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Event Spotlight: Led Zeppelin 40th anniversary tribute

Friday 5 July 2013

Event Spotlight: Led Zeppelin 40th anniversary tribute

Next week a band of Melbourne friends - and seasoned artists in their own right – will take on Led Zeppelin’s seminal record Houses of the Holy at The Yarraville Club in honour of the LP’s 40th anniversary.

Ashley Naylor (Even), Danny Leo (King of the North), Stephen Hadley (Paul kelly Band) and Bruce Haymes (Renee Geyer Band) will perform the album live, in full, and as Naylor suggests, with an unburdened instinct. We chat to Naylor about why this anniversary show won’t be viewed as just another covers gig.

How did the tribute band form?
This lineup formed out of a wish-list conversation between James Young and myself. We tried to group together like-minded players with an obvious affinity for Led Zeppelin. The music is very diverse and Houses Of The Holy is an album where that diversity is very pronounced.

Did you form specifically for the 40th anniversary?
Yes, I have been involved with a few of James’ tribute shows in recent years and we try to keep things on the good side of nostalgia. We don’t impersonate our heroes as such, we pay homage to their music in a spirited manner - we hope to avoid the trap of sounding like a lifeless covers band.

You're all from critically lauded Melbourne bands and all have vast instrumental skills, so who’s playing what?
I’m playing guitar, Danny Leo on drums, Stephen Hadley on Bass and Bruce Haymes on keyboard. Our incredible guest singers are Adam Cole, Pat Carmody, Talei and Eliza Wolfgramm and Fiona Lee Maynard.

Led Zeppelin are one of the most-covered bands to come out of the late '60s. How will this tribute to their fourth album stand up against the rest?
We aim to perform it in the spirit of the band, not as a tribute act replicating every trainspotter’s favourite nuance. The big musical signposts in the material will be noted, but there will be room to move within the songs I should think.

That is the essence of Zeppelin, there was structure to their pieces but also room to take the songs into improvisational realms. We hope to strike a balance between the recorded versions and our own ‘live’ renditions of the tunes. Naturally we respect the music and don’t intend to take unnecessary liberties with it.

Led Zeppelin's live act has a huge reputation for being unpredictable on stage and is often attributed to the tight understanding and musical chemistry of the band’s members, combined with a shared willingness to try new things on-stage. How does your group work together? Can we expect fireworks?
This will be our first time together although some of us have performed alongside each other in various lineups in the past. I reckon fireworks are definitely on the cards and we aim to spend as much time as possible playing in a room together leading into the show. Part of the success of the show will hinge on our ability to trust our instincts and not be burdened by the complexity of some of the material.

How much of an influence was Zeppelin on your own music career?
Immeasurable. Although my music is not overtly Zeppelin-sounding, there is an underlying influence drawn from them in the way I arrange my guitar parts on record. Jimmy Page has been a major influence on my guitar-playing since childhood. I also dug the fact he produces all the Led Zeppelin albums. His vision was so strong that he chose not to relinquish any control over the sound of the group. This is a vital factor in the sonic properties of their albums and the bravery that band showed on record. 

Can we expect more tribute shows from this exact lineup?
Who knows? If the show goes well we may reprise the event in another venue before the 40th anniversary runs out!

What's your all-time favourite Zeppelin song?
Impossible to pick a favourite. The Rain Song comes pretty close; it encapsulates everything great about that band. It is an incredible piece of music, obviously going beyond the realm of the pop song. Critics sometimes dismiss Zeppelin as not a song-based band, which is accurate to a certain point as riffs and structure are as integral to the sound as chords and melodies. The Rain Song ticks all the boxes for me and I can’t wait to play it live.