RAW Magazine: August, 1990
By Malcolm Dome
NEW LONDON on a Saturday night resembles a pool of blood, a passage of vomit and a somnabulance of alcohol. The streets are the domain of bikers and those who seek methylated oblivion. Hardly the place for Dread Zeppelin to play their unique, unbridled wares. But then that's the beauty of these Zeppos, they'll go wherever there's a crowd to be converted.
Tonight, the club is respectably full, mainly it seems of college types (scrubbed skins, sandblasted attitudes). A suitcase full of vocalist Tortelvis' acoutrements has been left behind at the previous show. Chaos lays an inky fingertip on the band's shoulders. But true to the tireless spirit that seems to ooze from their every pore the sextet are not in the least phased by this seemingly disastrous loss. Indeed, their performance was nothing short of stunning, striking the perfect balance between hard-gnarled musicianship, affectionate pastiche, vibrant theatre and gift-wrapped Rock star parodies.
In all honesty, this is a band who leave Spinal Tap and Bad News cleaning out the bathrooms, because firstly they have fabulous material to work with (who can argue about the Zeppelin back-catalogue?!), secondly they can play their instruments and thirdly, they actually understand the mechanics of Rock 'n' Roll. Thus this show works on all levels. Of course, there are the songs, mostly called forth from Led Zep and turned into the Reggae idiom, proferring some surprises along the way. You'll go a long way to hear a more stunning version of 'Stairway To Heaven' than is offered up herein. And as for 'Black Dog', the Dreads don't go for the clone approach, but rather give it a swift crooner sheen in the Las Vegas cabaret style...It works, believe me!
The rest of the material primarily follows the lines of the band's debut album, 'Un-Led-Ed', with the proviso that despite a rather poor sound, songs such as 'Immigrant Song', 'Heartbreaker Hotel' and 'Whole Lotta Love' kick holes onstage.
But that's just part of the story. There's also the Dread Zep sense of humour and parody. Witness Tortelvis taking over the drum kit for the climax to 'Black Dog' as a solitary, naked light bulb acts as a spotlight on the vocalist! Witness the synchronised guitar choreography of the Dread frontline -- replete with Torty baby using a towel as a mock axe! Witness Carl Jah's excuriating send-up of the typical solo histrionics. Witness Tortelvis not merely imitating a certain Rock 'n' Roll idol, but going beyond with a supreme portrayal that Russ Abbott would be hard put to stop. Torty plays the Las Vegas Lounge Lizard King to the hilt, complete with an onstage servant, there to mop his brow, comb back those black locks and provide refreshment where necessary.
In theory it all sounds haphazard, perhaps too adventurous. But put on the boards it's magnificent entertainment. If GWAR hold dear the dank soul of Gore director Herschell Gordon Lewis, then Dread Zeppelin are definitely cast in the mould of The Three Stooges.
Rock 'n' Roll needs the occasional irreverent chuckle. Dread Zeppelin are the musical feather to tickle your fancy.
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