If the goal of symphony shows like "The Music of Led Zeppelin" is to introduce non-classical communities to their symphony orchestras, Friday night's performance at The Fox was a resounding success.
Brent Havens, the guest conductor for the evening and creator of the Zeppelin show, told me that was the original inspiration
for his creating symphonic arrangements of the hard-rock band's catalog. I would guess after witnessing the raucous show in Spokane that most of the folks in the audience — myself included — were far more familiar with the works of Page and Plant than they are Rachmaninoff or Beethoven.
The bombastic versions of Zeppelin radio staples and deeper cuts inspired repeated standing ovations throughout the 18-song, two-set show, and more than few cellphones were out recording and taking pictures as the Spokane Symphony and five-piece visiting rock band out front tore into songs like the opening one-two punch of "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Ramble On."
Havens was an enthusiastic and entertaining conductor, goading well-deserved applause for the symphony and for his traveling players — particularly stellar lead guitarist George Cintron and strutting electric violin player Renee Izzi.
Possibly the most enjoyable aspect was watching the symphony's players respond to the audience's enthusiasm. When the crowd took over vocals from lead singer Randy Jackson on tunes like "Immigrant Song" and the show-closing "Stairway to Heaven," or erupted into another standing ovation, the smiles on many symphony members' faces were abundant.
A show like "The Music of Led Zeppelin" really relies on the qualities of the lead singer out in front of the symphony, and in Jackson this group has a fine one. I wasn't expecting a Robert Plant clone, and Jackson certainly wasn't that, bringing his own considerable vocal chops to the songs. There's clearly a reason he's been fronting this touring crew for more than 20 years.
Among the highlights were "Black Dog," thanks to solos from Cintron and Izzi, and "The Ocean," as well as "Dancing Days," "Heartbreaker" and a faithfully expansive "Whole Lotta Love." Jackson pulled out an acoustic for a medley of "Going to California"/"Thank You"/"Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" that inspired cellphone flashlights hoisted in the air in the audience, taking the place of the lighters of the '70s.