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LIVE: ARC (The Australian Rock Collective) performing Led Zeppelin IV – Perth, 30 June 2024

| 1 July 2024 | Reply

LIVE: ARC (The Australian Rock Collective) performing Led Zeppelin IV – Perth, 30 June 2024
Perth Concert Hall
Review & Photography by Pete Gardner

The Australian Rock collective (ARC) are the definition of bold, once again hitting the road for their fifth outing, this time tackling one of the biggest albums of all time – the mighty Led Zeppelin IV. The 16 date National tour finished its run tonight in the superb surroundings of the Perth Concert Hall.

Following on from last year’s Dark Side Of The Moon, and having previously tackled Neil Young’s Harvest, and the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be, Led Zep IV is yet another big feather in the cap of the Aus Rock supergroup.

The ARC are Darren Middleton, guitarist and creative driving force behind Powderfinger, the mighty Kram of Spiderbait (usually) on drums, You Am I’s Davy Lane sharing lead guitar duties and Mark Wilson of Jet once again showing his mighty bass chops. Joined on Stage by You Am I touring keyboard player James Fleming and Pete Marin taking on the majority of the drumming as Kram spent most of the show front and centre.

To be honest, to do the necessary respect and justice to these iconic albums requires this much talent on stage. These albums are the soundtrack to our lives, and the ones we know note for note, and for any rock fan, Led Zep IV is the top of this pile. So it was with great curiosity I entered the concert hall tonight wondering how Robert Plant’s open throated falsetto, and Jimmy Page’s flowing, loose, riff-driven guitar sound would be recreated.

The answer came immediately as the lights went down, as the one-two punch of the opening bars of Black Dog hit the auditorium, Kram belting out the opening vocal and Davy Lane and Darren Middleton hitting that unmistakable riff, without taking a breather Marin attacked the kit as the band fly into Rock and Roll, Kram nailing the vocal and Davy Lane jumping around the stage obviously thoroughly enjoying himself.

The Battle of Evermore followed, possibly the most divisive track on the album for many people, and in my humble opinion, this was the weakest moment of the night. Personally, I love this song, partly because I am such a huge fan of Sandy Denny – she was the greatest folk voice of her generation and her tragic death in 1978 was an enormous loss to the world of music. For most people she is only known for this song, so if you are not familiar with her work, go and seek her out, especially the 1972 album Sandy, or her early career with Fairport Convention, you will not be disappointed, but I digress.

Davy Lane was brilliant on the mandolin and lead vocal, and I was almost hoping they would bring out a guest singer for the Denny vocal, as they did for Great Gig In The Sky on the Dark Side Of The Moon tour last year. Kram singing Denny’s vocal just didn’t hit the spot for me. This was the only wrinkle of the night.

There is nothing I can write about Stairway to Heaven that hasn’t already been written. If the audience know a song note for note it is this – every word, every riff, every nuance of the guitar solo – suffice to say the most anticipated track of the night was just fantastic.

Middleton on acoustic guitar played the all too familiar intro, and singing the opening verses, with Lane picking up the baton as the song lifts the tempo. Lane again nailed the solo, with only a little bit of improvisation thrown in. Kram hit centre stage again for the crescendo of the song, hitting the high vocal effortlessly, and bringing the normally reserved Perth audience to its feet in applause.

With the crowd now thoroughly warmed up, Misty Mountain Hop was thoroughly enjoyable with Kram back on the kit playing and singing, whist Lane and Middleton share vocals and lead guitar, Davy Lane again dancing around the stage having a whale of a time.

Legend has it that when recording Four Sticks in the studio, the song wasn’t working for the band, until Bonham picked up two sticks in each hand. This problem was overcome tonight with Kram and Marin both beating the hell out the kit, in a duet, recreating that relentless freight train thundering down the tracks straight at you. This was the only time Krams vocal seemed a little strained as he bent awkwardly over the kit to reach the microphone.

Going to California in contrast was sublime, and beautifully stripped down. The stage emptied except for Lane, Middleton and Kram, Davy Lane taking lead with an extended mandolin intro, and changing up the lyrics to “Coming back to Perth” which raised a big cheer from the crowd.

A quick round of band intros followed from a slightly emotional Kram. Being the last night of the tour, he gave special and well deserved thanks to the crew.

When the Levee Breaks finished the first set, bringing the freight train back into the room, Middleton’s harmonica and Lane’s slide guitar lifting the entire song to another level altogether, as it thundered to its conclusion to a huge roar from the crowd.

As is normal with ARC, a greatest hits set followed the intermission. Whole Lotta Love proved the mettle and quality of the Perth Concert Hall sound system, surprisingly not shaking the speakers loose from their mountings, with Middleton wringing strange otherworldly sounds from his tortured instrument.

The next hour brought such a barrage of hit after hit, it’s hard to pick the standout moments, but Middleton’s solo version of Babe I’m Gonna Leave You was absolutely beautiful. Marin’s Drum break in Good Times Bad Times would have done Bonham proud, and you could feel the Hammer of the Gods during Immigrant Song as Kram’s vocals just seemed to be getting better and better as the night progressed, with the crowd head banging along in their seats! (Why don’t Perth crowds like standing up?)

Ramble On allowed Wilson a moment in the spotlight with its driving lead bass line, Kashmir was just 10 minutes of pure joy, giving Fleming his moment to shine on keys, and The Ocean gave Lane and Middleton room to explore their instruments to emulate Page’s layered guitar sounds and let the Zeppelin freight train to finally catch up with us and ram its way through the Concert Hall.

The band returned to a cheering crowd as we buckled up for a 15-minute psychedelic encore. Wilson’s bass intro led into a no holds barred Dazed and Confused which was every bit the trip you would expect. As the last hurrah of the tour, there was no holding back, with Middleton deserving to be up on charges for instrument abuse, beating the strings with a violin bow, before Middleton and Lane finally drove the train off the rails, crashing thorough the auditorium with a dual guitar crescendo. Kram span like a top in the middle of the stage, before smashing hell out of the gong behind the kit bringing the crowd properly to its feet at last!

With final farewells Kram promised the ARC will be back next year with an as yet secret project. We can only guess what that will be in anticipation.

What made tonight special was firstly just the sheer skill and talent of the musicians on stage, but also the interpretation of the songs. Zeppelin haven’t played since the last reunion in 2007, with Jason Bonham standing in for his dad, and it is highly unlikely we will see them play together again. But classic music will always survive. In the same way we will never see Mozart, Vivaldi, or Beethoven play, their music is still performed in concert halls across the world. This is now how it is with the classics of our era. As bands pass into history, we are left with a legacy of amazing music to be played and reinterpreted in the coming decades. May ARC (and all the other bands out there keeping this music alive) continue doing so for years to come.


Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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