WHAT IS AND WHAT SHOULD ALWAYS BE
LED ZEPPELIN NEVER TRIED TO COPY THEMSELVES, SO JOSEPH CALDERAZZO’S WHOLELOTTALOVE TRIBUTE TAKES A SIMILAR APPROACH THIS SEPTEMBER, HONOURING THE MUSIC ACROSS NSW WITHOUT THE DRAGON SUITS AND PRINCE VALIANT WIGS. WORDS BY PETER HODGSON
Australia’s longest-running Led Zeppelin tribute is back after a yearlong hiatus, and it’s going to be worth the wait. Whole
LottaLove is packed with world class musicians performing Led Zeppelin classics with augmented instrumentation and an appreciation for the music-as-a-living-thing nature of Zep’s music. Founded by guitarist Joseph Calderazzo, it’s not an in-costume, “Imagine you were there” type tribute show. The band includes a string section to evoke the mystique and expansiveness of Zeppelin’s sound on songs like “Stairway To Heaven”, “Kashmir”, “Black Dog”, “Battle of Evermore” and “Immigrant Song”, to name just a few.
“This is the 16th year I’ve done this show,” Calderazzo says. “It’s an annual event, not a tribute band that goes and plays in the pubs. It’s very strictly an annual event, and we only play three or four shows in bigger theatres when we take it out on the road.” Calderazzo doesn’t use permanent players for the show, preferring to see who’s available to make each year a unique experience. “This year we’ve got Gordon Rytmeister on drums, but in previous years, we’ve had players like Lucius Borich and Peter Drummond. We’ve got Dario Bortolin from Baby Animals on bass – he’s done this gig on and off, but we haven’t had him for a few years; it’s nice to have him back. Glenn Moorhouse will be playing guitar with us as well. He worked as the music director on Green Day’s AmericanIdiot stage show, and he’s done a few things with us. We’ve got Charmaine Ford, our piano virtuoso, Lozz Benson from That Redhead on percussion, I’ve got three string players from the Sydney Opera House, and on vocals, we’ve got Steve Balbi from Noiseworks and Mi-Sex, plus Dallas Frasca, Mark Dacosta and Nicole Hawkins.”
It’s important to Calderazzo that the show isn’t seen as a costumed, in-character tribute (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Zeppelin was never about straight emulation, even when they were leaning heavily on exiting blues songs. “We make sure we cover all the elements of what they did, so we use a mandolin and acoustic guitars, and because there are two guitar players, we can cover more of Jimmy Page’s studio parts. But it’s not all rock, is it? They were covering a lot of different sounds with what they had. I think it was brave for them to do acoustic stuff, especially live, because back then they just had mics in front of the guitars. It’s a wide gamut to cover within the one concert. We’ve had a lot of singers do the show – we used Dave Gleeson one year and he said, ‘I just can’t get this Robert Plant thing at all.’ I said, ‘Dave, I didn’t book Robert Plant, I booked Dave Gleeson.’ And then he got it , and it was amazing.”
Calderazzo isn’t consciously copying Jimmy Page’s guitar rig, but his influence has crept in. “We use Gibsons and Teles, which just works, but it’s funny because when I bought my 12-string acoustic, the guy in the shop rang me up and said, ‘I know you’re looking for a 12-string acoustic, and I’ve got one that I think you’re gonna like.’ It was one of two Matons made for Jimmy Page when he visited in the ‘90s, and this is the one he rejected, as such. So the guy rang me straight away, and I stopped to get the money out on the way. I picked it up and played it, and the rest is history! So I happen to have that just by coincidence. Another little coincidence is that a good friend of mine who does work with us is a bit of a collector, and he has a Gibson Jimmy Page Les Paul–the Mark I model that was made in 1995, with the push-pull pots. It’s just an amazing guitar. I don’t specifically try to copy his sounds, necessarily, in fact it probably sounds a bit more generic because we’re not trying to emulate them. But we are reverent with what we do, and there’s nothing dress-up about it.
“I don’t know how much Les Paul Jimmy used in the studio anyway,” Calderazzo continues. “He used a lot of Telecaster. I guess the film The
Song Remains The Same is the reason a lot of people associate the Les Paul with Jimmy Page, but he used so many different things. I remember when a friend told me the ‘ Stairway To Heaven’ solo was played on a Tele – I listened closely and realised, ‘Oh, of course it is!’”