Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not just Bath's 35th anniversary; go out and see a concert!

Lemon Squeezings today celebrates the 35th anniversary of a special occasion that is more than just a concert. As documented by Dave Lewis in a soon-to-be-released updated version of his book "The Concert Files," Led Zeppelin played well over 450 shows in a 12-year span. While I wasn't even a year old at the time the band broke up, I believe it's easy to recognize some of the concerts that to this day stick out in the minds of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, and might have stuck out in the mind of the late John Bonham.

The second year in a row that the group appeared at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music occurred on this day in 1970 and is covered at great length in this edition. This festival-headlining appearance goes down in Led Zeppelin history as a momentous early event in the group's career. My interview with John Paul Jones in 2001 revealed his previously untold side of a story in which he was directly involved: being accompanied by a motorcycle gang to arrive for the group's strategically timed set with seconds to spare.

Stories from the road make up a good part of what Led Zeppelin History is all about. And it's continuing. Two live concerts I attended last week were accompanied by great music and an outpouring of emotion among fans and the well-received artist, who was in this case none other than Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation. The group played two sold-out shows at the Tower Theater in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby, Pa., last Tuesday and Wednesday. Responding to live renditions of "When the Levee Breaks," "That's the Way" and new track "The Enchanter," the unbridled Philly-area audience cheered and applauded feverishly, prompting Plant to comment on the second night that from his 36 years of playing gigs, he could tell there was something special happening.

Currently touring the United States in support of its album Mighty ReArranger and radio staple "Shine It All Around," the band plays a sold-out show tomorrow, June 29, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Then, they head off to play Chastain Park in Atlanta on June 30, followed by a July 4 holiday gig in Portsmouth, Va. The Strange Sensation's first Canadian date since its initial outing in 2001 will take place this July 5 at the Molson Amphitheatre. They will reach 10 more U.S. cities between July 7 and July 24. Dates in Europe will start July 29 at the WOMAD Festival in Reading, England, and continue into August. A full-fledged eight-city tour of Canada will keep the band busy in the middle of September, before they return to the United States for six West Coast shows and six more in Texas, Mississippi and Florida.

Writing today about my firsthand live concert experiences June 21-22 also gives me the opportunity to mention a Led Zeppelin tribute band I saw perform earlier this month. The four-member, all-female group Lez Zeppelin, which was featured in the pages of this month's Spin magazine, hammered out a two-and-a-half-hour homage June 16 in Falls Church, Va. They display a swagger undeniably akin to their rock-god counterparts while delivering faithful renditions of crunchy numbers from Led Zeppelin's first five albums. Seated atop stools for an acoustic set, three members of the band sang harmonies that accentuated the serene sounds of their mandolin and acoustic guitar. This sizzling quartet of Brooke Gengras (lead vocals), Steph Payne (guitars and theremin), Lisa Brigantino (bass, keyboards and mandolin) and Wendy Kidd (drums) will be set to repeat the performance with a show tomorrow, June 29, at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They will also help to celebrate Plant's 57th birthday with a big bash to be held Aug. 20 at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, also in New York.

A classic-rock cover band I joined in April 2004 is scheduled to headline a five-band bill at a venue called the Grog and Tankard in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 9. I will be playing keyboards for the group, which is called World Peace Party. Among many other collective favorites, we have been working up a pleasing version of "Kashmir." If you happen to be in the area that night, come by and see our two-hour set. We'll go on at about 11:30 p.m.

Overall, what I'm trying to say is that live concerts are often filled with magic. Obviously, if you signed up to be on this mailing list, you must have some affinity for Led Zeppelin's music as I do. For my money, there is no better way to celebrate this with other fans than going to see a relevant concert to flirt with fame and to hear these songs performed to your liking. As I mentioned, Robert Plant is touring the United States now. To find Plant's concert dates, as well as reviews and photos of shows from his current tour, try his official Web site or the Tour Watch page at Tight But Loose. Led Zeppelin tribute bands pop up all the time. Here in the northern hemisphere, the summer concert season is already in full swing.