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REVIEW + GALLERY: ARC Presents Led Zeppelin IV in Newcastle

The Australian Rock Collective (ARC) hit town over the weekend to deliver the first show of their Led Zeppelin IV tour.

Novocastrians came out in force to see the show, with leather or dark band tees as far as they eye could see, all chomping at the bit to celebrate the rock n roll pioneers with a performance by a collective of musos who have been at the helm of some of the most definitive rock sounds to come out of Australia. 

The audience was welcomed into the gorgeous theatre with archived recordings of interviews with Led Zeppelin and snippets from live performances playing over the auditorium.

ARC tore into their first set, Led Zeppelin IV in its entirety, opening with the unmistakable vocal intro of Black Dog.

On our journey to the theatre, my partner and I speculated about the vocal performance that we were about to witness as the melodies and vocal tones of Robert Plant are without a doubt something very intimidating to pay tribute to, but Kram (Spiderbait) delivered above and beyond.

He absolutely nailed it all the while gracing the stage with such a humble and genuine energy. Kram covered all of the upper register moments throughout the night while Davey Lane (You Am I) and Darren Middleton (Powderfinger) would predominantly feature on the lower of Plants melodies. 

By the time ARC started their second song Rock and Roll, the audience was completely enthralled and there were almost not enough ‘F*ck yeah!’s to go around.

I found it hard to keep my eyes off Davey Lane with his Jimmy Page mirror telecaster and the way he jerked and danced around the stage. His charisma was next level, and extremely complimentary to the steady Mark Wilson (Jet) set up just behind Lane on a riser. 

Prior to The Battle of Evermore, Kram welcomed the audience and dedicated their performance to Jack Newton OAM. This was the first of many moments where Lane switched to a mandolin playing along with Middleton on acoustic guitar.

An obvious highlight from any Led Zeppelin show will always be Stairway To Heaven but I have to say, this was a particularly bright moment in ARC’s first set.

Opened by Darren Middleton and James Fleming on the keys this was a brilliant showcase of each musician on stage. Although they were playing as a collective, you could see how each member had tapped into the song with a haunting reverence for its importance. Lane took some of the final verses before the breakdown and slayed the guitar solo, which was brought home by Kram on vocals and drums. 

One of the craziest songs of the night for me was Four Sticks which featured both Kram and Peter Marin on drums.

According to Kram, Led Zeppelin only played that song once live and there was much left to be desired but leave it with the ARC and you can expect something captivating and mindblowing. I found it hard to relax during this song because of its intensity but it was so much fun.

As we got closer to the end of the album we were graced by Kram, Lane and Middleton as a trio in a more mellow moment with Going To California. This was followed by the psychedelic and gutwrenching When The Levee Breaks featuring Daniel Middleton on harmonica. This performance felt closer to a trip than a live band on stage. It was such a treat to indulge in the longer songs by Led Zeppelin, there’s something undeniably iconic and revolutionary about their catalogue.

With the end of the album came a short intermission prior to their second set which was an eclectic mix of classic Led Zeppelin songs which kicked off with a playful rendition of Whole Lotta Love

The first and only solo song of the night was Babe I’m Gonna Leave You which was performed by Darren Middleton. He prefaced the song by telling us that the sounds and songs of Led Zeppelin were like glue for the members of Powderfinger and this song in particular would often make it into their setlists. 

Next up was Good Times Bad Times which was led by Davey Lane and featured some gorgeous harmonies by Kram.

The rest of the set saw tunes such as Immigrant Song, Ramble On, The Ocean, and Kashmir which was another spiritual-like moment within the show.

I can confidently say that the sounds we experienced last night were some of the best I’ve ever witnessed at the Civic Theatre.

We have to highlight the sound team behind ARC’s Led Zeppelin IV Live – they were able to produce effects that put us bum-first into a beanbag listening to Led Zeppelin as it was originally produced and recorded. The production value was world-class and an integral part of the show. 

ARC quickly left the stage after Kashmir almost as if they didn’t think they were going to get to do an encore (maybe it was first show nerves because the audience being almost two hours in were still well and truly pining for more).

The encore started with Peter Marin and Mark Wilson who laid down the groove for one of Zeppelin’s trippier songs Dazed and Confused. As the song ended, the band was met by a standing ovation. The audience had been headbanging along for the entirety of the show and clearly ecstatic because of what they just experienced.

ARC’s Led Zeppelin IV Live is a must-see for lovers of Zeppelin and classic rock n roll. The rest of Australia is in for a masterclass of musicians and showmanship. Can’t wait to see what ARC bring to Newy next time.

You can find out more about the show by visiting livenation.com.au.