Most rock’n’roll fans would agree that there ain’t nothing like a good live show. We can sit and pontificate about the illuminating merits of classic records, but a properly exciting live performance trumps all else. However, as the wheels of time keep turning, an increasing number of killer bands will retire from the live arena. Led Zeppelin are one such example. While three of the band’s original members are still alive, they’ve adamantly refused to reform. Laudable as this is, it means generations of Zepophiles will never get to witness them at full strength.
This is something Sydney musician Joseph Calderazzo simply couldn’t tolerate, so back in 2003 he conceived the Whole Lotta Love concert. Over the past 12 years, Calderazzo has led an impressive ensemble of musicians in an annual night of Zeppelin celebration. Whole Lotta Love returns this September, with a lineup featuring vocalists Jeff Martin, Sarah McLeod, Dallas Frasca, Frank Lakoudis and Simon Meli of Sydney band The Widowbirds.
This is Meli’s sixth year taking part in the onstage Zeppelin worship, and he’s pretty chuffed to be involved. “It’s Led Zeppelin the loudest that you’ll ever hear it, with guys playing it with as much gusto and passion as you would expect from the real thing,” he says. “The State Theatre is no small little pub, so there’s volume, there’s ambience, there’s the architecture, there’s a big lineup of people and they’re all pouring out huge passion for the band. Joseph only gets people involved if they really love Led Zeppelin, otherwise it doesn’t translate. So you’ve got all those people combined walking out onstage year after year and every song is dynamite.”
It only takes a quick listen to The Widowbirds to recognise that Led Zeppelin have played a major role in Meli’s musical development. “Led Zeppelin did shape the way The Widowbirds sound,” he agrees. “It’s OK to say, ‘Yes, we did walk down that trial-and-error path of trying to sound like them,’ but I think we are sounding more like ourselves nowadays. But we do fly the flag for what they did represent.”
As well as making reference to the legendary British rockers when shaping the sound of The Widowbirds, Meli developed his singing personality with a little help from Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. “When we’re younger vocalists and we’re trying to find out what our strengths and weaknesses are, we do go through emulation of singers that we just fall in love with,” he says. “We want to recreate what magic we’re feeling from them, just through trial and error, working out what style works for you – and for me, it does lend itself exactly down the Robert Plant path.”
This puts Meli in the perfect position to relive a handful of Zeppelin originals at Whole Lotta Love. Over the past six years, he’s developed a method for respectfully interpreting Plant’s distinct style.
“Being a really massive fan of [Led Zeppelin], I want to give the audience what they reminisce or what they see in pictures and stuff online or in old clips. But I am not Robert Plant, so there will be definitely an element of me that will make it not Robert Plant. When I walk out there onstage, I do what comes natural, and some of it’s probably inherent from the things that I watched in their old clips onstage. But it’s not a deliberate thing where I’m putting on a wig and I’m wearing a denim cut-off vest and I’m packing a foiled cucumber in my pants. It is me giving them my best representation of someone who’s a fucking legend.”
Whole Lotta Love photo © Russell Cherry
Pay homage to Led Zeppelin at Whole Lotta Love taking place at the State Theatre on Saturday September 5, and Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford on Friday August 28 and Saturday August 29. – See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/whole-lotta-love-0#sthash.ZvbWpadc.dpuf