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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

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In Music

Get The Led Out brings the studio recordings of Led Zeppelin to life.

Get The Led Out: Not your typical tribute band


It's been well over 30 years since the original Led Zeppelin took to the concert stage – something fewer and fewer fans can say they experienced firsthand.

Sure, there are acts from the same era that are still out there doing their best to deliver the goods – but with wildly varying degrees of success.

Enter the professional tribute band.

There are hundreds of talented musicians touring the country offering live concert experiences for fans of bands that no longer exist or no longer tour. From Abba, Pink Floyd and Queen to Genesis and KISS, many of these tribute bands have earned respect by providing high-quality live experiences that draw large crowds from existing fan bases and from younger fans who never had the opportunity to see the original bands in their heydays.

Bombastic and epic, while at the same time folky, bluesy and mind-bendingly mystical, the recorded music of Led Zeppelin has become the '70s iteration of classical music. More than a tribute band, Get The Led Out has been working to capture the essence of Zeppelin's catalog and bring it to the live stage for the past decade.

The group plays at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Many tribute acts not only do their best to sound like the band – they work to look just like the band they are paying tribute to. Not so with GTLO. Vocalist Paul Sinclair says that distinction helps separate them from many of the other Led Zeppelin tributes.

"I was never interested in doing the 'impersonator' thing – dressing up to look like Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones," said Sinclair. "We're paying tribute to Zeppelin but we're not a 'look-alike' band by any means. I love the music of Led Zeppelin, but I don't want to be Robert Plant. I'm a fan of this music, I love it like you do and I'm going to do my damnedest to sing it so people that come to see us are happy with what we're doing."

The Philadelphia-based group consists of six accomplished musicians intent on delivering Led Zeppelin's studio recordings with (literally) all the bells and whistles. Utilizing the multi-instrumentalists at their disposal, GTLO re-create classic Zeppelin songs in all their depth and glory – including layers of studio overdubs that Zeppelin themselves never performed live.

GTLO's approach to their performance of this hallowed catalog is not unlike a classical performance.

"Led Zeppelin are sort of the classical composers of the rock era," says Sinclair. "I believe 100 years from now they will be looked at as the Bach or Beethoven of our time. As cliche as it sounds, their music is timeless.

"There are a lot of other Zeppelin tribute bands out there and God bless 'em all, because we're all playing Led Zeppelin and I don't begrudge anyone from making a living playing this great music. But, the difference is they're all doing versions of the songs that are based on the live performances. Our goal – and there are just a few exceptions – is to re-create these songs to make it sound as close to the original recordings as possible. That's what I want to hear on stage and I get goose bumps when I hear all the cool little things that we can do to make it sound as close as possible."

With such a large and popular catalog of songs to choose from, Sinclair says it's a challenge for GTLO to meet expectations of the wide variety of Led Zeppelin fans.

"Zeppelin has an 80-song catalog. We can squeeze 20 of those in our two-plus-hour show. So even when we play 'Immigrant Song' and 'Misty Mountain Hop,' people say, 'Hey, they didn't play "Trampled Under Foot,"' or 'They didn't play "In My Time of Dying" or "'Rock and Roll."' There's no way that we could play every song that fans love, which keeps it interesting for us because we have so much to choose from. We can alter the set list from night to night to keep it fresh and enjoyable for us as well as the audience."

Of course GTLO gets big audience responses to the most well-known Zeppelin songs like "Dazed and Confused" and "Moby Dick" but Sinclair and the band like to throw in a few deep cuts, as well, like "The Battle of Evermore," with vocalist Diana DeSantos performing the Sandy Denny parts.

"A song like 'Down By The Seaside' – we know it's not going to be known by the majority of the audience and will never get the same reaction as 'Kashmir' will get – but we think it's important to do it, because there are so many people who are hardcore fans who are looking for those deeper cuts. We try to balance it by adding a few of the lesser-known songs along with the monsters that everyone knows."

Sinclair says that pacing of the show is critical – staging the show to maximize emotional peaks and valleys to give people a great concert experience.

"I'm a concert-going fan – a concert-going music lover – and I know what I want to get out of a concert experience. I don't want to disappoint myself or any of the people who come, and I can assure people that if they come to see us in Milwaukee on Saturday, they definitely won't be disappointed."


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