ZoSo is a fitting tribute to the great Led Zeppelin

By on August 15, 2017

(Kip Tabb photos)

I admit it, it’s been a long time since I heard rock ’n’roll . I so wanted to get it back, and ZoSo delivered.

Playing at Roanoke Island Festival Park on July 29, the Led Zeppelin tribute band carried me back to a time of longer hair, granny glasses and a full beard.

The weather had been threatening with a rare summertime nor’easter forming, but not nearly as bad as last Labor Day weekend when the concert was originally scheduled and had to be postponed to this summer.

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There was a good rain window with little or no precipitation from about 6:30 to 10:00 p.m. The wind picked up some, but it was still a good night for music.

There is no doubt the weather kept the attendance down and that’s too bad, because what the 300 or so who did make it to the outdoor venue saw were four remarkably talented musicians at the top of their game.

As soon as drummer Bevan Davies played Bonham’s classic driving, pulsating intro for Rock and Roll from Led Zeppelin IV, it was clear this was going to be a special night.

Lost sometimes in the sheer rock power of Led Zeppelin is how compelling their music is and how difficult it is to perform. Changes in tempo changes in time signature, the demands on the musicians are extraordinary. Learning the chords is the easy part. Learning to recreate the original and making it sound as good as ZoSo did … that’s a work of art.

Zoso at Roanoke Island Festival Park

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In an evening filled with excellence in music, picking out the highlights is tough, but a couple of pieces stood out.

Black Dog is a classic Zeppelin piece and uses a very traditional form of music described as call and answer, except Zeppelin put their own twist to it.

The call is: “Hey, hey mama said the way you move; Gon’ make you sweat, gon’ make you groove…”

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The answer was Pages’s scorching lead mimicking Plant’s a cappella vocals.

Matt Jernigan as Robert Plant had the vocals pitch perfect and John McDaniel seemed to have every nuance of the Jimmy Page lead.

One of the reason’s Page’s lead is so full-throated was John Paul Jones on bass was right there with him, and Adam Sandling didn’t miss a note.

After that powerful and memorable rock/blues beginning, Black Dog goes off into a driving jazz beat where it sounds as though the band and the drummer are at two slightly different places. And they are, by design. Then it all comes back together.

Playing a piece of music like this, if anyone makes a mistake, everything falls apart. Nothing fell apart in this performance. Crisp, clean .. perfect.

Then there was Moby Dick, an instrumental piece designed for one reason — to highlight how good Bonham was on drums.

This was Bevan Davies’ chance to shine and he didn’t disappoint.

In what was probably a 10-minute drum solo, he hit all the highlights of the Bonham style — the driving bass, the seemingly impossibly fast stick work, the drum sticks tossed into the air and caught on the beat.

He took a turn on timpani, a Bonham trait that very few rock drummers would ever try. And he played drums with just his fingers and hands, tamping down the sound with flawless technique.

Zoso at Roanoke Island Festival Park

Davies’ performance really brought home just how good Bonham was, how innovative, creative and technically brilliant.

One of the features that adds to the almost Led Zeppelin experience with ZoSo is the attention to detail. The band members do resemble Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones and dress in a very similar fashion.

There is also a concerted effort to make sure the instruments are the same. McDaniel has a twinned 12 and 6-string electric guitar; Bevan’s drum set is a faithful recreation of the original.

But none of that would matter if the musicians didn’t understand the music and the tools they were given.  It all came together and for two hours at RIFP, the thrill of Led Zeppelin and their music came alive.

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