Fans of all ages crowded the doors of the historic Tennessee Theatre this past Thursday to see Black Jacket Symphony perform “Led Zeppelin IV,” one of rock and roll’s most celebrated albums.
Intent on precise recreation, the band uses period-specific instruments and pays extreme attention to detail to bring new life to many iconic albums such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors,” Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon“ and many others. The group is comprised of over a hundred hand-picked members that are chosen based on the demands of the album they are recreating.
Before the performance, The Beacon got to sit down with musicians Mark Lanter and Jon Campbell to speak about performing Led Zeppelin and how the group influenced them as artists. In the crowded greenroom, shots of whiskey were poured by the band’s manager and producer, Jason Rogoff.
“It’s like a prayer,” Lanter said. “It’s meditation. It’s scary!”
A career performer and educator, Mark Lanter splits his time between playing on the road and teaching jazz studies at the University of Alabama. The drummer for BJS, he grew up with John Bonham in his ear. He remembers the first time he heard Led Zeppelin, “I was in the back of a station wagon on my way to little league practice and they were playing on the radio. I remember my mom turning the radio down and I reached over the back seat to turn it up!”
Jon Campbell, the vocalist for BJS’s Led Zeppelin tribute, also first experienced Zeppelin in the back of a station wagon. “I thought, if I can sing like Robert Plant, I can sing any rock and roll music.”
The group played two sets, the first being “Led Zeppelin IV” in its entirety. The highlights from this set included the band’s sacred magnum opus, “Stairway to Heaven,” “When the Levee Breaks” and the album’s heartbreaking acoustic ballad “Goin’ to California.” Campbell’s vocal talent was obvious from the first note to the last, all the while bearing striking resemblance to Led Zeppelin frontman, Robert Plant.
The crowd, filled with Zeppelin and BJS fans alike, ended the set on their feet.
After a brief intermission, the group was back to play a selection of Zeppelin hits that spanned their 13 year discography. The crowd especially enjoyed “Ramble On,” “Immigrant Song” and “Dazed and Confused” -- complete with a violin bow guitar solo a la Jimmy Page.
A personal favorite was “Moby Dick,” which features a three minute drum solo by Bonham. This piece was recreated with inspiring precision and enthusiasm by Lanter.
BJS returned to the stage for a killer finale with “Kashmir,” including a mesmerizing cello solo by multi-instrumentalist Bryan Gibson. Whether it was the mandolin, double neck or the Les Paul Paul Goldtop, Gibson played with the beauty and ease that only comes from a seasoned performer.
The final bow taken by the performers was met with thundering applause, and Thursday night’s audience left with energy that radiated 1973.