Gig review: LED ZEPPELIN MASTERS – Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 13 April 2019

The Led Zeppelin Masters (also known as the Zep Boys in their native Australia) – vocalist Vince Contarino, guitarist Tzan Niko, bassist Warwick Cheatle and drummer Bradley Polain – were back for their second UK tour with the 35-piece Black Heart Orchestra following a successful debut tour in 2017.

Having seen them on that tour in the prestigious surroundings of the London Palladium, this time I was lucky enough to see them perform in Led Zeppelin’s home territory of the Midlands (okay Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were both born down south). Plus the Led Zeppelin Masters were celebrating fifty years since ‘Led Zeppelin’ and ‘II’ were released.

After a short orchestral intro (according to Vince Contarino 95% of the orchestra were from Birmingham), it was straight into the riffing monster that is ‘Good Times Bad Times’ and with barely a second to draw breath, we were into ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’.

Vince Contarino really gets into the music and can hit those high notes with passion and power. Equally as impressive is the guitar playing of Tzan Niko, who recreates Jimmy Page’s original guitar soloing with ease, yet no flash onstage, just studied concentration and the look of someone who is having a ball playing these classic songs.

Songs like ‘The Rain Song’, ‘Kashmir’ (prefaced by a solo violin) and ‘All Of My Love’ really benefit from the full orchestra. On the originals John Paul Jones would be relying on a mellotron for the string effects, here the Black Dog Orchestra, ably conducted by Martin Reilly, take it to a whole new level.

Impressive to say the least and never cheesy in the way say Hooked On Classics was. Even if you despair of tribute bands Led Zeppelin Masters have worked their musical magic on the Led Zeppelin classics and even better they don’t dress up like the band they are paying tribute to, one thing that personally puts me off some tribute acts.

It shows the strength of the Led Zeppelin songs as they close act 1 with ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll’, a song used by many bands to close their shows. Instead the encores tonight were ‘Immigrant Song’ and a rousing send off with ‘Whole Lotta Love’, a riff so good they used it as the ‘Top Of The Pops’ theme for many years.

The audience loved every minute of the show, the only drawback being the fixed seating which didn’t allow much audience participation down the front. A fantastic night of Led Zeppelin classics made that extra bit special with the orchestra.

Review by Jason Ritchie

Photos by Martin David Porter

Interview with Vince Contarino

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