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Monday, September 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Music

Spokane Symphony to rock the music of Led Zeppelin

By Tyler Wilson For The Spokesman-Review

It’s Led Zeppelin only bigger, stronger and with more power.

The Spokane Symphony will combine rock and classical music by performing “The Music of Led Zeppelin” on Friday at Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. The orchestra joins forces with show creator and guest conductor Brent Havens, as well as a full rock band led by singer Randy Jackson, to perform iconic hits from the iconic band.

The show delivers faithful performances of the band’s catalog but with “new colors” that add a new sense of richness to the music, Havens said in an interview.

“There are all these new things going on, but it’s also everything you know,” Havens said. “Just hearing a full orchestra play the licks from ‘Black Dog’ – it’s powerful.”

Havens is a prolific arranger/conductor with composing credits on feature films, television and for orchestras across the country. The Led Zeppelin concept began in 1995, when he was looking to lure a new audience to an orchestra show in Virginia.

“My idea was to take the music that everybody knows, a great singer and a rockin’ band, then wrap a 50-60 piece orchestra around that, and it just blew up,” Havens said.

Led Zeppelin proved to be the perfect showcase for Havens’ idea, as the songs’ intricate rhythm patterns provided countless opportunities for an orchestra to open up the tracks, Havens said.

The success of the Zeppelin show led to more “The Music of” presentations Havens created to collaborate with orchestras across the country. The series now includes live bands and singers joining orchestras to play the music of Queen, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd and more. Around 100 “The Music of” shows will be performed this year, Havens said.

In preparation for Friday’s show, Havens will only spend a short time with the Spokane Symphony before the performance.

“I’ll probably work with them for about 90 minutes, so they know what I’m doing, and I know what they’re doing,” he said. “We’re talking world-class musicians. They’ll kill it. They’ll knock it out of the park.”

Jackson, lead singer of the rock band Zebra, has been performing the Robert Plant vocals for “The Music of Led Zeppelin” since 1996.

“I was sent a cassette of him. We still had cassettes then,” Havens said. “I was just blown away, and he’s been with us ever since.”

Before finding success with original material, Jackson’s band Zebra gained fame by performing faithful covers of bands like Led Zeppelin. Jackson’s love for the group began when he blind bought some of his first albums at a record store, including the 1969 release “Led Zeppelin II.”

“I liked the way the cover looked – I didn’t know what I was buying, but the one that stuck on the turntable was ‘Led Zeppelin II.’ ” Jackson said. “They certainly had a big influence on my writing and performing.”

Jackson said his job is to deliver the classic elements of the Led Zeppelin sound while the symphony adds new textures.

“Zeppelin is musical enough that it’s easy to add a symphony to it,” Jackson said. “We’re fans, and we’re all there to celebrate the music.”

Concertgoers can expect 18 songs from the Led Zeppelin catalog. While an individual set list generally pulls from about 30 tracks, attendees can expect greatest hits like “Stairway to Heaven,” “Heartbreaker,” and “Immigrant Song.”

“Obviously you’re not getting out of the building unless you do ‘Kashmir,’ ” Havens said.

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