After 15 years, impresario Michael Dorf has his annual benefit tribute concerts at Carnegie Hall down to a science. Dorf followed past tributes to artists such as Neil Young, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin by honoring Led Zeppelin for this year’s The Music Of installment, which took place on a snowy night in New York City on Wednesday. He put together a kickass lineup that featured a heady mix of performers with the jam scene well represented, all of whom interpreted the music of Led Zeppelin over the course of three wonderful hours at the historic venue. Despite all of the different musicians who took the stage on Wednesday, there was never more than two minutes between songs as the stagehands did an impressive job moving equipment on and off-stage quickly. The best part is that over 100K was raised that will be given to music education organizations for underprivileged youth, bringing the grand total raised over the past 15 years to $1.5+ million.
The Music Of Led Zeppelin began with Ghost Light band mates Holly Bowling, Raina Mullen and Tom Hamilton pairing up for an inventive take on “No Quarter.” Bowling played a grand piano and used mallets on the strings to add a delicious weirdness that was only augmented by a phaser effect put on Hamilton and Mullen’s voices. The trio set the tone for interpretations that weren’t straight forward but instead found the performers putting their own stamp on the songs.
About half of the 20 songs played on Wednesday found a house band of bassist Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith), guitarists Jackie Greene and Andy York (Patti Smith), keyboardist Andy Burton (Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright) and drummer Dennis Diken (The Smithereens) backing featured performers. The house band was tight without losing the greasiness that made Led Zeppelin such a great live band. Matthew Sweet was the first musician to join the house band, as he delivered a powerful rendition on “Dancing Days.” Next up was Joseph Arthur who sung the hell out of “Ramble On” and Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards who fronted a soulful version of “When The Levee Breaks.”
Vocalist Deva Mahal was the first performer of the night whose stage presence was a really a force and she provided a wow moment as she showed off her powerful pipes on “Your Time Is Gonna Come” featuring Dap-Kings guitarist Binky Griptite shredding a few leads. Many musicians dressed up for the occasion, but Ayron Jones wore a t-shirt and a hat that read “#filthy,” which was an adequate description of the incendiary licks he laid down during “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” He would solo with one hand while egging on the crowd or giving a peace symbol with the other. The first house band portion of the evening closed out with Lez Zeppelin frontwoman Shannon Conley doing her best Robert Plant imitation as she was backed by the house band and members of Orchestra Now for a riveting “Kashmir.”
The house band left the stage and up came Joe Russo, Scott Metzger, Marco Benevento and Dave Dreiwitz for the first Bustle In Your Hedgerow performance since 2016. Russo left jaws on the floor as he bashed out the beginning of “We’re Gonna Groove.” Bustle played at a tempo so much faster than any other song that had been performed, which was jarring, but in a good way. Metzger slayed his solo and fans of the group were happy to see they stuck around once the instrumental was finished. Bustle would go on to back their friend Nicole Atkins on one of the highlights of the night, a gorgeous “The Rain Song.” Atkins put so much passion into her vocal delivery and Bustle showed the range of their dynamics in that they could go from the furious “We’re Gonna Groove” to the delicate “The Rain Song” without skipping a beat.
moe. then came out and offered their first ever rendition of “Hey, Hey What Can I Do.” Bassist Rob Derhak didn’t try to imitate Robert Plant and instead truly made the song his own vocally. Al Schnier added a nice element by playing mandolin throughout, while Chuck Garvey put an exclamation on the cover with a tasteful but hearty solo. Then, The London Souls provided a wall of sound for “Bring It On Home” that made one have to look twice to make sure there were only two musicians on stage.
Two members of The Zombies paid tribute to bassist Jim Rodford, who passed away in January, with a stripped down “Thank You” that truly got to the heart of what makes that song so special. Up next was O.A.R. who got many in the crowd up on their feet with a “Fool In The Rain” that was more like the original than perhaps any other cover played on Wednesday. Then, the house band returned to back Bettye LaVette on an interesting interpretation of “All My Love” that made fantastic use of LaVette’s breathy vocals. Bettye also showed off her winning stage presence by sauntering onto and off the stage after the song had started and before it ended, respectively.
Wednesday’s concert rolled on with a bluesy version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” sung with flair by Son Little and J. Mascis going balls to the wall on a pair of solos during “Tangerine.” Next, Jackie Greene had his turn in the spotlight for “The Lemon Song,” which was another highlight on a night filled with them, and he used the opportunity to showcase some of the other musicians in the house band. Vocalist Patty Smyth then emerged to display powerful pipes and an energetic stage present on “Whole Lotta Love,” before Living Colour wowed with an intense “Rock & Roll” in which frontman Corey Glover hit some of the highest notes of the evening. The concert concluded with all of the evening’s performers loading on stage for a fun “Good Times, Bad Times.”
Set: No Quarter (Holly Bowling & Tom Hamilton), Dancing Days (Matthew Sweet), Ramble On (Joseph Arthur), When The Levee Breaks (Erika Wennerstrom), Your Time Is Gonna Come (Deva Mahal & Binky Griptite), Since I’ve Been Loving You (Ayron Jones), Kashmir (Shannon Conley & Orchestra Now), We’re Gonna Groove (Bustle In Your Hedgerow), The Rain Song (Nicole Atkins w/ Bustle), Hey Hey What Can I Do (moe.), Bring It On Home (The London Souls), Thank You (The Zombies), Fool In The Rain (O.A.R.), All My Love (Bettye LaVette), Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (Son Little), Tangerine (J Mascis), The Lemon Song (Jackie Greene), Whole Lotta Love (Patty Smyth), Rock & Roll (Living Colour), Good Times Bad Times (Everyone)
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