The Music of Led Zeppelin October 18, 2008
By Glen Creason
It sounded like an interesting concept, this full orchestra playing classic rock hits by the now legendary super group Led Zeppelin at the Performing Arts Center. Many of the biggest hits of the band used orchestral backing in the studio and the arena-rock sounds could be distilled in the hall to make for a very big rock sound. Such was the plan set out by the Windborne Symphony with Brent Havens at the baton and Randy Jackson wailing the trademark Robert Plant vocals. The caveat comes with the fact that the last such experiment at Cerritos fell rather flat and sent many audience members running out of the hall like they were being chased by mean dogs. Add to this the fact that I was not on board this Zeppelin when they were young and have only become a convert by of all people my daughter who digs Led and thinks of them as the godfathers of her own generation’s sound. According to her I am a folk-rocker (shudder.)
With all that said I have to say that Windborne and Havens and Jackson made a believer out of me, producing a really electrifying two hours of music that would have made fans out of classical concertgoers along with the raggedy jeaned rockers who bobbed their boomer heads out in this audience. Instead of providing an odd combination of two ends of the spectrum of music the orchestra just pumped up the huge Led Zeppelin sound to awesome proportions. It was refreshing to see the 50 member Windborne Symphony, most of whom are in that same generation Y demographic as my kid, enjoying themselves as they played their violins, cellos, French horns and bass fiddles while performing chair boogies in a scene of joyful musical celebration. If nothing else, the Windborne is most certainly the best looking orchestra I have ever seen in any venue. All over the hall you heard whoops of amazement when the strings climbed and brass blasted in tunes like “the Immigrant Song,” “Kashmir” and “Heartbreaker” that haven’t sounded so good since they boomed from stereos in crash pads across the rock and roll world way back in the day.
There was certainly other aspects that gave rise to the success of this show, primarily the elastic voiced Randy Jackson and the flying fingers of guitarist George Cintron who tried, pretty successfully, to fill the canyon-like shoes of Jimmy Page. An added attraction was the fiery fiddle solos by a young lady named Allegra, particularly on a duet with Cintron on “Moby Dick” which led into a huge drum voyage by young Paul Randolph. While I was not a true scholar of the Led sound there were plenty in the crowd who were, including a man behind me with lyrics imprinted on his brain, a voice like Lurch and eau d’ Jose Cuervo gold on his person. When the really old chestnuts like “Whole Lotta Love,” or “Song Remains the Same” or “Stairway to Heaven” boomed forth there was hall hysteria heard rarely in these parts. There is obviously much thought and love that has gone into the show, particularly from Jackson who at one time or another described each member of Led Zeppelin as the greatest of all time. The show takes some big chances to reproduce this somewhat sacred rock iconography but does Led justice with this fully realized production.