by Audrey H.
On a cold and cloudy afternoon in early January 2011, while browsing the Telemadrid teletext, I read that a very good tribute to Led Zeppelin group called Letz Zep were going to be playing in two weeks time in Madrid! I’ve been a fan of Led Zeppelin since I was a teenager, had all their albums, saw ‘The Song Remains The Same’ in the cinema many times and own the DVD but I’d never actually seen Led Zeppelin play ‘live.’ I was in need of a lift so I got onto the computer to do some research, liked what I read and rushed out get a ticket for myself and my husband, who, although he didn’t know much about Led Zeppelin, likes concerts and wanted to come with me. I hadn’t been to a rock concert for years though I used to go to quite a lot when I was young, free and single. When we arrived at the venue on a chilly Tuesday night, the Sala Heineken was three quarters full. I could hear some English voices as well as Spanish being spoken around me. The audience age ranged from under twenty to over sixty, men and women of a wide range of hair lengths and musical tribal persuasions. The sight of Jimmy Page’s Zoso logo on one of the amplifiers increased my anticipation though I thought to myself that the guitarist would have to be very good indeed to justify it.
At 21:20, the lights dimmed, thick acrid smoke began to waft its way across the stage, the sound of an excerpt from a fifties musical, followed by what sounded to me like a part of the intro to The Doors’ L.A. Woman was heard while the ghostly figures of the band members: Billy Kulke, Andy Gray, Steve Turner and Benjy Reid, took their places. Expectation was at a height. The familiar drum intro, the guitar riffs, the vocals starting off… ”Been a long time since I Rock n Roll…” How true in my case and what a delight it was to hear it ‘live’ and played so well then they went straight into Heartbreaker, during which my husband asked me, ”Are they as good as you thought they might be?” I gave him a huge smile. ”Yes, so far, very good!” The very good got better and better as I was transported back in time and the band approached and even equaled the quality material they were covering! Incredible! I loved it! Letz Zep had a new fan by the time they finished Rock n Roll and I was to hear them play several favourite tracks which I hadn’t heard played ‘live’ before.
Billy Kulke, alias Robert Plant, sported a seventies style shirt with a feather pattern, bootleg cut denim jeans, snakeskin boots and his very long and curly blond locks made him resemble Percy himself. Andy Gray, alias Jimmy Page, had the same hair as the brilliant guitarist and wore a black, chest revealing top and flared trousers with an intricately embroidered semi oriental pattern on the outsides of the arms and legs. Steve Turner, interpreting John Paul Jones, was wearing a late seventies style outfit and resembled Jonesy in looks, demeanour and ability. Benjy Reid, the interpretor of John Bonham, with very long, very straight blond hair more reminiscent of Rick Wakeman than of Bonzo, was dressed in a black sleeveless T shirt and loose black pants.
It goes without saying that they must have watched Led Zeppelin’s film loads of times because they got their gestures, movements, poses, everything off to a tee. There’s only one Robert Plant, there’s no doubt, but Billy Kulke did fantastically well interpreting the vast repertoire of vocalizations that Robert Plant emitted at his best and as the show progressed he got better and better, superbly so during Since I’ve Been Loving You. Andy Gray’s fingers flew while performing some of the most technically demanding guitar numbers ever composed and during his showpiece, Dazed and Confused, extracted a more melodious sound than Jimmy Page while playing the guitar with a violin bow, the strings of which were visibly worn when he waved it to show the audience on completion of that segment of the song. Credit where credit is due – Andy Gray merits bearing the Zoso logo on his amplifier. Steve Turner handled the bass and keyboards with great skill and when at one point when his guitar became unplugged, he swiftly transferred to the keyboards to continue with identical bass notes on that instrument – the mark of a true professional and he received an ovation when the song was completed. Benjy Reid with his flailing blond hair and arms was simply spectacular, a drum machine, and he played the drums with the same consummate skill, force and precision just as Bonzo once did.
After Heartbreaker, Billy said, ‘¡Hola Madrid!’ and the audience responded with an ovation of approval. He spoke correct Spanish while introducing the songs, reverting to English from time to time, notably while introducing Stairway to Heaven, ”I think this is a song of hope.” I looked around to see that everyone was in a state of rapture and were singing along, not only to the marvelous ‘live’ version of this particular classic but all the other songs too. The line, ”Does anybody remember laughter?” received a huge cheer from the public.
Throughout the show, a sense of humour and camaraderie between the band members was very evident with Billy crediting each one individually as the concert progressed. As one marvelous song was played after another I was wishing they would carry on and on but there remained one that I especially wanted to hear and the extended version of Whole Lotta Love was simply sensational. Billy, Andy, Steve and Benjy surpassed themselves in terms of brilliance, entertainment and humour thanks to their improvisation and insertion of some parts of other songs along with Boogie Mama like Sex Machine, Let’s Have A Party and Hello Mary Lou, with Billy referring to Steve as a little boy of forty four being allowed to boogie and in altering the super well known chorus with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he sang: ‘I believe Cristiano Ronaldo knows what I’m talkin’ about when I say — Woman!’ The Real Madrid FC player’s glamourous image wasn’t much appreciated by soccer fans, upon which someone in the audience shouted ‘Messi’ then ‘Iniesta’ (both of FC Barcelona) and Billy, with a huge grin, obligingly including their names in a separate chorus as well. I was doubled up in laughter at this, then of course, he sang, ‘Woman, you need it — LOVE!’ After they completed this classic rock anthem, they bowed and left the stage and a public calling loudly for more. After two hours of brilliantly interpreted Led Zeppelin classics, the encore would have to be something special and the band returned on stage to loud cheers with a storming version of Immigrant Song. The public again sang Oweh Oweh Oweh… which is what Spanish soccer fans chant when their team is dominating the game. Letz Zep didn’t reappear but it certainly was an appropriate chant to end one of the best rock concerts I’ve ever attended.
The set list:
Rock N Roll
What Is And What Should Never Be
Misty Mountain Hop
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Over The Hills And Far Away
Dazed And Confused
Black Mountain Side
Stairway to Heaven
Whole Lotta Love