Wednesday 22nd July 2015
The Orchard Theatre, Dartford
I wasn't sure what to expect when AJ kindly bribed me with a free ticket to this gig at the Orchard. I am not a massive fan of tribute bands although we have had some very good ones at the last few Wrinklystock’s I must admit.. The Beatlez, Bon Giovi and of course the brilliant Bohemians from last year's gig spring to mind.. Then of course I suddenly remembered that Purple Zeppelin had run away with the WRC tribute band award in 2012. So I thought they would be pretty good..And I wasn't wrong in the slightest..
This ambitious outfit of one band taking both roles is the brainchild of guitarist Mark Dawson. A dedicated fan of classic rock and a fine musician himself, Mark and his fellow band members recreate the music they love with great care and dedication. And they feel rewarded when audiences, equally familiar with the sounds of the Seventies, respond with cheers and applause. Maybe not quite up the ovation Zeppelin received in their last appearance at their one-off reunion at the 02 Arena in December 2007, but the locals were pretty damned impressed at a pretty much full The Orchard Theatre.
In their first incarnation as Deep Purple, the band launched into 'Highway Star' a Purple favourite sparked by furious drumming from Alex wearing an Ian Paice style headscarf. The Blackmore inspired lead guitar work from Mark and Gillan-esque vocals from John Barnett were equally convincing. I also thought the witty banter from John was very entertaining throughout with Mark desperate to play a bit of Blackmore's Night on his lute at various points with his moody Ritchie face on....Most amusing... John's description of former Purple lead singer David Coverdale as the "Dick Emery of Rock" will live with me forever!!! The boys seemed very happy to be back in their home county for sure...
For Purple Mk II fans, this is as close as you can get to the Blackmore era.. The band - though hugely talented - are self-effacing thanking the audience for taking the trouble to attend. All the Purple favourites were there of course 'Strange Kind Of Woman', ‘Black Night', Hush’, ‘Child in Time’, ‘Woman from Tokyo’ and of course ‘Smoke on The Water’.
Wrinkly The Silver (Dave Lock)
To put my WRC cards well and truly on the table - the Zeppelin part of Purple Zeppelin was the bit I was looking forward to most - but hey after the Purple set, PZ had set the bar extremely high. A change of garb set the scene with Alex’s headscarf now the mandatory Bonham bowler hat and Mark in the trademark Page combination of Rose Jacket/Dragon Pants plus double-neck guitar. But as well being keen followers of fashion the guys also followed their Purple set with a mean opening rendition of ‘Celebration Day’ of off LZ3 - given more prominence in recent years as the film title of their last gig in 2007 just up the road at the O2 Arena. John’s wail and Mark’s repeating staccato riff kept us again in LZ3 territory with ‘Immigrant Song’ whilst regressing back to LZ2, the iconic aggressive opening riff of 'Heartbreaker' was more than complemented by Mike’s bass playing power chords. Most possibly the best side of an LP ever made (showing my age here) - yes the second track of side two of ‘Physical Graffiti’ - ‘Trampled Underfoot’ - followed, and hit the mark despite the absence of JPJ’s keys, as did another PG track ‘The Wanton Song’ although not one of that holy trinity.
Alex then took a well-deserved break as the guys gathered right at the front of the stage for a mesmerising acoustic rendition of ‘Going To California’. You could hear a pin drop – and an opportunity for Mike to come to the fore showcasing his mandolin expertise. We were now finally in LZ4 territory but not before we dipped back into ‘Physical Graffiti' with the second of the holy trinity and the classic ‘Kashmir’ which allowed the banter to continue as John took a pop at the X-Factor and One Direction for obvious reasons! Now it was bow time – yes ‘How Many More Times’ from their very first album with its classic cool intro gave Mark the opportunity to strut his stuff in an illuminated bow solo! And just to prove that they were taking things seriously, Alex then had a strop over some technical problems - cue ‘Dazed and Confused’ – with John in his element in this Plant signature track from LZ1. Iconic. It was back to LZ2 next with ‘Ramble On’ before an abridged ‘Stairway’ (of course from LZ4) as it was appropriately named on the playlist.
I suppose it goes with the territory that given Zeppelin’s strength in back-catalogue that medley’s will have to suffice with PZ – particularly as they have to cover Purple’s discography as well! The PG combination of ‘The Rover’ and ‘Sick Again’ failed to complete the holy trinity i.e. no ‘Houses Of The Holy’ but again fair play to the guys for keeping off the tried and tested beaten track as both tracks sounded as fresh as they did in ‘75. Must dig that album out again! And finally sandwiched in between the classic ‘Whole Lotta Love’ from LZ2 was ‘Achilles Last Stand’ the only track covered off of ‘Presence’ but a staple on Zep’s tours in the 70’s. Anyway, this was the third time I had seen PZ but the first time I had seen them in a theatre where the atmosphere was a lot more intimate, giving the band an opportunity to build a relationship with the seated audience and to get everyone involved (and singing!). The case was proven as the Orchard crowd demanded more and they were duly blown away with an encore of ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ and the ultimate LZ4 double-header of Black Dog (see John’s selfie stick here) and Rock and Roll with a brilliant Cozy Powell slant from Alex. On this evidence – two giants of Rock for the price of one - long live Rock and Roll!