They might not have Robert Plant’s flowing golden locks or Jimmy Page’s signature "windmill" guitar moves, but Milwaukee band No Quarter, formed in 1998, brings Led Zeppelin’s music to fans with an intensity and passion.
Named after the mellotron-heavy single from Led Zeppelin’s 1973 "Houses of the Holy" album, No Quarter celebrates two decades as a band this year, while Led Zeppelin hits a half-century of widely-influential blues-rock and psychedelic-tinged music that's thought to be the predecessor to heavy metal.
Recorded in October 1968, released in the United States in January 1969 and named for a joke told by The Who’s Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin and its self-titled debut album rocked audiences everywhere with hits such as "Dazed and Confused," "Communication Breakdown" and "Good Times Bad Times."
On Friday, April 13 at Shank Hall, No Quarter honored this album and others, including 1969’s "Zeppelin II," 1973’s "Houses of the Holy" and 1975’s opus, the double-sided "Physical Graffiti."
Tireless, the band treated fans for almost two and a half hours, taking a 20-minute break in the middle of the show. Affable and engaged with the audience, No Quarter’s style is more t-shirts-and-jeans than velour jumpsuits appliqued with stars. Although No Quarter played the packed venue on unluckiest day of the year, fortunate Zeppelin fans got to hear some lesser-played gems, such as the Middle Eastern-influenced "Friends," the B-side "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do," and the clap-along and folky "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp." They also played nearly all of "Led Zeppelin III" – including "Celebration Day," this OnMilwaukee writer’s favorite.
The crowd was very responsive, dancing, playing air guitar and headbanging while throwing up devil horns. Some, especially those in the front row, appeared to be No Quarter show regulars.
Chuck Cherney (vocals, harmonica, keyboard), Michael Brandenburg (guitar), Matt Miller (bass) and Dave Shoepke (drums) rolled through the songs with ease. Cherney’s powerful vocals were perfectly suited to belt out Zeppelin standards such as "Black Dog" and "Kashmir." Robert Plant would be proud.
On songs with a keyboard part traditionally played by Zeppelin multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, such as "Trampled Under Foot," Cherney seamlessly played a Yamaha and sometimes a Hammond portable organ while simultaneously singing. He also wailed on the harmonica on the blues dirge "When the Levee Breaks."
Guitarist Brandenburg’s chops were ever-present, but especially shown through during the solo in the blues jam "Since I’ve Been Loving You" and in the 1968 doom-laden "Dazed and Confused," when he played a few chords with a violin bow, a la Jimmy Page. He also pulled out an acoustic for a few songs, such as the rollicking "Over the Hills and Far Away."
Bass player Matt Miller and drummer Dave Schoepke excelled as the band’s rhythm section, keeping the audience bobbing their heads and air-drumming. Miller and Shoepke’s talents were particularly evident in the heavy-hitting opener, "We’re Gonna Groove," the "Zeppelin III" jam "Out On the Tiles," and hits such as "Black Dog" and "Dazed and Confused." Schoepke didn’t miss a note with John Bonham’s complicated drum beats while Miller got in the groove with John Paul’s Jones’ baselines, integral to the band.
Towards the end of the show, Cherney thanked the audience – a healthy mix of all ages from millennials (some who attended the show with their parents) to baby boomers – for their support. He introduced the band, referring to Brandenburg as "the hardest working guy in Milwaukee" due to all of the guitar-tunings he had to make to sound like Jimmy Page.
No Quarter ended with the anthemic "The Ocean," but came out for an encore and performed one song off Zeppelin's underrated 1976 album, "Presence": the hard-rocking, bluesy "Nobody’s Fault But Mine."
And for Led Zeppelin fans who missed the Shank Hall show? Cherney announced No Quarter will be playing the opening night of Summerfest on Wednesday, June 27 – a great opportunity to see the music of possibly the best rock 'n' roll group of all time played live by a very talented local band.