It’s too late to see Led Zeppelin live in concert, but a Los Angeles-based tribute band might just be the closest thing.
Led ZepAgain has been touring and playing the legendary band’s music for two decades to sold-out venues, and they’re coming to Mission Oct. 8.
Swan Montgomery, who appears as vocalist Robert Plant, has been there since the beginning, and the current band has been together for 10 years.
Originally from Ireland, Montgomery moved to Los Angeles in 1991 on a record deal that ended up falling through. As he was mulling over moving back home, he was offered a job singing in a Led Zeppelin tribute band. At the time there was only one other successful tribute band playing The Doors, so he decided to give it a shot.
“I found out that I could carve out a little career by doing a tribute band and travelling and having a blast,” says Montgomery by telephone from his California home.
Montgomery says he was a Zeppelin fan since childhood when he bought a vinyl album in 1969, but never dreamed he would one day end up taking on the role of Robert Plant.
He says he always admired Zeppelin, but it wasn’t until he had to actually sit down and study the band — the singing, the bass line and guitar riffs — that he really appreciated the music’s intricacy and the dedication required to play it.
In January 2004, the band was playing at Hollywood’s House of Blues, and Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page happened to be in attendance. After the show he met the band in the dressing room backstage and that led to an invitation to see the O2 reunion of Zeppelin in London in 2007. It was the first full-length concert since the passing of drummer John Bonham 17 years before.
Montgomery said Bonham’s son Jason, who played at the O2 reunion, later joined ZepAgain on drums for one show, a real treat for the band.
Although the way they play the music will be familiar to Zeppelin fans, Montgomery says it’s not simply a matter of mimicking the band note for note.
“You have to try to portray the music as people are used to hearing it,” he says. “But, you also have to allow for some room to be yourself. We also bring our own little character.”
Sometimes the imitation is a little too good. Although Montgomery says he’s quick to tell people he’s not actually Robert Plant, years ago while on tour in Mexico the band was mistaken by a crowd for the real deal who wouldn’t believe the denials.
“They were so persistent that — and maybe I shouldn’t have done it — just for the hell of it I said, fine, Robert Plant,” he says laughing. “Just to make them happy.”
ZepAgain tries to blend modern concert entertainment with the classic Zeppelin performances, but they also do a lot of conceptual shows based on showing the band from different eras. Sometimes they’ll play ’79 in Knebworth, or ’73 at Madison Square Garden, or the classic ’69 Royal Albert Hall concert.
Montgomery says a lot of people go out to see ZepAgain to tap into memories they remember from live shows when Zeppelin was touring.
“I think when you can touch people’s hearts and emotions by doing something that you love, it’s so rewarding to watch people relive a moment.”
Although they’ve been to Vancouver before, this will be the first trip to Mission for the band that has been as far afield as Kosovo and Peru.
Led ZepAgain plays Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Clarke Theatre in Mission. Tickets are $25 in advance, and available by calling Ticketmaster at 1-885-985-500 or online www.ticketmaster.ca.