The Moby Dicks
January 2, 2014
Better than: D'yer Mak'er
On January 2, 1969 — 45 years ago yesterday — a young band out of London played L.A. on their first American tour. Their self-titled debut album had not yet been released, but the buzz around the group was solid, as their ranks included former Yardbirds member Jimmy Page.
That band was Led Zeppelin, of course, and everyone at the Whisky a Go-Go had quite a time. The show has become the stuff of legend, and last night L.A. Zeppelin cover band the Moby Dicks played the entire set, song for song, again at the Whisky.
Was it as amazing as the original Led Zeppelin set? Of course not. But it was still pretty awesome in a number of ways.
The original concert can be seen on Zeppelin's DVD compilation of old show footage. Anyone who has watched that saw a lot of similarities with last night's show: There were dancing groupies, grizzled and tattooed fist-pumping fans, and headbanging. And, of course, there was mic swinging and sweaty, sexual histrionics courtesy of Moby Dicks lead singer Chas West. He, no joke, sounds exactly like Robert Plant and looks like a cross between Plant and David Lee Roth.
Guitarist Brent Woods, as in 1969, played his ax with a violin bow during “Dazed and Confused,” eliciting the same spooky sound effects that once made people think Jimmy Page was into black magic. Drummer Brian Tichy was a total Bonzo-style animal — his drum solos got some of the biggest cheers of the night. Keyboardist Stephen LeBlanc had the same prep school biology teacher look sported by John Paul Jones.
But there was more to the show than impersonations and mimicry. The Moby Dicks really did the thing, revealing themselves as extremely talented musicians who embodied not just the sound and look but the spirit of one of music's most untouchable bands. Not that their showmen bona fides were in question; Tichy was actually playing with Foreigner when they opened for Zeppelin in 2007, and members of the group have performed in outfits including Whitesnake, Megadeth and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience.
Remember: Plant and John Bonham were just 20 years old during the original tour, and this was at the very beginning of Zeppelin's career. So last night's set was heavy in the bluesy rock of their debut, which was released eleven days after the show in '69. They began with the “Train Kept a Rollin,” but the audience truly warmed up during “Can't Quit You Babe” and then “Dazed and Confused.” This was evidenced, as much as anything, by the violent head-banging from the guy in the jean vest.
“I Can't Quit You”, from Zeppelin's Whisky A Go Go show on January 5, 1969
By “The Lemon Song” — when West was hooking his thumbs on his low-slung jeans and singing about squeezing his “lemon” “so hard the juice runs down my leg,” you could even kind of forget that this wasn't an actual Zeppelin performance.
The experience felt less like half-baked nostalgia and more like a celebration of when rock was raw and wild and the Sunset Strip was the center of the musical universe. By the end it barely mattered that it wasn't the real band. It was the closest thing we'll probably ever get to an actual Zeppelin concert, and we head-banged to “Communication Breakdown” until our neck was sore.
“It is not supposed to be sampled and planned and a bunch of bullshit,” West said about rock music at one point. “It's about what it makes you feel in your soul, and down below.”
Personal bias: I think I was the only eight grader at my Catholic grade school with a Zeppelin patch on my backpack
Set list below
Train Kept a Rollin'
I Can't Quit You Babe
Dazed and Confused
As Long As I Have You
The Lemon Song
You Shook Me
How Many More Times
Black Mountain Side
The Song Remains the Same
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