The Music Of Led Zeppelin orchestral show brought the house down at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.
The recent buzz surrounding the first batch of reissued and remastered Led Zeppelin albums definitely made the British rock band’s loyal following worldwide dream about a long-awaited reunion. But let’s face it, the way the relationship between Led Zeppelin’s frontman Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page (the endless public spats) is going these days, there is no point in entertaining the idea of a reunion.
In fact, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, including bassist John Paul Jones, have performed together only once in nearly two decades (at London’s O2 in December 2007).
It’s left to the countless Led Zeppelin tribute acts to keep the band’s legacy alive. But not many tributes involve strings and a full orchestra to rewire Led Zeppelin’s music.
The Music Of Led Zeppelin orchestral showcase, conceived by US conductor and arranger Brent Havens almost 20 years ago, has made quite a reputation for itself.
As a symphonic rock programme, it has toured many classy concert halls around the world. Last weekend, The Music Of Led Zeppelin played at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) in Kuala Lumpur. The show, anchored by a five-piece rock band and backed by a full orchestra, has been winning audiences the world over as an authentic rock experience.
On stage, the band, consisting of Randy Jackson (vocals/guitar), George Cintron (lead guitar), Daniel Clemens (bass), Powell Randolph (drums) and Russell Fallstad (electric violin), was backed by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Havens himself.
Despite a lack of rock T-shirts, the smartly-dressed dinner show crowd that made up the majority of the DFP audience last Saturday came to rock out. Some were on a date night, some parents brought their young children to experience Led Zeppelin’s music powered by strings, while others looked like classic rock enthusiasts itching to rewind the years.
Vocalist Randy Jackson, who had the unenviable task of playing up the Robert Plant role, was a livewire from the start. For the setlist, he had to get behind15 classic Led Zeppelin tunes – nicely picked to appease the casual and diehard fan.
Amid the strings and thundering band action throughout the show, Jackson also largely stayed away from attempting too many flamboyant rock star poses.
Instead he was a steady presence, letting his impactful vocal performance lift the show.
What mattered was he had stamina as he shrieked and screamed his way into the hearts of the audience. This chap knew how to milk the audience adulation. Jackson is not without rock pedigree, having fronted his own band Zebra in the early 1980s and served as a touring member of the reunited Jefferson Airplane back in 1989.
The Kuala Lumpur show opened with a bang as the recognisable opening riff of Good Times Bad Times broke the hall’s polite silence. It was clear that the audience were in for a treat.
The music boomed through the DFP hall as conductor Havens waved his baton and ignited the orchestra. It was a proper volume-laden show with guitarist George Cintron, despite not playing a Les Paul, firing up the Jimmy Page-endorsed riffs.
It was pretty obvious halfway through the first set that the lick-heavy movements of Led Zeppelin’s tracks (Ramble On, Black Dog) did lend themselves quite easily to this show’s format. The orchestra, with a few rock savvy violin players, was given plenty of counter melodies and movements to sink into.
The string-laden ballad The Rain Song, from Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy album, saw frontman Jackson starting out quietly as he pulled out his trusty acoustic for a sit-down session. For this epic slow-burning tune, the backing orchestra truly came into its own, moving the track along with formidable force as the strings reached heavenly altitudes midway.
The show’s laudable – and not so obvious – selections from the classic catalogue made the night a refreshing experience.
The signature riffage of Kashmir made sure the DFP had a ceiling rattling moment. Here was a highly amplified reimagining. Powered by a surging orchestra, the tune ensured the hall was positively swaying from side to side. Not forgetting the audience warming up and starting a headbanging session from their seats.
Another outstanding concert turn was when All My Love arrived much to the delight of the fans. If you closed your eyes, this classic almost had a hip hop backbeat. John Paul Jones’ now-iconic synth-string arrangement was given the supersize treatment for this show. In this expanded form, All My Love was simply amazing.
Things got louder when drummer Randolph strode up and pulled off an almost note-for-note, beat-for-beat version of the rock staple Moby Dick. He had the audience on the edge of their seats at many points during the song’s lengthy drum solo, playing with fiery passion and proficiency to do justice to the late John Bonham’s signature tune. The rest of the band were equally impressive, with Cintron especially, fleshing out a fantastic Page impression on the Heartbreaker/Misty Mountain Hop medley as he took his axe out for a wild run.
Playing air guitar (while snugly seated) could very be a new audience habit at the DFP. You could tell the all-ages crowd were pumped up.
As for more guitar-shredding and symphonic bombast, the band certainly obliged the crowd. It pushed the orchestra to the hilt as the night closed with a stinging version of Whole Lotta Love.
Talk about a fabulous and timely send-off, considering Whole Lotta Love was recently voted the greatest guitar riff of all time by British radio listeners.
Most importantly, hardly anybody noticed the absence of the played-to-death staple Stairway To Heaven in the programme setlist. No quarter, indeed.