If you had told me in 1978, when I was first bathed in the light that is Led Zeppelin, that I would one day watch a symphony orchestra perform their music I would have laughed (and then maybe hit you).
If you had told me that, not only would I watch it, but I would actually enjoy it, we probably would have skipped the laughing and gone right to the hitting.
Well, I’m glad you didn’t tell me either of those things, because we avoided some awkward moments back then and I won’t have to eat any Humble Pie (the metaphorical food, not the band) today, because both statements came true on November 21, 2015 at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach when I saw The Music of Led Zeppelin: A Rock Symphony as performed by The Windborne Symphony Orchestra.
The orchestra was accompanied by a five piece rock band consisting of Randy Jackson – Vocals, Dan Clemens – Bass, Powell Randolph – Drums, George Cintron – Guitar, and Allegra – Electric Violin.
So imagine, if you can, a Led Zeppelin cover band made up of five top-shelf musicians along with a full orchestra blasting out Black Dog, The Immigrant Song and The Ocean (along with 15 other Zeppelin staples).
If I were to write a review of the show it would consist mostly of words like awesome, amazing, phenomenal, mind-blowing, transcendental, awe-inspiring, majestic, tremendous…well, you get the point.
I’m not a music critic so I can’t tick off a list of specific reasons I loved it, I can only tell you that I did. It was as close to a religious experience as I’ve ever had. The regular band and the orchestra meshed so perfectly that it was hard to imagine the music being played any other way – and that is no exaggeration.
On a scale of one to ten, with one being my brother and me trying to play Zeppelin on two guitars plugged into the same amp, and ten being the actual band, I’ll go down the list…
Vocals – eight and a half (Let’s face it, Robert Plant is rock royalty – but Randy is at least a Prince)
Guitar – eight (If guitar were painting, Jimmy Page is Rembrandt, Picasso and DaVinci – George clocks in at a solid Van Gogh).
Bass – eight (John Paul Jones’ bass playing was like a delicately subtle freight train – Dan is most certainly on the same set of tracks)
Drums – eight and a half (John Bonham’s drumming made thunder feel inadequate – Powell didn’t do much for its ego either)
Electric Violin – nine and three quarters. (I can’t make a Led Zeppelin comparison for Allegra, which is fitting – she was in a class all by herself.)
So, if you did the math you’ll see that the band came in at a solid B+ average. Hardly worth all this raving…right?
Remember the orchestra?
I don’t know how many pieces there were, but 40 is probably pretty close, and they were flawless. Nothing short of an A+.
Combined with the band they brought the house down.
After the third song Randy spoke a little to the audience, saying how Led Zeppelin made rock music “big”…and the reason for having an orchestra was to make it “bigger” – then they launched into Kashmir and I forgot my name.
I should tell you that I never had the opportunity to see Led Zeppelin live (watching The Song Remains the Same doesn’t count), so I won’t be so presumptuous to say that this event was as good as the real thing.
I will say, without reservation that it was certainly the next best thing.
The show was scheduled to begin at 7:30 – and if you’ve ever been to a rock concert you know that the start time on your ticket is an approximation at best. It’s also the start time of the opening act.
This show had no opening act and at 7:29 the house lights dimmed, the conductor walked onto the stage and at 7:30 (give or take five seconds) the orchestra tore into Good Times, Bad Times.
What I experienced over the next two hours went as far toward filling that 37-year-old live Led Zeppelin void as anything could have.
Over the years I’ve seen my fair share of bands, but my concert bucket list will never be completed because there is no chance of ever seeing Led Zeppelin or The Beatles.
However…I will now put a check mark (and an asterisk) next to Zeppelin.
One down, one to go.