Arlington Arts, Newbury 20.10.18
Led Zeppelin have a very special place in British music and for their legions of fans. There are, not surprisingly, several cover bands around but if there is a better one than Whole Lotta Led I certainly don’t know of them. I have seen Whole Lotta Led quite a few times now and, in my view, one of their great strengths is that they continually update and change their set list. They have been together for 22 years now and quite deliberately do not attempt to be lookalikes. The sound of Led Zeppelin is what they are passionate about and, in that department, they’ve got it nailed. I think even the most fervent Led fan would not be disappointed.
Opening tonight with “Good Times Bad Times” followed by the wonderful “What Is And What Should Never Be” they included what might be described as a citrus pairing in the first half in the form of “The Lemon Song” and “Tangerine”, the latter being possibly one of the lesser known tracks from Led Zeppelin III.
A phenomenal rendition of “Kashmir” ended the first set and sent the packed audience to the bar very happy.
The second half was full of highlights as Whole Lotta Led are currently touring to celebrate 50 years of Led Zep. “In My Time Of Dying” was there, plus “Ramble On”, Black Dog” and, of course, Stairway To Heaven” while “Whole Lotta Love” neatly morphed into a thundering rendition of “Communications Breakdown” and back again. They finished, appropriately, with “Thank You” and for the enthusiastically demanded encore, ” Rock And Roll”.
Led Zep’s musical legacy is very definitely in safe hands with Whole Lotta Led. A great show which fully deserved the rapturous applause it received.
Review by Brian Harrington
The Town Hall, Hungerford 10/11.8.18
I have seen Whole Lotta Led before but Friday’s show was a rare unplugged performance. It is often said that there is nowhere to hide in unplugged shows and that they will expose any weaknesses in the performer. Whole Lotta Led proved beyond any doubt that their passion for the music of Led Zeppelin and their musicianship is more than equal to the task. They were quite simply superb and the audience of over 100 responded enthusiastically.
Opening with a brilliant rendition of “What Is And What Should Never Be” from Led Zeppelin II followed by an epic version of “Ramble On” from the same album they instantly established their musical credentials and wowed the audience. “Gallows Pole” and “Misty Mountain Hop” were both incredible while “Black Dog” deservedly received a rapturous reception. If there is a better Led Zeppelin tribute out there I have never seen them!
Slowing the pace with the beautiful “Battle Of Evermore” (which originally featured a duet between Robert Plant and Sandy Denny) the band brought guest vocalist Samantha onstage. The track also featured some amazing mandolin work.
Favourites like “Kashmir” and “You Shook Me” along with lesser know songs like “Down By The Seaside” worked wonderfully in unplugged mode and the evening I’m sure gained Whole Lotta Led many new followers, a good many of whom were eager to see the full electric show on Saturday.
With a substantially different set list the electric show acted as a fantastic contrast which highlighted the versatility and musical ability of the band. After 22 years together they have established themselves as the leading Zeppelin tribute! Extensive touring has honed their act and, again they received a great reception from the audience. Dancing and “headbanging” were the order of the day and tracks like “Rock And Roll” and “Dazed And Confused” deservedly evoked a great audience response.
Any Led Zeppelin fan could not fail to be impressed and entertained as Whole Lotta Led tore through classics like “Communications Breakdown”, “Immigrant Song” and, of course, “Whole Lotta Love”.
These two shows were a fabulous way to kick start what I hope will be an ongoing roster of live music shows at Hungerford Town Hall.
Review by Brian Harrington
The Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa 11.3.17
Just over a year after the bands debut Zephyr Lounge show Whole Lotta Led bought their Zep magic back to the venue, unfortunately vocalist Lee was suffering with a cold which although it must have affected his performance (like the whole band I am pretty sure he is a perfectionist when it comes to the music/performance) for me it did not hinder the show at all.
Again the performance weighed in at well over two hours but unlike last year supplied in one mega set and I was impressed by the number of changes bringing in the likes of ‘Celebration Day’ and the rarely heard ‘Royal Orleans’.
Of course the absolute classic Zeppelin knockouts were kept in place so still room for my standout number from last year ‘Ramble On’ where once more I (along with many others I am sure) looked on in amazement at the amazing drumming and work rate of Charles.
Other must haves in the set present and correct a magical ‘Stairway To Heaven’, the Eastern promise of the mighty ‘Kashmir’, ‘Black Dog’ (a real test for Lee on the vocals) and lead guitarist Nicks showpiece ‘Dazed and Confused’.
A special mention must go to a jaw dropping ‘When the Levee Breaks’ for its thunderous drum work, bluesy harmonica and top slide lead guitar and a simply beautiful ‘The Rain Song’.
One encore this evening and no surprise as a large dose of incendiary drumming introduced the mighty ‘Rock and Roll’.
Great show again lads and maybe see you here next year and on another note I am impressed by a few of the changes to the Zephyr since my last visit with the improved stage lighting and stage in general.
Review by Andrew Lock
Corn Exchange, Hertford 21.1.17
“Whole Lotta Led are Brilliant!!!!!
If this review seems to be biased, well it is!!!!!
I have seen Whole Lotta Led many times over the past few years and they NEVER, EVER disappoint. They are simply genius!!!
I’m never going to get to see the real Led Zeppelin (shame) but as far as I’m concerned, Whole Lotta Led are so, so close to the real Led Zeppelin that I always come away from there gigs totally satisfied and with that massive buzz you get as you walk away from an arena having just seen one of your favourite bands. I love the intimacy of seeing them regularly in small venues, up close and loud. I saw them on a bigger stage at the Brixworth Festival last summer – pure brilliance!! I’m already looking forward to seeing them again in Leamington Spa in March 2017.
I can fully recommend seeing this band. You won’t be disappointed!!!!”
Review by Martin Romanovsky
The Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa 13.2.16
A late in the day change from the spacious Assembly to it’s smaller sister the Zephyr Lounge did nothing to hinder this full blooded tribute to the mighty Zeppelin and 2 1/2 hours of the bands most iconic tunes and a few rarities was the order of the day.
This is one of the most impressive tribute acts I have ever witnessed a 5 piece outfit (who’s counting when they were this good !) who concentrated on the music rather than going down the look-a-like route and who are this year celebrating their 20th anniversary.
The line-up included upfront impressive vocalist Lee doing full justice to Mr Plants impressive range and a great story teller to boot, Nick on lead guitar very much the rock god pulling off all the mighty Page riffs and solos with his huge rack of guitars and aircraft control like pedal set-up while at the back Charles gave a momentous Bonham like performance on the sticks, the line up was completed by Geoff on bass and Martin supplying keyboards and at times second guitar.
After a mood enhancing montage intro tape the surprise opener was a stirring ‘In the Evening’ and other first half rarities included a groove filled ‘Night Flight’ and a raucous ‘Custard Pie’.
Blues fans were kept happy early doors with a down ‘n’ dirty ‘You Shook Me’ (fab harmonica by Lee) and an epic ‘In my Time of Dying’ and my personal highlight of set 1 was a magical ‘Ramble On’.
From the start of the second set the audience seemed to have swelled and definitely had made their way closer to the stage and were more ready to rock and this set was chock full of stone cold classics.
On the punchy, full throttle rock side ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Living Loving Maid’ had the first few rows boogieing and head banging and the epics returned with spellbinding performances of ‘Dazed and Confused’, a momentous ‘Kashmir’ and with the addition of the iconic double neck guitar a crowd pleasing ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
All that was needed was a strong finish and the encore was just that with the audience rocking up a storm to the one-two punch of ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock and Roll’.
A night to remember for Zeppelin fans performed by Zeppelin fans who just happen to be top rate performers.
Review by Andrew Lock
The Garage, Highbury 23.1.16
Tribute n. thing said or done or given as a mark of respect or affection.
Lee Pryor, the lead vocalist, sings with passion and power and an extraordinary range that mirrors Robert Plant at his peak. Yet he can still project a more muted and soulful tone, especially evident in the off-shoot acoustic gigs known as ‘Light Zep’.Nick Ferris looks every inch the experienced lead guitarist. There’s no faulting his amazing skill and dexterity and the way in which he commands the stage with, for instance, the brilliant solo from ‘Heartbreaker’. He makes it all look annoyingly easy but this is a virtuoso at the top of his form.
When Charlie Hart, bandana secure, starts smashing away at those drums, he looks like the happiest man alive. Not easy to fill John Bonham’s shoes but Charlie does so admirably with a pretty impressive solo towards the end.
Geoff Hunt provides the other half of the essential backbone to the band. An experienced multi-faceted bassist who, like Noel Redding, started out on six strings and continues to employ his many talents.
Martin Weetman, a later addition to the band, doubles up on keyboards and rhythm guitar providing that crucial extra dimension with tracks such as ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ and ‘Kashmir’.
Collectively, they are a musician’s dream team and make up more than the sum of their parts. The band don’t believe in wigs and regalia and theatrical paraphernalia. They don’t need to. They just get on with what they do best – creating superb music. The set will comprise of most of the Led Zep classics with a handful of less well known numbers thrown in; this is often the mark of a good tribute band which doesn’t play to populism but reflects the original band’s more eclectic songbook.
At The Garage, the first set ended with ‘In My Time of Dying’, an excellent choice with its epic quality. There were generous helpings of bluesy numbers such as ‘You Shook Me’, and ‘Dazed and Confused’ which really played to Lee’s vocal strengths. The inevitable ‘Stairway to Heaven’, complete with double-neck guitar was echoed by the crowd who sang along as if it was an alternative national anthem. The second set ended with the legendary ‘Kashmir’ and they encored with the perfect high-octane double of ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock & Roll’.
Throughout, the crowd, most of whom had probably seen the band before, were a fully appreciative mob. John Paul Jones once remarked that he and Page were into funk and soul and that some of the rhythms they created set them apart from other rock bands…..metal-heads and rockers, funksters and trippers, all moving and shaking in their own inimitable way to the drums and bass and the lead and rhythm guitars inexorably driving the timeless music of one of the most exciting and intoxicating bands the world has ever seen.
‘Whole Lotta Led’ is the closest you can come to experiencing the original group. Above all, the band, despite having played for the last 20 years, still look as if they’re enjoying every minute of it.
Long may they and live music last.
Review by Tim Beckerley
Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury 5.12.15
There is a lot of debate about tribute bands in the world of music. A view I am particularly familiar with is that tributes tend to lack talent, as they are supposedly incapable of writing their own music and feel the need to reuse material already popularised by more well-known bands who have the skill it takes to actually write good music.
However, there is another view I am also familiar with; in many ways it can actually be considered more difficult to effectively ‘copy’ an already popular band whose material many fans potentially more than recognise. In fact, it is surely harder to sound exactly like someone they’re not than to simply be themselves – if they write their own music, a band is less likely to be compared directly to any one artist, and hypothetically this allows for more freedom of opinion amongst fans and less criticism when the band may not sound exactly how the listeners expect.
Whole Lotta Led demonstrated however that it isn’t impossible to sound incredibly accurate to the original band whilst being themselves, without attempting any kind of ‘fake’ persona or façade. Despite not having heard much Led Zeppelin prior to the gig and therefore being reasonably clueless at the time as to the accuracy of their sound, Whole Lotta Led proved to be pretty damn good as far as tribute acts go. Listening to an album they frequently paid homage to after the show, I found it difficult to distinguish an obvious distinction to set apart Led Zeppelin and their impressive tribute in the Arlington on Saturday night.
The rest of Newbury clearly agreed, with the entire audience head-bobbing, toe-tapping or hip-swaying by the end of the night (or at least all three for the occasional enthusiastic soul). Although it has to be said, the main attraction and definitely the most entertaining part of the performance were the legless lunatics prancing about before the stage. We even felt it necessary – no, essential – to place bets on who would be the first to inelegantly plant their arse on the sticky beer-saturated floor. Sadly I didn’t win.
It was certainly a fantastic night; a combination of brilliant entertainment value, perfect company, and last but definitely not least, remarkable music from a spot-on tribute who demonstrate great talent and their own persona with their ‘No Wigs • No Costumes • Just Music’ adage proving highly effective and successful.
Review by Katie Swanson
The Brook, Southampton 1.5.15
Last night was a revelation for me.
I have always been a bit dubious about ‘tribute’ bands, but everyone I know who has seen Whole Lotta Led has said they are a must see and they were right.
The Brook is an excellent venue and it was packed full of fans long before the band were due on stage.
I was lucky enough to get to speak to the band backstage before the gig and they were just five really nice guys who love what they do, which is please the fans by playing really good rock music.
The set opened up with ‘Rock and Roll’, a great powerhouse of a song which set the scene for the rest of the evening.
Charlie Hart on drums and Geoff Hunt on bass kept up a solid backing to allow guitar, keys and vocals to come to the fore. Talking about vocals, Lee Pryor has a vocal range to be envied by many other singers and he did full justice to every song with power when needed and softness in the slower acoustic tracks such as ‘Tangerine’. I think Robert Plant would be proud of Lee’s Mastery of his songs.
Nick Ferris on lead guitar played faultlessly from beginning to end and Martin Weetman on guitar and keyboards added the finishing touches to an evening of classic numbers written by one of the best stadium bands in the world.
I have heard many bands try to play Led Zep tracks, but these guys didn’t just play them, they took control of them as if they owned them. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was sheer perfection with Nick pointing a double neck at the stars as if he were trying to play his way up the stairway.
It ended with a well deserved standing ovation as the crowd showed their appreciation.
The Encore was the icing on the cake. Three powerful songs segued together and building up to a tumultuous ending with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ which gave Lee the opportunity to use his voice to scream his way to the end of a two and a half set. The applause lasted about 10 minutes and i don’t think I’ve come across a band who deserve it more.
If you haven’t seen them and like a truly entertaining night of rock music then you really must.
P.S. I must apologize for getting the opening number wrong, it was actually ‘Good Times, Bad times’ and they finished the first set with ‘Whole Lotta Love’. That will teach me for not making notes as well as photo’s and enjoying the music. That’s probably the reason I don’t write reviews. At least I was accurate when I said it was brilliant.
Review by Graham Hutton
Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth 28.3.15
‘After 19 years, Whole Lotta Led is the UK’s longest running, professional Led Zeppelin tribute act’, shouts lead singer Lee Pryor, aka Robert Plant.
After this performance, I can see why. Pryor grabs our attention from the start as the band open with Good Times, Bad Times. His charisma and energy is contagious and he has the ability to engage with the crowd with the familiarity of an old friend. To add to this, Pryor’s powerful voice emulates Plant’s own; and with a voice like Plant’s, he has big shoes to fill.
Nothing beats the sound of a bass guitar being played well, as bassist, Geoff Hunt, proves tonight during Dazed and Confused.
In fact, the sound at The Wedge was fantastic, a point that was emphasized by the solos from lead guitarist, Nick Ferris, who proved that he has no qualms following in Jimmy Page’s footsteps, especially during Heartbreaker.
‘You can tell what’s coming next by the two-neck Gibson that Ferris is putting on’, smiles Pryor, and with that, Ferris impresses us further as Stairway to Heaven commences.
Every song played tonight exceeded my expectations. Keeping Led Zeppelin alive through live music can be a difficult feat, however Whole Lotta Led undoubtedly bring us the next best thing to Led Zeppelin themselves.
Review by Kelly Lupton
Mr Kyps, Poole 27.2.15
Whole Lotta Led floated down to Mr Kyps and demonstrated why they are such a highly regarded tribute band, kicking off with Good Times, Bad Times (the first Zep album opener) and Houses of the Holy before navigating through the power of pile-drivers like Whole Lotta Love and The Rover, and the delicateness and dynamics of Since I’ve Been Loving You and Thank You amongst other favourites.
Two original members (Nick and Geoff) from the nineties remain, and the now five-piece band (with more keyboard tracks than in their early days) all totally deliver on everything from the thunderous voyage that is Immigrant Song to the clever pop of All My Love, and singer Lee DOES reach all those high notes! As for drummer Charlie – the heart of the band who has nailed the Bonham sound – well, what a player!
The show highlight for me was The Song Remains The Same: it was absolutely superb and surely one of the very best tracks Jimmy Page ever penned – originally as an instrumental that Robert Plant subsequently added suitable lyrics to.
I think only really diehard fans would have been able to recognise one obscure acoustic led track, mid-set (Tangerine), that caught me out… there goes my Mastermind challenge… but it might have made someone’s day!
Led Zeppelin left us such a a fabulous catalogue of songs, and Whole Lotta Led gave us great versions of many faves such as When The Levee Breaks, How Many More Times, Your Time Is Gonna Come, and, of course Kashmir and Stairway To Heaven, topped by a fabulous encore of Black Dog and then Rock and Roll… and they sure did that.
Percy did a great job on the sound desk, as usual, and a good sized crowd were rewarded with the band offering to return again later in the year… that went down as favourably as the preceding 2 hours plus of exciting music. Icing on the cake then!
Thanks to everyone concerned – excellent stuff!
Review by Neil Nicholson
Central Studio, Basingstoke 17.1.15
My mate very generously gave us a couple of complimentary tickets he was given for the
Whole Lotta Led Basingstoke gig 17/1/2015.
I have never been to see a tribute band, and was sceptical from the outset, but I trusted my mates recommendation.
Within the first minute of the first set I knew it was going to be a brilliant night – the sort where you don’t look at your watch, at all!
It is so obvious that every member of the band love the music of Led Zeppelin as much as I do – better still, they can all play really well, in fact, some of them have to rate amongst the best musicians I have ever heard. Not only do they work well as a band playing great music together, they all bring something extra and personal to the show.
Not just a great straight reproduction of the music we all know so well, but a great show with a few subtle personal twists that really added to the show. The organ classical toccata & fugue that segued into ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’, a brilliant drum solo session in ‘Black Dog’ and the absolutely inspired lead guitar in ‘Stairway To Heaven’, hypnotic, solid bass and great vocals. Totally brilliant – the whole band.
So, if you’re sitting reading this, wondering about seeing Whole Lotta Led, don’t. Buy some tickets, go see them – you won’t be disappointed.
Nice one guys – keep doing it please.
Review by Paul Roberts
Playhouse, Harlow 25.7.13
I will never get to see Led Zeppelin live, so I was looking for a good tribute band to get my
‘Zeppelin fix’! Friends had recommended Whole Lotta Led, so I went to see them at Harlow last night.
WOW – what a band!! Every single note was spot on. The band bought the whole experience of
Led Zeppelin as a live band to the audience without trying to imitate them.
Thank you so much guys.
Even if you have a slight interest in Led Zeppelin go and see this band, you will have a great night.
I can’t wait to see them at Harlow again.
Review by Chris Wright
Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames 19.7.12
Whole Lotta Led are dedicated to recreating the classic studio and live albums of the legendary Led Zeppelin. They’re very much concerned with the quality of the sound rather than original appearances.
Three excellent new musicians have recently joined the original and highly talented band members Nick Ferris (Lead Guitar/Acoustic Guitar/Theramin) and Geoff Hunt (Bass Guitar and Mandolin). They are Lee Pryor (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar & Harmonica), David Wykeham-George (Keyboards/2nd Guitar) and Charlie Hart (Drums).
Whole Lotta Led have an astonishing level of musicianship and enthusiasm. Impressively hard working, they’ve now played over 1,000 live shows and reveal a natural love of this innovative fusion of blues, rock and folk. They keep these powerful and mysterious sounds as fresh and alive as when I first met them in the 90s browsing Zeppelin music stalls in London. They’re an amazing band with integrity and a deep passion for the music they play. If you haven’t seen them, you’ll probably be surprised at how good they are.
Set list: Good Times Bad Times, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, You Shook Me, Thank You, Your Time Is Gonne Come, Ramble On, What Is And What Should Never Be, Black Dog, Going To California, The Battle Of Evermore, That’s The Way, No Quarter, Moby Dick, Stairway To Heaven, Immigrant Song, Kashmir, Whole Lotta Love, Rock & Roll.
Review by Anthony Weightman
The Brook, Southampton 27.7.12
I saw Whole Lotta Led earlier this year at The Brook with the old line-up and I was suitable impressed to want to come and them play again.
When booking the tickets I saw that there had been a change in the line-up, my thoughts were ‘fingers crossed’ this could be even better.
I have seen the other top rated Led Zep tribute band, who are good, so there was lots of anticipation on what the evenings performance was going to be like. . . .
I persuaded two old buddies to come along with me (they have both been to original Zeppelin concerts).
The Brook 21:00 hrs on 27/07/12.
What a concert. A stunning performance that made me pleased to be there.
The new line-up has raised the level of quality in Whole Lotta Led performance of Led Zeppelin music.
Both my friends and I were suitably impressed.
I could not exhaust enough superlatives to emphasise how much I enjoyed the occasion. Suffice to say I will go and see you play again.
The Band Members.
Nick Ferris – Lead Guitar. The consummate guitarist, a master of Led Zep music.
Geoff Hunt – Bass Guitar. A solid bass player that is totally part the music being performed, equally impressive when playing the mandolin.
Lee Pryor – Singer (guitarist). Great vocals, built a good rapport with the audience, a crowd pleaser.
David Wykerham-George – Guitar / Keyboard. A superb addition in both guitar and keyboard. It works well.
Charlie Hart – Drums. Outstanding, compliments the Led Zep music line-up perfectly.
I look forward to seeing you guys the next time you are at ‘The Brook’.
Keep up the GOOD work.
Review by David Hucklebridge
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon 7.7.12
Allegedly Keith Richards once asked Jimmy Page why he did not take on another guitarist as he was the most overworked guitarist in the music industry. JP replied that it would ruin the format of the band.
At the Brycheiniog Theatre, Brecon on Saturday night (7th July) Whole Lotta Led proved that JP may have not been quite correct with that assumption.
The introduction of David Wykeham-George on second guitar and keyboards was a masterstroke and added depth and a different dimension to the band.
Kashmir and No Quarter were fantastic and near perfect. Whole Lotta Love, despite the Theramin technical glitch, was outstanding with that pulsating depth of the extra guitar.
Not forgetting the other new members….Lee Pryor was brilliant and I bet even Robert Plant wished he could sing that good at Lee’s age. Sorry no insult intended.
Last but not least…..Charlie Hart….a chip off the old Bonham block. What a power drummer.
PS..put up your prices.. you’re worth another tenner !!
Review by Brian Preece
Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton 30.6.12
Saw you for the first time last Saturday in Wolverhampton – my wife took me for my birthday. I’m a big Zeppelin fan who was unfortunately a few years too young to catch them live during their last UK tour in 1979 – I have seen “Fred Zeppelin” a Midlands based tribute band at least 10 times so I was curious to see an alternative.
Well when you first came on stage I was surprised to see a mixture of old and young – which wasn’t a bad thing as I prefer tribute bands who try to replicate the music not the looks. What impressed me from the start was the attention to detail on the songs – the big advantage Whole Lotta Led had was having the fifth member who could play keyboards and double up on guitar. This meant that some of the more keyboard orientated songs such as ‘No Quarter’ or ‘You’reTtime Is Gonna Come’ could be tackled but also the keyboard added that extra quality to songs like ‘Stairway’ (with the subtle recorder sound in the intro), ‘Kashmir’ and even ‘Rock And Roll’. We all know Page’s penchant for double/triple tracking guitars so that extra guitar really made a difference to tracks such as ‘Black Dog’ where the second guitar doubled up.
When I first saw the drummer I was skeptical thinking he looked a bit young for the job (but that could have been in comparison to the other members J). I was completely blown away by his talent – the ‘Moby Dick’ sounded amazing and using four sticks (on ‘Four Sticks’) was a nice attention to detail.
As a guitarist myself I thought Nick had captured Jimmy’s sound down to a tee. His lead playing was spot on and I like the fact he had a bit of showmanship too. He used a range of guitars as well – some because of alternate tunings but others simply for the authenticity (the twin neck SG for Stairway) and having a theramin was a great touch. Having a bass player who plays the mandolin also allows the band to play the accoustic numbers that other bands have struggled on – I would love to see you play the Earls Court accoustic set when you come back this way again.
Last but not least I thought the vocalist Lee was great – he didn’t duck away from any of the higher notes and he really put a shift in that night. I know he went a lit bit faint at one point (I think it was that long note in ‘Kashmir’ that did it) but that shows the effort that he was putting in.
All in all a great show. I’m sure that the gig will be a sell out next time – you never know Mr. Plant himself may be watching from the back as he still lives just up the road!
Review by John Knight
Drill Hall, Lincoln 25.11.2011
We all have moments that will stay in our hearts and minds for ever. For many fans one of them will be the first moment that they heard or saw (or if they were very lucky, both at once) their heroes. A certain Nick Ferris first saw Led Zeppelin an incredible 42 years ago at the Bath Blues Festival and his fate was sealed! Other fans were first entranced during Led Zeppelin’s small clubs tour to promote their fourth, now legendary, album in 1971. Nick and some of these other fans met at Lincoln Drill Hall on 25th November – exactly forty years after Led Zeppelin appeared in the tiny Percy Gee building on the University of Leicester’s campus. And the Drill Hall celebrated in style. Nick brought his wonderful tribute band, ‘Whole Lotta Led’, formed with musical partner Geoff Hunt in 1996, and treated the crowd to another unforgettable evening including a complete, almost note-perfect, run through of the very fourth album which so inspired us all those moons ago.
This band are all huge Led Zeppelin fans and it shows. Not for them the ‘lookalike’ route of many of their competitors. Their aim is to produce the sound and the experience of a Led Zeppelin gig as near as possible to the real thing. So, no silly wigs or attempts at body doubles – they are quoted as saying that they feel that this would ‘distract from what they are trying to achieve, which is to play some of the best music ever written’. But there was always more to Led Zeppelin gigs than their exceptional music. The sheer joy and exuberance. The intensity and the intimacy. The rapport between band and fan – to the extent, on occasion, of each fan feeling that the band were performing to them, and to them alone. To have a true Led Zeppelin experience these elements are also vital. And the Drill Hall audience were not disappointed.
Whole Lotta Led are: Nick Ferris (lead electric guitar, acoustic guitar and Theramin), Geoff Hunt (bass, mandolin and keyboard), Lee Addison (vocals and harmonica) and Graham Twist (drums and backing vocals). They also have a ‘fifth’ member Ricky Stivrins, their road manager, who ensures that everything runs like clockwork.
Nick saw Led Zeppelin an amazing four times and still loves to reminisce with fellow fans (and, rather impressively, makes the time to do so at the interval). He is an incredible musician in his own right and has an exceptional collection of guitars, which are displayed onstage before the gig begins. His dedication to producing a performance to remember for Led Zeppelin fans has extended to his purchase of a Gibson Twin Neck for the performance of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, a Gibson Les Paul Standard ’59 (Jimmy Page signature model) and of course the Theramin for ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Not to mention his own unique selection of rock postures and poses which he employs to good effect to the delight of the fans.
Geoff, bassist and multi-instrumentalist, saw Led Zeppelin play live in 1973 and enjoys reliving the time when he was lucky to meet his guitar hero Jimmy Page. (Geoff was originally a guitarist and switched to bass when he joined Nick’s band). During the set he switches effortlessly between instruments: the bass, mandolin (on ‘The Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Going to California’) and keyboard (recorder part in ‘Stairway to Heaven’). A consummate professional, he is irritated by any perceived inaccuracies in the performance, and anxious that the fans should have the best experience possible. They do.
Lee is the closest some of the audience have seen to ‘the spirit of Robert’ in a Led Zeppelin tribute singer. He is passionate about Led Zeppelin’s music and the roots of it, particularly the Blues. His joy in performing is tangible and he plays a mean harmonica too – memorably at the Drill Hall on ‘When the Levee Breaks’. Too young to have seen Led Zeppelin perform live, he soaks up tales from the older fans like a sponge! A relatively new addition to the band, which recently played their 1200th gig at Swansea, he has nevertheless been with the current line-up for eleven glorious years.
The drummer, Graham, is gaining a bit of a reputation for the power and versatility of his performance, most notably in his showcase of John Bonham’s ‘Moby Dick’. Like Nick he has picked his kit carefully, even down to the Zildjian gong. He also provides backing vocals – which extend to the harmonies on ‘The Battle of Evermore’. A gentle, self-effacing drum tutor off stage, his favourite Led Zeppelin song is ‘For Your Life’.
The set at the Drill Hall was perfectly chosen by the band to give maximum enjoyment to the assembled fans and to enable them to demonstrate their fantastic musicianship and immense pleasure in the music they were performing. The singer, Lee, early in the set made a point of telling the audience how very special Led Zeppelin were to him and the rest of the band. Their band is a way of showing their love and respect for the irreplaceable Led Zeppelin and their music. Apart from the complete, and chronological, performance of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album (which, of course, included the ultimate crowd-pleasers ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Rock and Roll’) in the second half of the show, they included a good mix of classics from other albums in the first half, such as ‘Dazed and Confused’ (from ‘Led Zeppelin’) and ‘Houses of the Holy’ (from ‘Physical Graffiti’). Each member of the band had the opportunity to showcase his own special talent with, most notably, Lee’s harmonica on ‘When the Levee Breaks’, Geoff’s mandolin on ‘The Battle of Evermore’, Nick’s guitar licks on ‘Dazed and Confused’ and, of course, the now legendary Graham on ‘Moby Dick’!
It was a great night for reliving old memories and making new friends and there was even space for a decent amount of air guitar too.
A great band, tribute or not. Catch them while you can. You won’t be disappointed.
Good Times Bad Times
Houses of the Holy
Babe I’m Gonna Leave you
You Shook Me
Dazed and Confused
In My Time of Dying
The Led Zep IV set:
Rock and Roll
The Battle of Evermore
Stairway to Heaven
Misty Mountain Hop
Going to California
When the Levee Breaks
Whole Lotta Love (with segment of We’re Gonna Groove)
Review by Liz Hames, The Lemon Tree fanzine. 15.12.11