ALBANY — For so many, myself included, the music of British classic rock powerhouse Led Zeppelin is intertwined with numerous memories. Since drummer John Bonham died in 1980, it is no longer possible to see all four original band members perform live. So, when I hear that a Zeppelin tribute band is coming to town, it catches my attention, as it is the closest millions of other fans and I will ever come to seeing them in the flesh.
That’s probably why nearly 1,000 people, most of whom were age 40 and older, packed the Hart Theater at The Egg the night of January 16 for a performance by Hammer of the Gods. Billing itself as the “ultimate Led Zeppelin experience,” the band promises an authentic recreation of a live show from the early 1970s.
Even before the concert began, it was evident that the band knows its target audience member: earplugs were among the items for sale.
When the house lights finally dimmed, images of a zeppelin appeared on a screen behind the drum set, while a narrator provided a brief history of the legendary band. Hammer of the Gods took the stage and launched into “Achilles Last Stand.”
For the next two hours, as various patterns danced around the screen, Tom (lead vocalist), Paul (lead guitarist), Phil (bassist and keyboardist) and Jay (drummer) rocked and rolled their way through the iconic band’s discography, performing studio-like versions of 15 well-known tunes, including “Black Dog,” “Kashmir,” and “Fool in the Rain.”
However, for three of Zeppelin’s all-time classics, “Moby Dick,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love,” the band’s four members opted to perform versions resembling those found on The Soundtrack from the film “The Song Remains the Same,” released in 1976.
When the members of Hammer of the Gods take a swing at any Zeppelin song, they don’t miss. Tom looks and sounds just like Robert Plant, especially when he’s adding rhythmic vocals (think the ah-ahs in “Black Dog” and the moans from “Whole Lotta Love.”) Same holds true for Paul, who on stage is a dead-ringer for Jimmy Page in his younger years.
Out of the 18 songs they played, “Moby Dick” stood out from the rest. As images of Bonzo flashed on the screen, his spirit possessed Gods’ drummer Jay, who pounded out each and every beat of the extended drum solo to the delight of the audience, who recognized his efforts with a standing ovation.
Hammer of the Gods also honored the late David Bowie, who’d died earlier in the week with its cover of “Rebel, Rebel.”
When Hammer of the Gods does “Ramble On” back into town, both casual and die-hard Led Zeppelin fans should get tickets and go.