July 23 2015 – A classic rock geek’s fantasy might be to be able to travel back in time to say 1973 and catch a Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd show. Although The Beatles and The Rolling Stones might have more brand recognition, for us there is nothing better than Zep and Floyd. Tonight at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater the fantasy became semi-reality. The realization that we will never see Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin again is painful to accept but tribute shows will continue to keep the music of the greats alive. Led Zeppelin 2 and The Australian Pink Floyd Show were the two bands on the bill and all in attendance put them on trial to see if they would represent the music of our heroes with great respect and accuracy.
Toronto was a fitting venue for the opening night of this double-header – Jimmy Page was in town the last few days promoting the remastered Zeppelin albums (and signing autographs with his rubber stamp), and David Gilmour will only play 4 cities in his North American Tour next year, and of course Toronto is one of those four stops.
Led Zeppelin 2 is a band out of Chicago that features Bruce Lamont (lead singer of heavy metal band Yakuza) as Robert Plant, Paul Kamp (from Busker Soundcheck) as Jimmy Page, Ian Lee (from way too many bands to list) as John Henry Bonham, and Matthew Longbons (from Ghetobillies) as John Paul Jones. Any band attempting to pay tribute to Led Zeppelin had better be gifted musically and these guys did not disappoint. They delivered a killer 10 song set which thankfully omitted the overplayed Rock and Roll and Black Dog and included killer versions of “deeper” cuts such as Nobody’s Fault But Mine and Thank You. Stairway to Heaven was there in its double neck glory and the set closer Whole Lotta Love really laid down an exclamation mark. So, as major Zeppelin fans what did we think? We loved it – Lamont has got an incredible voice but has clearly spent countless hours watching how Plant used to move from 1969-1979, Kamp has got Page’s riffs down pat including the violin bow, Longbons lurked in the shadows like Jones used to but kept the bass driving, and last but not least Lee pounds the sh*t out of the drums with the intensity of Bonhnam (including Moby Dick). Led Zeppelin 2 dress up like the original and even have the same hair. Highly recommended.
The Australian Pink Floyd Show (TAPFS) was the headliner tonight and their webpage states they have been playing Pink Floyd since 1988 and over 4 million tickets sold. Their current tour is entitled Welcome To The Machine Tour 2015 although that seems arbitrary because that song was not performed but instead the band delivered a very solid 13 song performance that focused on The Wall, Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, and even one song each from A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Meddle (but no Animals!) The setlist was as follows:
The musicians involved are: Steve Mac (Guitars and Vocals), Jason Sawford (Keyboards), Colin Wilson (Bass and Vocals), David Domminney Fowler (Guitar and Vocals), Paul Bonney (Drums), Alex McNamara (Vocals), Mike Kidson (Sax) and Lorelei McBroom, Lara Smiles, and Emily Lynn on vocals. Of particular interest is that McBroom was one of the female singers on the real Pink Floyd’s post Roger Waters tours. Although they feature Australia in the band’s name the majority of musicians currently on the band are not Australian although the band originally was formed in Australia. The Australian touch can be seen subtly (and sometimes not so subtle) throughout the night. The prism on The Dark Side Of The Moon has been replaced by an outline of Australia in the band’s merch, the videos feature a collage of artists such as Men At Work, Kylie Minogue, and the one that got all the applause AC/DC. The band uses an inflatable pig (actually an original from Pink Floyd later tours) but also sets out an inflatable kangaroo.
Musically they are top-notch, and with the dizzying accompaniment of the fantastic lights and laser show they elevate the tribute show to a level rarely seen by any other tribute bands. The bass and drums are spot on, the singing duties are shared by various members to excellent effects and the blistering guitar work of David Gilmour are accurately carbon copied. The big test of the night of course is Comfortably Numb where even the slightest miscue would shatter the illusion, and TAPFS delivered that one to a massive standing ovation.
Other highlights of the night included a goosebump inducing Great Gig In The Sky by the three ladies, a hypnotic Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V) and the biggest singalong rock anthem of all time Wish You Were Here.
Verdict: 4 out of 5 – A remarkable night of music from tributes to the two greatest rock bands of all time (not a fact just my opinion). Led Zeppelin 2 kept it simple and focused on the look of the band while nailing it musically, and TAPFS took it to the next level with visuals that highlighted the overall genius that was Pink Floyd. The most fun you can have on a warm summer night in an amphitheater! The only complaint we have is we would have loved to see 2.5 hour sets from each of the bands tonight.
Check out a video from each of the performances: