It can be expensive to watch coverbands. Take yesterdays appearance at the Harmonie by Physical Graffiti. Great show at the end of which it occurred to me that the only Led Zeppelin I have ever owned was Zep 3, Graffiti itself and the under-rated In through the out door – all on black vinyl and now either getting dusty on a shelf back in Portsmouth or (more likely) jettisoned from my life forever to make space for an extra cd cabinet. One evening of Andrew Elt and co and I’m thinking there are a lot of CD’s I need to buy very soon…
Surveying a veritable armada of foot-pedals it’s clear that Zep’s esteemed guitarman is not easily replaced. Sadly no simple ‘Jimmy Page’ button with a holder on the side for violin bows exists in the music shops yet. I am pleased to see whilst Daniel Verberk tunes up though that he doesn’t just have replicas but is actually using a Les Paul and a double necked Gibson. Eighteen strings to keep in perfect harmony must be a challenge in itself.
Frontman Andew Elt is one of the reasons that I came down here this evening, another being that an Easter weekend lies ahead and a more than heavy working week lays behind. I’m ready to ROCK and Andrew has the necesary tonsilatory fireworks. I know this from a gig some years back in which Elt joined the legendary Walter Trout onstage and indeed Elt is still Walter’s Manager I’m told so please Mr Promoter make enquiries about a return of Walter to Bonn – by all accounts he is back firing on all cylinders following last years close encounter of the Grim Reaper kind.
Back to the five men front of me though. My vote is still not cast regarding coverbands but it must be said that some groups were always better loud and live and listening to an old vinyl record or CD even at max volume isn’t going to get near that experience. Led Zeppelin do not appear to be reforming anytime soon and Physical Graffiti may not be stuffed full of household names but it is stuffed full of excellent musicians. Original member of the band Dave Harrold keeps a solid bass backbeat alongside Jan Gabriel who has the thankless task of recreating powerhouse backing that was always in a league of it’s own – the drums of John Bonham. He rises to the ocasion though and even gets that staple of 70’s Rock sets – a long drum solo. Well executed if not quite John Bonham – but then who is?
An equally thankless task falls to Daniel Verberk in trying to dig into the musical psyche of Jimmy Page. There’s a bank of Fender amps behind him and a huge raft of foot-pedals in front to help, with a stand of Gibson guitars to his left for extra aid, and they do an admirable job too – but in the end it comes down to the Dutchman himself to put them all together. In fact he does this very well indeed, right down to the violin bow assault on one of the said Gibson’s. I take off my heavy metal hat to you Mr Verberk, nice job!
Does anyone remember who played keyboards with Zeppelin? Well this evening it’s Gert Jan Naus and if he gets forgotten behind the more obvious heroes it’s unfair because there is a lot of light and shade to Zeppelin and Naus fills in the areas in between excellently.
Ultimately though any Led Zeppelin tribute stands or falls by it’s ‘Robert Plant’ and in this case Andrew Elt might not go quite as high as the man himself but he does pack a mean vocal range and a volume punch, not to mention the necessary Rockstar swagger of a 70’s musical icon. He certainly manages to breath the necessary life into songs that have, rightfully, remained the same for decades now like ”Whole lotta love’ and of course ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
Feeling a little like John Simm in ‘Life on Mars’ I did what I did back in the ’70s – grabbed a beer at the bar. I notice the man in front is videoing Verberk’s ‘Stairway’ solo but significantly (or so I think anyway) he’s zoomed in only on the guitar, He could get Verberk’s head in the shot too, but it’s the twin guitar neck and the music it’s making that he wants to capture. Much of the show I’d been shooting hair rather than faces, much as my photographic heroes like Mick Rock were confronted with I imagine – Mick Ronson or Rory Gallagher maybe. Perhaps that is also a part of the magic. Behind that hair is the face of Page or of Plant onstage tonight. Ultimately on a night like this the music is King and Physical Graffiti have the ability and passion to recreate it so well that yes, that just might be Robert Plant and co. Maybe not perfect, but certainly more than close enough for Rock ‘n’ Roll.