The Song is Played Played the Same
Get the Led Out
June 1, 2017
Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who can recall a certain fateful night in January 1970 when Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones wrote a historic chapter in the annals of rock n' roll by bringing down the house at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Or maybe you were blessed enough to be in the audience at Madison Square Garden two and a half years later when they played a three-night engagement that later became the basis for the album The Song Remains the Same.
Perhaps, because you're a real-life Forrest Gump, you happened to have a ticket for the Knebworth Festival in Hertfordshire, England where Page outdid himself - which is obviously saying something - and showed fans what British blues rock was all about.
Well good for you. The rest of us have had to settle for listening to Led Zeppelin's I-IV, Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti in the privacy of our own living rooms and kitchens and cars.
Not that that's a bad thing. Anyone who's ever spent some quality time with one of Led Zeppelin's celebrated albums can attest to the fact that their songs have the ability to transport even the casual listener to a different place and time. That said, those who haven't been in the audience at a Zeppelin show are forever barred from taking a walk down memory lane, revisiting the magic those four men made together live, both on stage and in the studio. The unique pleasure that comes from hearing in real time a masterpiece like "Kashmir," played the inimitable way Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones intended is simply denied a large portion of die-hard rock n' roll junkies. We can't expect miracles.
Or can we?
Led Zeppelin tribute act Get the Led Out will be at C2G Music Hall Wednesday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m. Longtime fans and new recruits alike will want to take note. Get the Led Out aren't your granddad's Led Zeppelin cover band. Their focus, unique in the realm of Zep tributes, is recreating, in meticulous detail, the sound of Plant and company in the studio. Meaning, this six-piece isn't a theatrical band per se. They don't don wigs and do their best to inhabit the bell bottoms of Plant or the leather jacketed, shirtless look made popular by Page. Rather, through constant study, vigorous rehearsing and accomplished musicianship, they do their best to deliver to audiences the experience of being right there in the studio with the very dudes who made rock n' roll history. And they do it live, in concert and with the kind of infectious energy that made the members of Led Zeppelin four of the biggest heroes of the so-called British invasion.
Get the Led Out came together in Philadelphia a little over a decade ago when longtime collaborators Paul Sinclair and Paul Hammond were approached by a friend hoping they might combine their talents to form a Led Zeppelin tribute act. Sinclair, who serves as the GTLO frontman, wasn't interested in imitating a Led Zeppelin live show. Rather, he wanted to be true to the band's records. Hammond, whose specialties are electric and acoustic guitars, as well as the mandolin, agreed. Gradually they assembled their group, bringing on Phil D'Agostino on bass and Adam Ferraioli on drums. Andrew Lipke, a classically trained composer, multi-instrumentalist and graduate of Philly's University of the Arts, and Jimmy Marchiano (electric and acoustic guitars) later completed the sextet.
Lipke, a native of South Africa known primarily for contributing vocals to numerous symphony orchestras and string compositions to Amos Lee's much-lauded Live at Red Rocks, has found in his time with GTLO that the music of Led Zeppelin has a lot in common with the best work of some of classical music's most beloved composers.
"I've always been interested in that wonderful space where classical and popular music meet, and with this project, with Get the Led Out, we have a unique opportunity to play music that has been around long enough that it's iconic, it's in people's DNA," Lipke said in a recent phone interview. "It's similar to music that's been around for hundreds of years because it means so much to people now. Only, instead of being written down, Led Zeppelin's songs are recorded."
And the approach that Lipke and his mates take to the material is, in some ways, like that of classical musicians. Accuracy, reverence, and respect for the original product are all part of the equation.
"There are six of us, right? So obviously we are not Led Zeppelin. There's no question there, but rather it's a big celebration of Led Zeppelin on stage," Lipke said. "We put all our energy to sounding exactly right, to sounding exactly like the record, so that people get a sense of hearing an album that they know inside and out, performed live."
But don't think for a second that Get the Led Out puts on a stuffy show. Quite the opposite. After all, Zeppelin fans know that their best-loved live recordings were organic, living things. Led Zeppelin, perhaps more than any other blues rock metal legends of their era, embraced imperfections in the studio. Missed notes and "mistakes" were pressed into the vinyl and made it onto the radio and into the headphones and hearts of rock lovers everywhere.
"Zeppelin records were not like, say, Beatles albums ... every little thing was not decided upon and manicured in perfect, tireless detail," Lipke said. "There's was definitely a more off-the-cuff, let's go with what's happening in the moment feel to a Zeppelin recording. Which means that our band has picked an impossible job. We want to get each and every synth sound and weird, beautiful misstep into our performance, to stay true to the humanity and outright honesty of their studio work. I've been doing this for 10 years, and I still catch myself missing important moments, which tells you a little bit about the never-ending challenge we've set for ourselves."
Again, that is not to say GTLO are some sort of modern-day chamber music act. They're paying tribute to four gods of heavy metal, and they have a lot of fun while they're doing it.
"We're not sitting around on stools in our reading glasses going through sheet music or anything," Lipke said. "It's a rock show. We're loud and raucous, and while we're trying to get everything exactly right, we're also moving around, having a great time. There's nothing static or clinical about it at all." And what could be static about "Black Dog," "Over the Hills and Far Away" or "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"? Oh, and that one song about a stairway to a celestial place. What's the name of that song again? Anyway, the music of Led Zeppelin has stood the test of time partially because of its irresistible energy, its unpredictability, its irrepressible sexuality and plain old down-and-dirtiness.
"There's something a little dangerous about it," Lipke said. "People really enjoy the way the music drives forward relentlessly. There's something dark and scary about it at times that has listeners thinking, 'This could really go off the rails at any time.' Also, Led Zeppelin is always hip. I'm not sure how they managed to maintain an underground status while selling millions of records, but they did, and a kid today who wears a Zeppelin shirt is never going to get picked on for it. They're timelessly cool."
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