly!

 

 

The encore consists of electrifying drum solo-cum-song Bonzo’s Montreaux, followed by a dynamic ‘Whole Lotta Love’ featuring the entire cast of fourteen musicians, and with a little high drama at the end (Malbi makes to break up the drum kit, instantly incurring the ire of drummer Gordon Rytmeister and earning himself a stern “Fuck Off”. Rytmeister storms offstage the moment the song ends and I would have loved to have seen what went down in the dressin room!) this magical night of stunning music and passion and celebration draws to an end.

 

 

Naturally everyone has favourites from the Led Zeppelin catalogue which couldn’t be played (‘Misty Mountain Hop’ would’ve been the cherry on my cake, or perhaps ‘Boogie With Stu’ for something right out of left field!) but no-one filed out of the Burswood Theatre tonight in the slightest bit disappointed. A celebration it was billed as, and a celebration we all got – bravo Mr Calderazzo and team, WHOLE LOTTA LOVE was a triumph.


 

Rock and Roll (Simon Meli)
The Ocean (Dave Gleeson)
Black Country Woman (Steve Balbi)
Since I’ve Been Loving You (Zkye)
Ramble On (Simon Meli)
No Quarter (Steve Balbi)
Immigrant Song (Zkye)

 

Intermission

 

What Is And What Should Never Be (Steve Balbi)
Black Dog (Dave Gleeson)
Bron-y-aur Stomp (Steve Balbi)
Going To California (Zkye)
Stairway To Heaven (Simon Meli)
Friends (Ngaiire)
Four Sticks (Zkye)
Rain Song (Simon Meli)
Battle Of Evermore (Dave Gleeson & Ngaiire)
Kashmir (Steve Malbi)

 

Bonzo’s Montreaux
Whole Lotta Love (Whole ensemble)

 

Read my interview with WHOLE LOTTA LOVE founder Joseph Calderazzo HERE