published Friday, February 17th, 2012

Black Jacket Symphony offers Zeppelin's 'IV' tonight


What: Led Zeppelin's "IV" by The Black Jacket Symphony.

When: 8 p.m. today.

Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

Admission: $25-$30.

Phone: 642-TIXS.


The albums of certain artists were made to be listened to in their entirety.

At least, that's what J. Willoughby thinks.

And, he thought, the live experience is best.

So the Birmingham, Ala.-based musician created The Black Jacket Symphony. It's not a tribute band but a rotating roster of artists who pay tribute to the musical greats -- Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, U2, Pink Floyd.

"We perform classic albums in their entirety, just like you'd hear them on the record," he said. "We try to replicate these as note-to-note perfect as we can."

Tonight, The Black Jacket Symphony will play the notes of Led Zeppelin's "IV" at the Tivoli Theatre.

There are no costumes or styles inspired by the original groups. As Willoughby put it: "When you go to see the symphony, they don't put on powdered wigs and act like Mozart." It's all about the music.

"We want to replicate exactly what the album would sound like but in a live setting," Willoughby said. "It's not a complete imitation. It's more of an emulation."

He uses different musicians for each performance, bringing in the artists who would best represent the work.

"I try to find the best musicians that I've known," said Willoughby. "It's amazing listening to these people. This is why they learned to play the guitar. They're very reverent to [the music they honor]."

Willoughby is the founder and creative director. He finds most of the musicians and plays in some performances, namely The Beatles. "I know my limitations ... I can't sing Robert Plant. Not even if I tried."

The Black Jacket Symphony honors a particularly meaningful time in musical history.

"This was the golden age of music," he said, and the reason it endures.

The Beatles' "Abbey Road," he said, "is the symphony of [the baby boomer] generation. This stuff isn't going away. For good or for bad, I just can't see somebody doing Lady Gaga 45 years from now."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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