Zebra; Sellersville Theater 1894 5/22/11

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Zebra; Sellersville Theater 1894 5/22/11

Postby jimmy19029 » Fri May 27, 2011 4:17 am

Most people who were watching MTV back in the 1980s have at least a vague recollection of Zebra's weird "waiting for the aliens to arrive, Close Encounters type" video for Who's Behind the Door. Indeed, this was the song that grabbed me. I was sorry to see that they were one of many hard rock/progressive type bands to emerge in the 80s that were never to enjoy huge success. Looking back, we can pose all kinds of theories as to why. Maybe they were just too weird in an era where the progressive sound was fading and tastes had moved toward the more accessible sounds of bands like Journey or the pop metal lookers like Motley Crue.

Maybe they were a bit too derivative of Led Zeppelin. In fact, when Zebra first emerged in their native New Orleans area in 1975, they were primarily a Led Zep cover band. When they first played up here in the Northeast in the late 70s, they went over so well (particularly in the NYC and North Jersey circuits) that they soon moved their base of operations to Long Island. And it has been their Northeast and New Orleans fanbases that have kept them alive all these years after the major labels all lost interest.

Lead singer/guitarist Randy Jackson has also stayed alive in the music business by his involvement in many other projects, like a Jefferson Airplane reunion tour I saw him in in 1989 and a solo career.

Tonight, Randy hit the stage on his own a few minutes past 7:30 and apologized that he'd accidentally put the show's start time on Zebra's website as 8:00. Since he didn't want to have fans showing up to a concert already in progress and getting upset, he decided he'd play as a 25 minute opening act. With that, he pulled out his 12 string guitar and seduced us with the beauty of Led Zeppelin's That's the Way and a few Beatles covers. Man, I wouldn't have minded him playing all night as a solo. He's that good!

After the warm up, Randy left the stage, only to return at 8:12 with the other two members of the trio, Felix Hanemann(bass, keyboards, synths, backing vocals) and Guy Gelso(drums, percussion, backing vocals) and launched into Wait Until the Summer's Gone.

One of the main features of Zebra's sound is Randy's talent for switching from his normal singing voice to a piercing Frank Valli-type falsetto. The gimmick may wear thin on some listeners, but I've always enjoyed this unique feature.

And the guys were all in a great mood as they regaled us with their onstage clowning patter. For example, Felix would ask what a song like KK is Hiding meant and Randy would chastise him for not paying attention to the lyrics.....

Felix started the show playing bass and operating foot pedals for the synth sounds, eventually moving over to his keyboard rack to provide organ and other things, like the cool mellotron sounds on the show stopping Who's Behind the Door, which ended their first set after about an hour and 15 minutes total.

Amazingly, they weren't done yet and came out about 20 minutes later to play another hour set!

One guy a few seats away from me recalled his first seeing the group opening for Loverboy back around 1983. Two other audience members right next to me were two brothers, Hans and Ralph, who lived nearby. Ralph was about my age and had seen Led Zeppelin in concert back in the 70s. Hans had graduated from high school in 1984 and recalled his first show as Foreigner at JFK Stadium back in 1982. He was amazed that I was there too, recalled the exact date(June 19th) and all the acts that played on the bill. In fact, every show Hans & Ralph mentioned(with the exception of Led Zep), I had attended and knew the date of. Needless to say, they were impressed.

In the lobby after the concert, there was a long line for autographs but I stood apart near the table and started in conversation with Randy about other New Orleans bands, like Leroux. Randy was very excited I knew of his connections with them and thought I might be from New Orleans. We also spoke of Guy's illness back in 1997. I never knew it was chest cancer. Randy was happy to report that Guy had just had another preventative chest operation and was doing wonderfully.

Setlist:

Randy solo:

That's the Way
A Day in the Life
In My Life
Stairway to Heaven

Zebra's first set:

Wait Until the Summer's Gone
When You Get There
(As I) Said Before
No Tellin' Lies
Arabian Nights
KK is Hiding
La La Song/
Guy's drum solo
Don't Walk Away
Bears
Happy Birthday(to audience member Maria)
Time
Who's Behind the Door

Second set:

One More Chance
Take Your Fingers From My Hair
Can't Live Without
Making You the Fool
Better Not Call
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Tell Me What You Want

encores:

Slow Down
Crystal Ship(partial)
Light of my Love
Kashmir
jimmy19029
LP
 
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