The iconic band Led Zeppelin – Jimmy Page, now 73; Robert Plant, 68; John Paul Jones, 71; and John Bonham, who died in 1980 – last played together on July 7, 1980, at a concert in Berlin.
Their music and legacy have since become the stuff of legends. Everything about the group; onstage and off, in the studio or partying on the road, has been dissected, analysed, exaggerated and retold countless times over. It is all too easy, decades later, to lose touch with the music that propelled Zeppelin into the stratosphere.
Led Zeppelin IV, actually their fourth self-titled album, contains the group’s most remembered and cherished music. Black Dog, Rock and Roll, and Stairway to Heaven all appear on side one. It was recorded between November 1970 and January 1971 and released on November 8 later that year. To date, it has sold 37 million copies.
The celebrated group “Classic Albums Live” recreates this seminal work on January 26 at Brampton’s Rose Theatre.
“As a teenager growing up, it was definitely part of the soundtrack of my life,” remembers Nick Walsh, no stranger to the rock scene himself. The JUNO award-winning frontman of the 90s rock band, Slik Toxik, will be handling lead vocals for the show.
“I remember vividly, first and foremost, Stairway to Heaven being the last song of the night at our high school dances,” he says. “You’d spend the whole dance working up the courage to ask that special someone, then you had eight minutes to enjoy it.”
For those who may not have caught their shows in past years, Classic Albums Live is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an all-star group of musicians that travel around performing some of the best rock n’ roll music ever recorded; note for note, cut for cut, live on stage.
The group doesn’t just focus on the hits either. The entire album is the subject of the show.
“When it came time to learn the record for Classic Albums, I couldn’t believe the vocals on the tune Four Sticks,” explains Walsh, “I don’t know how I ever missed it. It’s incredible.”
The experience of “Classic Albums Live” is truly a deep dive into beloved music.
“It’s actually called Four Sticks because John Bonham invented a way of playing the drum pattern in that tune with four drum sticks,” continues Walsh. “There’s nothing on this record that isn’t uniquely amazing.”
Of course, you’ll be able to see this unique style of drumming for yourself onstage at The Rose because “Classic Albums Live” is designed to be complete re-creation of the recorded album, a feat that is usually impossible for even the world’s greatest music groups.
“One of the fallacies in rock and roll and recorded music is that a four piece band like Led Zeppelin is also a four piece band on their records,” says Walsh. “Nothing could be further from the truth. The luxury of overdubbing allows the album to be layered with sometimes dozens of individual parts.”
This entire purpose of “Classic Albums Live” is to finally put all of those parts together in performance.
“Led Zeppelin, as incredible a band as they are, never sounded like their records live,” Walsh explains. “With Led Zeppelin IV, we do it with a minimum of three guitar players onstage at all times. There are also songs with mandolin, mellotron, keyboards, flute, recorders and back up vocals too.”
Listening to records, actually just sitting and listening, used to be a social event unto itself. “Classic Albums Live” offers a chance to reconnect with the tradition that has slipped away in recent years.
“I remember taking the subway down to “Sam the Record Man” or “A and A Music,” lining up to buy a record I’d been waiting months for; then on the trip home pouring over the liner notes and cover art in crazy anticipation of finally listening once I got home.” remembers Walsh. “It was a ritualistic thing we all did as teenagers and this glorious ritual has taken a back seat.”
This show is a chance to revive that ritual while also making it a new social experience. Craig Martin, “Classic Albums Live” creator, calls it the modern symphony. It’s also the 21st century version of a basement album listening party.
After the note-for-note rendering of Zeppelin IV, the band will take a break and return to the stage for a set full of Zeppelin’s greatest hits.
“We loosen up a bit in the second set,” says Walsh. “We say hi, and let our hair down. In the first set, we don’t do anything to distract from the music.”
The audience for this show has the option of watching the show or closing their eyes and think about where you were when you first heard the tunes.
“You can even go back to that high school dance one more time,” laughs Walsh.