Fred Zeppelin at the Marrs Bar, Worcester – Friday 29th April 2022
The Throng Remains The Same
There’s a place for tribute bands – and then there’s a place for Fred Zeppelin
Eleven hundred and ninety-two: that’s how many times Steve Gale has fronted these almost three-decades-young West Midlands blues-rock-metal emulators.
See them live for yourself and you will understand why Jimmy Page has engaged them for events, and why, reputedly, the real Robert Plant occasionally shows up at their appearances.
Rumoured to be the first UK music mimic outfit to gross over £1 million, the Fredz’ musicianship, artistry and sheer commitment to the original, combines with an enduring and steadfast refusal to morph into some kind of cheesy lookie-likie act.
While percussion meister Steve Black’s presence is perhaps these days more visually aligned to brooding namesake Strangler Jet, his driving rhythmic couplings with dynamic bassist Mark Cresswell – himself reminiscent of a young Dave Grohl – provide the tone-&-time perfect platform for the studio-standard reproduction and respectful innovation of Elliott Gavin on guitar, along with the uncanny vocal range and frontman presence of Gale.
With an over two-year hiatus since their last Worcester outing, poignantly-titled opening number Your Time Is Going To Come heralds a set list leaning heavily on the original group’s revered Led Zeppelin II collection.
Along with the strictly mandatory ‘Stairway’, supremely carried off by Gavin and the by-then choral crowd, there are nonetheless forays into the more niche corners of the originals’ œuvre with The Ocean, Over The Hills And Far Away, Nobody’s Fault and supposedly “second division song” When The Levee Breaks.
The audience, lively throughout, really get into it for reprises of Black Dog, Heartbreaker, Livin’ Lovin’ Maid, Kashmir, What Is And What Should Never Be, Ramble On and a brilliantly creative James-Brown-influenced riff on the classic Whole Lotta Love, these numbers causing the physical graffiti on the floor to become so reminiscent of an IDLES mosh that Gale has to appeal for a modicum of decorum in the interests of everyone going home in one piece.
With the exception of some musically-enlightened twenty-somethings and a responsible-adult-accompanied 14 year-old wannabe bassist, it’s a Led-loyal following in the main at the Marrs Bar this time around.
But – and this is the thing – this tight, enthusiastic and accessible band truly offer a much broader night of live musical excitement that should be attracting far beyond core Zeppelin devotees.
Post pandemic, Fred Zepp are truly back on the road and playing a West Midlands venue near you soon.
If you’ve not been yet, get out there and see them, hear them, feel them.
For now though the throng remains the same.
By: Dai Morris