Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds Cover Zeppelin at The Bowl
Photo by Dino Perrucci
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds
The phrase “a small girl with a big voice” should be accompanied by a photo of Arleigh Kincheloe, the singer for the NY-based Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds. Kincheloe wails with the passion of a thousand banshees and the control of singers like Sharon Jones or Janis Joplin. So it's no surprise that her band's reinvention of Led Zeppelin IV – yes, the whole damn thing – at a sold out show at the Brooklyn Bowl on the Friday before the Super Bowl was inspired and captivating. It was a whole lot of fun, too.
Kinchole is the center of attention both literally and figuratively throughout; she alternates between overtly sexy hip-gyrations and girl-next-door who-me ingénue looks throughout the performance, but what makes her captivating is her vocal power. Opening the show with Michael Jackson's “The Way You Make Me Feel,” punctuated by a 3-piece horn section powering through the songs' changes, while Kinchoele radiated confidence and charisma. The band wound its way through some originals, getting into the groove, with harmonica-vs-guitar interplay on one, and power-drumming another, never losing focus.
But the main event was Zeppelin IV, which the group completely re-organized from the get go. “Black Dog” has undergone soul arrangements before, so the horn hits on it weren't totally unrecognizable, though they took over Jimmy Page's wound-up guitar on the song's coda, popping and dropping rather than rocking and jocking. “Rock and Roll” may have been the most-restructured song of the set, with the band weaving in and out of the opening lick to Rage Against The Machine's “Bulls On Parade” throughout, creating not just a new arrangement, but a live mashup. “Stairway To Heaven,” of course, may have been the most challenging rewrite: it started straightforward enough, but by the time we were bustling in a hedgerow, Kinchole was running scales up and down all over the place, scatting and re-jiggering Robert Plant's vocal phrasing in a way that would have been criminal if it weren't so genuine. “Misty Mountain Hop” devolved into a ska jam with hints of Paul Simon, and “When The Levee Breaks” was a wall of sound thanks to 3 extra horn players, a true aural assault.
For the encore, Sister Sparrow rocked “D'Yer Maker” – one of those Zeppelin songs that's not as heralded as the others, but every bit as good – nay, great. The same can be said for Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.