Milwaukee Symphony to play music of Led Zeppelin

By TimeOut Staff

August 21, 2014


MILWAUKEE - Classical music and rock ‘n’ roll will be combined once again.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced it will perform the music of Led Zeppelin for a one-night-only show at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.

The orchestra will be joined by a live Zeppelin tribute band, featuring lead signer Randy Jackson. Creator Brent Havens serves as the guest conductor.

“My concept for the music of Led Zeppelin was to take the music as close to the originals as we could and then add some colors to enhance what Zep had done,” Havens said. ”The wonderful thing with an orchestra is that you have an entire palette to call upon. The band is reproducing what Led Zeppelin did on the albums, verbatim, and then having an orchestra behind the band gives the music a richness, a whole different feel, a whole different sense of power.”

According to a release, Jackson - the lead singer of the Zebras - will deliver a note-for-note interpretation, acting as a window between the audience and reworked material.

“The music itself is one thing, but Jackson more than captures the spirit of legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant,” Havens said.

The two-plus-hour concert will feature 18 Zeppelin tunes, including “Stairway to Heaven,” “Heartbreaker,” “Black Dog” and the “Immigrant Song.” It also includes a light show.

“On ‘Immigrant Song,’ I have the violins doing that ‘Ah-ah-ah part,’ up an octave from Jackson, and the French horns are doing it with him in the same register,” Havens said. ”Then we have the brass kickin’ in the back, doing the accents. It rips.”

Why the music of Led Zeppelin? Havens felt Zeppelin’s intricate rhythm patterns and unusual progression contained within straight forward rock ‘n’ roll makes them an ideal choice for scoring.

“I was quite impressed with the complexity of the rhythms,” he said. “I’ve asked myself if they actually sat down and said, ‘Alright, we need a three-eight bar here, or we need to go from four-four to seven-eight and back.’ I don’t think so. I think they just banged it out and it worked and it felt good.”

The symphonic rock hybrid has met with approval on both sides of the podium, according to a release.

“When we first came on stage, the audience gave us polite, almost classical applause,” Havens said. “Then we hit the first note and they realized it was a rock show.”

Classical musicians also enjoy the change of pace.

“In one concert, during ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ the entire string section pulled out Bic lighters,” Havens said.

Tickets for the show are $45.50 and $37.50 and go on sale at noon Friday. They can be purchased at or call 414-286-3663 or 800-511-1552.

The Riverside Theater is located at 116 W. Wisconsin Ave.