Lez Zeppelin at The Robin2, Bilston, UK – 16 June 2013

Posted by Wayne Fox on Sunday Jun 16, 2013 Under Prog Rock, Rock, Tribute

Gig Review + Gig Photography by John Bentley

Lez Zeppelin

I’m not usually a fan of tribute bands, but I’ll certainly make an exception for the excellent Lez Zeppelin, an all-girl band from New York, who play with absolute passion and great musicianship and add a gender-bending twist to the music of the great Led Zeppelin. They are more of a ‘she-incarnation’ of their heroes than a tribute band. They perform Zep’s music with superb accuracy and are a darned exciting live rock band.

Lez Zeppelin

Formed in 2004 by guitarist Steph Paynes, the band have been widely praised for their recorded music (two albums so far, including a complete recording of Led Zeppelin’s first album) and live concerts. They pay great attention to getting the music right, including using vintage instruments, but they also add a lot through their own interpretation. For example, vocalist Shannon Conley doesn’t try to sound exactly like Robert Plant, but she can really interpret the songs. Rather than having a high pitched voice like Planty, she sings with a slight Janis Joplin-ish rasp, but it works well.

Lez Zeppelin

There are other female tribute bands, including Judas Priestess, AC/DShe, Iron Maidens, Vag Halen, Misstalica and The Ramonas. But Lez Zeppelin are probably the cream of the crop and were one of the first in the field. They are certainly no novelty act. I heard someone saying that Jimmy Page had been to one of their shows and thoroughly approved.

Lez Zeppelin

If this were another blokes-only Led Zep tribute band you would be trying to imagine them as the real band and probably thinking that they don’t look or sound quite like the originals. However, with an all girl band that isn’t an issue, you take them for what they are and what they deliver. Zep’s music was always fully charged-up with sex, both in the lyrics and in performance. So a band of sexy girls singing “Hey, hey mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove” or “wanted a woman, never bargained for you” (‘Black Dog’ / ‘Dazed and Confused’) is pretty sexually charged and slightly ambiguous, especially when the said girls are also gyrating around each other in the Plant / Page fashion. So this is clever and engaging stuff really, especially when the on stage gyrations are matched by high quality musicianship.

Lez Zeppelin

The set is a good selection from across Zeppelin’s albums, although interestingly excluding ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (not that it matters). A particular highlight that works well is ‘Dazed and Confused’, which really seems to suit Shannon’s voice and during which Steph bows her Gibson guitar (Jimmy Page-style) in a visually and musically effective way. She also gets a magnificent twin-neck guitar out for ‘The Song Remains the Same’. Bassist Megan Thomas takes to the keyboard for a bit of funk on ‘Trampled Underfoot’ and also for ‘Kashmir’. I was less sure about the delivery of ‘Kashmir’, which lost some of its eastern swirl on this heavy version.

Lez Zeppelin

I’ve seen videos of the band performing acoustic stuff from Zep’s repertoire, but we don’t get any of that tonight. It would be interesting to see them tackle the mandolin-led ‘The Battle of Evermore’, with a two girl vocal (the original had Mr Plant dueting with Sandy Denny). We do, however, get ‘Moby Dick’, with its drum solo. I’ve never been a fan of drum solos (I had to sit through too many of them when I was a student going to concerts in the 1970s), but drummer Leesa Harrington-Squyres performs it well and doesn’t stretch it out too long. She really delivers the heavy drum sound associated with the late John Bonham.
In performance the band has such terrific energy and enthusiasm and really gets the audience revved-up. I’ve never heard such a small audience make such a loud noise in demanding an encore as the one at the Robin2 tonight. For our trouble we get a great version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, complete with the Theremin part in the middle played by Steph. Long may they rock!

Lez Zeppelin

Lez Zeppelin

Lez Zeppelin

Setlist: Rock and Roll; Black Dog; The Ocean; Nobody’s Fault But Mine; Misty Mountain Hop; Trampled Underfoot; Dazed and Confused; The Song Remains the Same; Since I’ve Been Loving You; Ramble On; Moby Dick; Kashmir. Encore: Whole Lotta Love.

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