LIVE AT THE RIVERSIDE THEATER
SATURDAY * DECEMBER 13 * 7PM DOORS | 8PM SHOW
Bridging the gulf between rock n’ roll and classical music, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performs The Music of Led Zeppelin at the Riverside Theater on Saturday, December 13th for the first time since 2011. Amplified by a full rock band and accompanied by singer Randy Jackson’s screaming vocals, creator Brent Havens guest conducts the ensemble as they capture Led Zeppelin’s “sheer blast and power,” riff for riff while churning out new musical colors.
“My concept for The Music of Led Zeppelin was to take the music as close to the originals as we could and then add some colors to enhance what Zep had done,” says Havens. “The wonderful thing with an orchestra is that you have an entire palette to call upon. The band is reproducing what Led Zeppelin did on the albums, verbatim, and then having an orchestra behind the band gives the music a richness, a whole different feel, a whole different sense of power.”
Delivering a note-for-note interpretation, vocalist Randy Jackson (lead singer of the rock band Zebra), shrieks brilliantly, acting as a window between the audience and reworked material. “The music itself is one thing, but Jackson more than captures the spirit of legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant,” says Havens.
Why the music of Led Zeppelin? Havens felt Led Zeppelin’s intricate rhythm patterns and unusual progressions contained within straight-forward rock n’ roll makes them an ideal choice for scoring.
“I was quite impressed with the complexity of the rhythms,” says Havens. “I’ve asked myself if they actually sat down and said, ‘alright we need a three-eight bar here, or we need to go from four-four to seven-eight and back…’ I don’t think so. I think they just banged it out and it worked and it felt good.”
The 2-plus hour concert features 18 Zeppelin tunes, including Stairway to Heaven, Heartbreaker, Black Dog and Immigrant Song.
“On Immigrant Song I have the violins doing that ‘Ah-ah-ah part,’ up an octave from Jackson, and the French Horns are doing it with him in the same register,” says Havens. “Then we have the brass kickin’ in the back, doing the accents. It rips.”
The symphonic rock hybrid has met with approval on both sides of the podium.
“When we first came on stage, the audience gave us polite, almost classical applause,” says Havens. “Then we hit the first note and they realized it was a rock show.”
Classical musicians also enjoy the change of pace; “In one concert, during Stairway to Heaven, the entire string section pulled out Bic lighters!” laughs Havens.
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