Whenever Come Back Alice and Flat Land join forces, you know you need to be there. Their latest collaboration took place Saturday, September 3, at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. And this was a very special event, as CBA announced that they would be doing an all-Led Zeppelin set.
Those who attended last year’s Hometeam New Year’s Rally will never forget how awesomely the band covered The Song Remains the Same, Zep’s double-album live opus. Dani Jaye handled all of the guitar duties, leaving Tony Tyler free to give us his very best Robert Plant. Joining them were Kenny Stadelman (bass) and Brad Elliott (drums), both formerly with CopE, and keyboard wizard Mark Mayea from Ajeva.
No way they were going to top that lineup, so they invited the boys back for round two.
The Skipperdome was packed to the gills — to infinity — and beyond. I’ve already expressed my dissatisfaction with all of the REALLY LOUD talkers, but suffice it to say these two incredibly talented bands deserved much better in terms of audience respect. Enough.
No, not quite. I *love* people who move in front of you and then start talking loudly with their backs to the band. Almost as much as the ones who talk through an entire song and then clap at the end. HAHAHA.
And the dude who talked the ENTIRE show and said, loudly, “You’ve got to respect each other’s bubble.” HAHAHAHAHAHA
Back to your regularly scheduled review.
Brandon Miller was absent for Flat Land this night, but the band has had several superb players, and former member Ashley Wilkinson stepped right up and had a fabulous night. Kudos!
Flat Land kicked off with several great originals from their recent album release Arrow to the Sun and some tremendous covers. After “Relax, Retry,” they shot straight into “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” A bouncing “Burning Down the House” was followed by “Say You Cared > Black Rain.” During “Turn,” Grant McLeod (drums) and Ian McLeod (percussion) provided a great drum clinic!
What do you do when your photographer abandons his job and jumps onstage with the band? Answer? Have TWO photographers! Fortunately, both Mandi Nulph and Matt Hillman from MusicFestNews were there when Hillman swapped camera for harmonica and joined in a a blistering “Use Me,” also highlighted by Mayea on keyboards. Fae Nae was in magnificent vocal form all night (violin, too), but she killed this one!
As the set drew to a close, Flat Land’s great cover of “Kiss” delighted the crowd, followed by the first single from the album, “Poco A Poco,” and they finished with a rousing “Rufio’s Last Stand.” Chris Storey is a monster guitar player, and he had an amazing night.
Then it was time for the main event. Many in attendance, it seemed, had not seen either group but were intrigued by the Zep thing, so this was great exposure for both bands.
Come Back Alice wasted no time, slamming immediately into “Immigrant’s Song.” Covering Zep really tests a singer’s vocal chords and a guitarist’s chops, and both Tony and Dani came through with flying colors. Don’t try this at home!
It is impossible to overstate the huge contribution that Stadelman and Elliott made to this endeavor. They work so well together and provided the perfect backdrop for this tremendous set of music that everyone knows so well. Mayea’s keyboards additionally helped to fill out the sound. Mayea does it all with flair; for this set, he respected the space for Dani’s guitar.
The set revved into overdrive when they invited Hillman back to the stage to blow some harp as they launched into “When the Levee Breaks” with Dani playing slide. HELL, YEAH! After “Communication Breakdown,” they turned Elliott loose on “Moby Dick,” with Grant McLeod joining in on percussion. Several more tunes from Houses of the Holy followed: “The Rain Song” and “No Quarter,” which featured a great Mayea solo. After “Custard Pie,” it was time for the Facebook family photo. Tyler was hitting those ridiculous Plant notes, and Jaye was tearing it up on every tune.
A heartfelt rendering of “Stairway to Heaven” was well received (except, of course, for the talkers — it was so packed you couldn’t move to get away from them; they were legion). Tony was doing his best Plant strut. Next up was my favorite, “Dazed and Confused.” Because, you know, Dani Jaye is a violin player, so she has a violin bow, and she is NOT afraid to use it. It was straight-up fabulous.
It was back to Zep II for that magical pairing of “Heartbreaker > Livin’ Lovin’ Maid.” For the finale, they invited Flat Land back on stage for “Black Dog.” That is a song The Gainesville quintet covers often, directly in their wheelhouse. Storey joined in on guitar, McLeod on percussion, and Fae Nae on vocals, alternating stanzas with Tony.
Let’s review: when Flat Land and Come Back Alice play together, DO. NOT. MISS. THEM!
Photographs by kind permission of Mandi Nulph and Matt “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” Hillman
[FLAT LAND: Relax, Retry, Signed Sealed Delivered, October, Ultraviolet, Burning Down the House, Say You Cared > Black Rain, Feeling, Turn, Use Me, Dust to Night > In the Doldrums, Kiss, Poco a Poco, Rufio’s Last Stand]
[COME BACK ALICE: Immigrant Song, Rock and Roll, The Song Remains the Same, The Ocean, When the Levee Breaks, Communication Breakdown, Moby Dick, The Rain Song, No Quarter, Over the Hills and Far Away, Trampled Under Foot, Facebook Family Foto, Stairway to Heaven, Dazed and Confused, Heartbreaker > Livin’ Lovin’ Maid, Whole Lotta Love, Misty Mountain Hop, Black Dog]