Over the 28 years and over 4500 shows since ZOSO came together as a group in the mid-‘90s, the seemingly tireless quartet continues to earn its well-deserved reputation as being, in the words of The L.A. Times, “head and shoulders above all other Led Zeppelin tributes.”
The reasons for that are manifest. For starters, surely no singer has ever captured the distinctive timbre, range, power, and seductive force of Robert Plant’s vocal delivery as adroitly as ZOSO’s lead vocalist and founder, Matt Jernigan, whose flowing, corkscrew blonde locks and leonine stage moves evoke the Plant persona perfectly.
ZOSO co-founder Adam Sandling, the band’s multi-instrumental master of electric bass, keyboards, and mandolin, likewise echoes John Paul Jones’ myriad gifts to a tee, allowing the four-piece ZOSO to perform fully fleshed-out versions of classics like “Kashmir,” “Trampled Under Foot,” and “Stairway to Heaven” that demand up to six members or more to execute in other Zep-inspired ensembles.
That’s not the ZOSO way; instead, the band draws liberally and meticulously from Led Zeppelin’s recorded live output to present a vivid performance picture of the classic live Zeppelin of 1970-1977. No wonder the St. Petersburg Times noted that, in addition to their virtuosity and spot-on visual presentation, ZOSO was also “the most exacting of all the Led Zeppelin tributes.”
Meanwhile, the band’s new blood has turbo-charged the ZOSO formula even more. Drummer Bevan Davies, the band’s burly, black-haired batteur since 2015, flattens the band’s fans nightly with his Bonhamapproved triplet blasts, tympani thunder, and fat, lumbering grooves. Davies boasts an impressive pedigree that includes touring tenures with the likes of Danzig, Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains, Static X, and regular gigs with The Cult’s Billy Duffy.
Taking on the demanding Jimmy Page chair for ZOSO in May of 2021, new lead guitarist James Volpe Rotondi (aka “Jimmy”) brings an equally high-level CV to the table, as a former member of Humble Pie, Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle, and French superstars AIR. Decked out in Page’s iconic dragon matador jacket, two-tone shoes, and cascading black hair, Rotondi wields his Gibson Les Paul and double-neck guitars like he was born to it, with a huge, crafted tone and a stunning technique that weaves together Page’s roots in blues, country, funk, and fingerstyle.
Still, while the players’ provenance, and the band’s deep history, speak for themselves, it’s that highwire musicianship combined with ZOSO’s spot-on recreation of the mythic presence of Led Zeppelin onstage that keeps their dedicated longtime fans coming back for more year after year. What’s more, new generations of ZOSO devotees in their teens and Twenties are likewise lining up to experience for themselves the power and majesty—and yes, the alluring combination of danger, spontaneity, skill, and sexuality—that define a world-class Led Zeppelin concert.
“[ZOSO is] the closest to the original of any Led Zeppelin tribute,” proclaims the Chicago Sun-Times, and they are not wrong. ZOSO’s ongoing invitation to all generations, all ages, all backgrounds of Led Zeppelin fans, then, is a very simple one: Relive it . . . LIVE.