New York’s Lez Zeppelin represents one of the great bait-and-switch acts of modern showmanship. The gimmick is simple: An all-female tribute band covers Led Zeppelin tunes, with a healthy dose of smokin’ sexuality and the implied girl-on-girl action in the name itself. The band certainly delivers, but it also slightly belies the incredibly tight musicianship and sheer electric rock force they bring to the stage.
Lead singer Sarah McLellan projects a Robert Plant-esque stage presence with slinky, dramatic gestures, but her influences are the torch singers of yesteryear. Guitarist Steph Paynes is a flawless Jimmy Page stand-in, crouching over her Les Paul and attacking and caressing it in the same moment. She even has that combination of bored disinterest and smug self-satisfaction that only Page could really carry off.
And, much like the original Zep, the secret weapon is in the rhythm section. (Plant and Page just weren’t the same without Bonzo and Jonesy). Bassist/keyboardist Lisa Brigantino and drummer Helen Destroy lay down rock-solid foundations on which the band can unwind its massive, improvised epics.
Like the best tribute bands, they remind you why this stuff was great in the first place; Lez Zep’s 10-minute-plus spinout of “No Quarter” sounds as fresh and electrifying as when Plant, Page and the gang unleashed it on the world.
And for the best touch: Paynes occasionally plays a theremin — one of those woo-woo instruments you play by waving your hands around like you’re casting a magic spell. That, fanboys and fangirls, is not a mere tribute — that is dedication.