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Concert Reviews:
Friday brings Warped and a time warp to local concert venues

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Saturday, July 20, 2013

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The Warped Tour -- and a time warp -- kept area concertgoers rocking Friday, June 19, along the northern Oakland County portion of I-75.

The big star of the night -- Led Zeppelin -- wasn't even present, physically, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. But thanks to the inspired package pairing of Heart and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, the rock juggernaut still managed to rule again.

The son of the late Zep drummer John Bonham paid tribute to his father's legacy with his own opening set of covers, but it was the show's combined-forces third act that made the night special. Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson started the Zep attack with the chiming acoustics of "Battle of Evermore" before bringing Bonham and his LZE guitarist Tony Catania for romps through the majestic "The Song Remains the Same," the gentle "The Rain Song" and pounding renditions of "The Immigrant Song" and "Kashmir" before concluding with a recreation of the choir-enhanced performance of "Stairway to Heaven" from Heart and Bonham's appearance at December's Kennedy Center Honors. Ann Wilson, in strong, muscular voice through the night, acquitted herself well in Robert Plant's stead on all six songs, while Heart guitarist Craig Bartock handled the unenviable task of being Jimmy Page for the 45-minute homage.

Heart, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April, had already impressed the DTE crowd before then with its own hour-long set, an unabashedly nostalgic exercise that pulled just one song, the crunchy "Dear Old America," from the group's latest album, "Fanatic," in favor of a hits exposition that hit the ground running with hard rocking favorites such as "Barracuda," "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "Kick It Out" -- even a ballad like "What About Love" sounded a little more powerful in that company. But Heart also displayed its gentle side via the likes of "Mistral Wind," "Dog & Butterfly," "Alone" and Nancy Wilson-song versions of "These Dreams" and Elton John's "I Need You to Turn To."

A closing "Crazy On You," meanwhile, ramped things up again and provided a nice bridge to the show's Zep-drenched encore.

Down the road in the parking lots of the Palace of Auburn Hills, weather became the story of the day at the annual Vans Warped Tour stop -- starting with sweltering heat that led to an evacuation into the arena when heavy rains rolled in during the late afternoon. The situation was handled in an orderly, efficient fashion, and once inside fans did The Wave and did a few "Let's go Red Wings!" chants as they watched the band and crew members eat on the Palace's main floor.

The delay lasted about 50 minutes before all-clear sounded and the music began shortly after that.

There was, of course, plenty of music -- more than 100 acts on 10 stages during the 10-hour festival. There wasn't a single square foot of the Warped site where you couldn't hear some form of music from all genres -- punk to synth pop to hip-hop, metal and more. It didn't get much more genuinely entertaining than Reel Big Fish, the bass-fueled ska group which followed the storm with a good-humored set on the Kia Soul stage that included five takes on "S.R." -- including disco, punk and square dance versions -- and covers of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and a-ha's "Take On Me."

And amidst veteran warped favorites such as Motion City Soundtrack, Black Veil Brides and Blessthefall were fresh discoveries -- most particularly Gin Wigmore, the New Zealand born singer who's primed for a U.S. breakthrough and is following Katy Perry's strategy (they share the same management) of using the Warped Tour to bolster her credibility. Wigmore and her band -- including guitarist John "Turbo" Schreffler from Oakland County -- kicked a Tilly's stage set off with the blues-rock grit of Don Nix's "Going Down" before making friends for material from her latest album, "Gravel & Wine," with songs such as "Kill of the Night" and "Black Sheep." Over on the electronic-flavored Spotify stage, meanwhile, Wallpaper introduced material from its forthcoming "Rickey Reed is Real" album, while Young London had a small but exuberant crowd dancing like they were at a club.

Wigmore's Schreffler wasn't the only home town hero at Warped. Groups such as Kaleido and Troy's "We Came As Romans" -- whose new album, "Tracing Back Roots," comes out Tuesday, July 23 -- played early day sets, while the headbangers of the Black Dahlia Murder engineered a circle pit around the sound booth in front of the Monster stage. Chiodos frontman Craig Owens played to a packed Acoustic Basement tent, talking about his tent and finishing with the band's "A Letter From Janelle," then joined the rest of Chiodos for a slamming set to close out the Kia Forte stage.

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