NOT the Fake Robert Plant.
Last night, Mr. Royale and I joined some friends to hear a couple of tribute bands. First up, a Rolling Stones cover band with a very spry Jagger impersonator. Then, the Led Zeppelin tribute band.
In general, I’m not a big fan of tribute bands but in the case of these bands, for which I am highly unlikely to fork over big bucks to see the remaining members totter around and play their hits from 30 or 40 years ago, this was something entertaining to do. Eighteen dollars seemed a decent price to pay to listen to some renditions of music I enjoy.
I have to admit I haven’t been to see a tribute band since, say, 1981, when I went with a friend to Arizona State University to hear whatever was the touring version of the “Beatles.” So I assumed that the gig would include some guys dressed up and aping the mannerisms of their chosen band.
Instead, we were treated to the oddist mixture of spectacle and fakery. The members were dressed up to look like the original musicians, circa 1974 or so: long-haired wigs, unbuttoned polyester shirts or suits, turquoise jewelry. And they played instruments (to my untrained eye) that also resembled those of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. But it was the lead singer who broke my heart. While he wore the long, blond locks and the tight, tight jeans of Robert Plant, and sang with an impressive range of vocal technique, when he opened his mouth to talk, he lost me. I believe we were listening to the Joey Buttafuoco Robert Plant. Although he professed to be Robert Plant, that accent, most notable when pronouncing the /r/ sound, was just too distracting. Mr. Royale, being kinder than me, believes that it was his English accent. Ha! And then the moves. Mr. “Plant” had only four: the “Stretch the Microphone Chord Over the Head,” the “Lemon Thrust,” the “Hair Toss” and the “Modified Rock Iwo Jima.” It was tiring and lacked any sense of sex appeal.
Granted, I’ve been a few times to see a local ’80s cover band. That band seemed to not take themselves very seriously, and in spite of their Worst-of-the-1980s’ fashion stylings, were highly enjoyable.
Please help me here. How important is it for the tribute musicians to look and sound like the originals? Are you able to get past the imperfections of appearance or mannerisms in the show? Is it really only the sound that matters? What is the difference between a cover band and a tribute band?