February 10 2012 – Tonight we saw the Classic Albums Live production of Led Zeppelin IV at the Richmond Hill Centre For The Performing Arts just north of Toronto. For those not familiar with the excellent Classic Albums Live franchise here is what their website states:
Classic Albums Live takes classic albums and recreates them live,on stage – note for note, cut for cut. Founded in 2003 by Craig Martin, Classic Albums Live has become the ultimate destination for music lovers wanting to hear the greatest albums performed live without all the gimmickry and cheesy impersonations. Relying only on the music, using what Martin refers to as ‘the world’s best musicians’, Classic Albums Live has defined itself as a mainstay in Performing Arts Centres across North America.
The franchise uses a large number of musicians and plays albums such as the epic The Dark Side Of The Moon, Revolver from The Beatles, The Joshua Tree from U2 and many more such classic rock mega hits. The last time we saw a CAL show was 10 months ago at Massey Hall (and it just so happened to be the Zeppelin IV again) and there were 13 musicians involved. Tonight’s performance featured 7 musicians on stage for most of Zeppelin IV. Musically the show was spot on in reproducing the sound of Led Zeppelin’s biggest album. Tonight’s Plant was Phil Naro the Emmy award winning vocalist from Rochester who has a very prolific history in Canadian hard rock. Lyrically he had incredible range hitting all the Plant wails, and he offered a unique take on Plant. All musicians wore black at all times and this is a very intentional nuance of the show. It is about the music and the sum of the parts, the individual artists are almost to remain invisible during the rendition of Zeppelin IV. There was no banter, no song introductions, no acknowledging the crowd, just the raw power of songs like Black Dog, Rock and Roll and Stairway To Heaven. The first set consisted simply of Zeppelin IV in order, note for note (until the end which featured a nice extended drum finale).
Phil Naro and the rest of the Classic Albums Live performers
After an intermission the second set kicked off with the thunderous The Wanton Song and the show took a different turn with plenty of banter coming from the stage (primarily the drummer) and the musicians letting loose a bit more. If the first half was all business, the second half was all fun – an excellent balance. Musicians came on and off the stage throughout the night and even within songs. The only time we saw only four musicians on stage like the real Zeppelin was Celebration Day. The second half consisted of nine Zeppelin staples and two encores. The show itself is very focused on the music as a philosophy and intentionally does not have a bar feel to it – i.e. tonight people sat on their chairs all night and politely applauded every song. Fundamentally this show has a different vibe to say a Michael White show in which the audience is grooving up against the stage. Nonetheless a lot of fun was had by all and the crowd beamed of approval after the show.
Update: From the CAL Facebook page we find the list of performs this night were: Phil Naro – vocals, Dom Polito – guitars, Damian Arokium – guitars, Clifton David Broadbridge – guitars, Rick Vatour – cannons, Mark Yannetta – bass, Linday Clarke – keys, Bob Sacamano – harmonica.
The Wanton Song Ramble On Heartbreaker Celebration Day (first time only 4 guys on stage like it should be) Immigrant song Over The Hills And Far Away Moby Dick (dedicated to drummers wife) Since I been Loving you Whole Lotta Love
The Ocean How Many More Times
Verdict: Faithful reproduction of Led Zeppelin’s seminal masterpiece. Highly recommend any Classic Albums Live shows playing close to you.