Lez Zeppelin Wednesday, August 22 Bluebird Theater
Better than: Physical graffiti in the houses of the holy when the levee breaks.
All right, first things first. Lez Zeppelin, if you can’t tell by the name, is an all-female band paying tribute to the almighty Led Zeppelin. To get anywhere near the brut force that Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones created is a Herculean task. But these gals did a pretty damn good job getting the Led out Wednesday night, their first Denver show since March.
After powering through tunes like “Immigrant Song,” “Custard Pie” and “Misty Mountain Hop” early in the set, they slowed it down a bit on “In My Time of Dying,” where guitarist Steph Paynes did some fine slide work on what looked like a Danelectro guitar. And if you’re a hardcore Zep gearhead, you might know that Page played a Danelectro on “In My Time of Dying” and on “Kashmir,” which the gals interpreted faithfully, and Helen Destroy was beating the crap out of the drums, as she was on literally every song they played. She definitely learned a few things in the Bonham school of power drumming.
About halfway through the set, Payne and Lisa Brigantino played a duo on “Winter Sun,” the only original song of the evening. Payne finger-picked her acoustic guitar while Brigantino, who had been doubling on bass and keys (as John Paul Jones did), strummed along on mandolin. The tune definitely had Zep flavor sprinkled over it, recalling Zep’s “Black Mountain Side.”
The original tune segued into a romping take on “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.” It seemed like singer Sarah McClellan was struggling a bit with the high parts on the chorus. McClellan was definitely belting it out, but there was still something missing on this tune, and others. While she was easy on the eyes and had lovely exposed abs, her delivery seemed a bit too contrived to be singing Zep tunes. To really pull off a good Plant, there has to be a certain rawness, which is hard for anyone to attempt. Maybe a few decades of smoking and drinking whiskey will do that to a person’s voice.
So after “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp,” McClellan spoke with an Australian (or possibly New Zealand) accent about how the band would be touring Europe for the third time. A guy in the crowd yelled, “You’re so British,” and then McClellan went on with her story about this German guy named Sebastian they see every time they go to Europe. Apparently, Sebastian is this rotund gnome of a man who’s got really long hair and balding on the top (in some parts of the world, the hairstyle is known as a “skullet”). She says he just loved the tone of Paynes Marshall stack on “Heartbreaker,” and with that they busted into the song. Surely enough, the tone Paynes was coaxing out of the cherry burst Les Paul and Marshall JCM 800 was seriously sweet. It sounded pretty damn close to Page’s tone on Led Zeppelin II. And Paynes used Page’s solo on the record to springboard into her own licks, even tossing in a J.S. Bach quote. They then tore into “Living Loving Maid,” slowed it down on “No Quarter,” and then ramped it back up to close out the set with “Kashmir.”
For the encore, the gals came out and killed it on “Rock n’ Roll,” with Destroy absolutely thundering away on the drums. As if that wasn’t enough, they stepped it up a notch on “Whole Lotta Love,” which was a hell of way to end the night.
If you missed the Bluebird show, you can still catch them Friday, August 24 at the Fox Theater in Boulder
-- Jon Solomon
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Critic’s Notebook: Personal Bias: Some of the first songs I learned on guitar were Zep tunes, so it was awesome to see Steph Paynes thoroughly tearing through the Zep catalog.
Random Detail: At times it was hard to concentrate on anything else but the singer’s bare torso.
By the Way: Did I say these girls can rock?