Classic Albums Live at Wolf Trap celebrates 50th anniversary of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Classic Albums Live at Wolf Trap (Part 1)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of “Led Zeppelin IV,” which arrived back in 1971.

On Sept. 1, touring group Classic Albums Live performs the album in full at Wolf Trap.

“What people really wanted was a chance to hear these incredible works of art performed, note for note, cut for cut,” Founder Craig Martin told WTOP. “All of our attention is put into the music. We don’t jump around, we don’t wear costumes, we don’t have a flashy light show, we don’t even talk to the audience. … It’s a really communal, collective, happy vibe.”

For the first half of the concert, a nine-piece band will perform the entire album from start to finish: “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” “The Battle of Evermore,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Four Sticks,” “Going to California” and “When the Levee Breaks.”

“You’ve got ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ one of the greatest rock tracks ever  [with] ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Hey Jude’ as the pantheon of classic rock,” Martin said. “You’ve got amazing songs like ‘Going to California,’ just an acoustic guitar, a mandolin and a vocal. … Then you’ve got heavier ones like ‘When the Levee Breaks,’ that’s a tough song to play. … Then you’ve got ‘Rock and Roll.'”

After a brief intermission, they will perform more of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits.

“Most of these records are only 45 minutes, so after that we take a break, people get a drink, we reconvene and we play a greatest hits set,” Martin said. “We might do ‘The Rain Song’ on Sept. 1 or a lesser-known Zep song. … I’m sure we’ll be doing ‘Dazed and Confused,’ ‘Kashmir’ and what we call the cannonballs that we fire out.”

It’s the ultimate homage to the legendary Led Zeppelin foursome of Robert Plant (vocals), Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (keys, bass) and John Bonham (drums).

“We love the drums, we love the guitars and we love Plant’s vocals, but we don’t really pay attention to Plant’s lyrics,” Martin said. “He was a brilliant lyricist! He had some really old British Byron-esque verses and sonnets. I hope people tune into that when they come to the show.”

Martin founded Classic Albums Live in Toronto, Canada, back in 2003.

“We’ve grown since then,” Martin said. “We’re up to about 150 shows a year. It’s been a steamroller on high-octane fuel. … We’ve been playing Wolf Trap for eight years now.”

Which other bands have they covered in previous shows?

“People really want the soulful meat and potato, chicken soup albums like ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ ‘Hotel California,’ ‘Rumors,’ ‘Let it Bleed,’ ‘Let it Be,’ ‘Abbey Road,’ ‘Sgt. Pepper,'” Martin said. “These albums stand the test of time. … I wonder if we’re ever going to expand into some modern classic albums like Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer,’ Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten,’ Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind.'”

Mostly, he’s thrilled to employ musicians after a rough pandemic year.

“I have about 60 musicians that work with me,” Martin said. “I’m the No.1 employer here in Canada. … We’ve certainly followed protocols and been deft in our approach. I started doing concerts on my front lawn in downtown Toronto. … Then we moved that to a theater. … We’ve been playing nonstop in Florida and the rest of the U.S. since March. It’s been a wonderful ride.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Classic Albums Live at Wolf Trap (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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