Black Jacket Symphony brings a unique listening experience to the CAC

This Friday night, 7:30 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, audiences will have the pleasure of a seemless performance of Led Zepplin’s album, “Led Zepplin IV,” including classics like “Black Dog,” Rock and Roll,” “Going to California” and the timeless “Stairway to Heaven.”

What the Black Jacket Symphony offers isn’t just a regular cover band. According the creator, J. Willoughby, for each album they recreate, musicians and performers are hand selected to add the authenticity to the performance.

In 2009, Willoughby created Black Jacket Symphony. Reminded of the classics, Willoughby said it was around the time that The Beatles’ “Abby Road” was celebrating 40 years. “Music and rock critics still discussed this album, even after all this time,” he said. From there, his mission was to pay respect and recreate classic albums that changed music history, during a time when people actually went out and bought full albums, on records, and listened to them from start to finish.

“It was an approach, a light bulb moment,” Willoughby said. “I wanted to pay the respect to these classic albums that came out during that ‘sweet spot,’ where albums were being released, and people had to listen to them. You couldn’t skip a song!”

Willoughby called this particular Led Zepplin album a “pinnacle record.”

“This one catapulted them to stardom. It’s just a flawless record,” he said.

Musician Bryan Gibson is one of the guitarists in Black Jacket Symphony’s Led Zepplin production, and had also played with Chris Cornell for two years until his death in May of this year. Gibson has always looked up to Led Zepplin, particularly Jimmy Page.

“Being a guitar player, he’s someone a lot of guitarists look up to. When it’s comes to playing guitar, he’s inspiring toa lot of people. I’ve always been very inspired by Zepplin. Playing these shows, it’s a cool thing. You get to dive in and really get to the know the performers,” Gibson said. “It’s sort of an opportunity to get into the minds of these artists.”

As Black Jacket Symphony strives to play a seemless recreation of the albums they’ve picked, Gibson said they cover everything.

“We even emulate the mistakes. We want to make it as authentic as possible,” Gibson said. “We hear the mistakes, or if he plays a certain phrase, we try to recreate that as closely as we can. It’s a unique challenge, it’s really fun. It’s also very tedious — but it’s rewarding. We get to re-expose the whole genius behind the band.”

And that goes for all of the albums and musicians The Black Jacket Symphony recreates. Willoughby said it’s a rewarding experience when people come up to him after shows and thank him for giving them the closest opportunity to see their favorite artists again, in a sense.

“We did a Beatles show in Lexington. An audience member came up to me and said, ‘My kids could never see the Beatles, but you just gave us the opportunity to get as close as we possibly could,” he said.

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