PHOTOS + REVIEW — Zebra 2023

Zebra • December 16, 2023 • Venue — St. Petersburg, FL • Bilheimer Capitol Theatre by Randy Cook — instagram.com/horns_raised

REVIEW — Zebra Live

December, 16, 2023 /// Nancy & David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, FL
Review by: Randy Cook

The legendary hard rocking power trio, Zebra, rocked the house at the Nancy & David Bilheimer Capitol Theatre, in Clearwater, FL on Saturday, December 16th, 2023. I do not use the legendary term lightly for the simple fact that this band has maintained their original members dating back to 1975, and amassed over the years a cult-like following of diehard fans. Add in the fact that back in 1983, their self-titled debut album was the fastest selling debut album in their label, Atlantic Records, history, “…thanks to the radio and MTV airplay of “Tell Me What You Want” and “Who’s Behind The Door?!” Outselling other Atlantic artist’s debut albums with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Yes, and AC/DC!

To say that I was looking forward to this show is an understatement. I had not even seen it announced yet when I noticed tickets for this show at a silent auction at another show I attended at this venue earlier this year in July. This was my third time seeing Zebra live, with the first time being in 1992, and the last time was my second concert after the pandemic restrictions were lifted in 2021. After witnessing the magic of the show in 2021, I told myself no way was I missing another opportunity to see this band live!

The band originated in New Orleans in early 1975 and “In 2010 Zebra was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame and is acknowledged as Louisiana’s No. 1 rock and roll band by the Louisiana Music Commission.” The premise of the tour was that the band would play their debut release, ‘Zebra’, in the original track order, along with other fan favorites, and deep cuts from their entire catalog. I could not help but to peek at some of their recent set lists and was pleasantly surprised to see they were playing a handful of different covers each stop on the tour so it made me wonder what we were in for.

I arrived at the venue dodging the raindrops, as it had been a rainout of a day and evening and thankfully this was an indoor show. I ran into a few familiar faces in the lobby and I discovered that the show was in fact sold out (I had known it was close to being so). Soon it was time for the show and with no opening band Zebra was set to take the stage at 8:25 PM. As a people watcher I find the age demographics of the Shows I Go To interesting and as I expected this evening the crowd was older, predominantly in my mid 50’s age group, although I did notice one teenager there with her parents.

A video intro played as the lights went dim sharing various achievements and historic tour stops throughout the band’s career. The band launched into ‘Light of My Love’ and it was evident with the beginning of this and each song thereafter that at least one person in the crowd was hearing their favorite Zebra song with all of the arms in the air and head nodding I witnessed for my three songs from the soundboard. ‘Better Nott Call’ and ‘Bears’ rounded out what I thought were my three songs behind the lens, which always seem to go by In a flash.

The opening track on the band’s debut album is next, ‘Tell Me What You Want’ was midway through when I got settled into my seat, had my camera gear packed and was taking in the sounds of lead vocalist Randy Jackson with that golden falsetto voice of his. He is still able to hit those notes at both ends of his octave range and do so with ease it seemed, encouraging the crowd to join in, but never needing us to help him carry the tune. To say that the rest of the show was a blur in a sense is an understatement. As I am taking in the song, I get a text from the band’s stage manager, Mike, who I had met earlier in the evening, and he asked if I wanted to come take photos from the side stage. In an instant I am out of my seat and trying to find my way backstage. Having never been back there at this venue I am sort of lost. Mike finds me and the next thing I know I am stage right trying not to trip over anything (I have been known to be clumsy at times) and find the best positioning in and around three curtains.

At that point the show went in absolute fast forward. The set continued along the album’s order until a small technical glitch resulted in having to shuffle the album’s order. Musically the highlight of the show for me was of course ‘Who’s Behind the Door’, which was the shuffled song, It just got played later in the show than it was scheduled to be. I put the camera down for most of this song and just reflected the memories conjuring up of days in the late 1980s popping in that debut Zebra cassette tape in my friend’s 1970 Monte Carlo and rocking out as we rolled down the highway on our way to high school. I remember that 1992 Zebra show I attended explicitly for both the company I was with and the location, as the local historic venue, The Rock It Club, no longer exists. The song quickly became a favorite of mine and many of my friends in my formative musical youth as a teenager in the mid-1980s. It is considered one of Zebra’s signature pieces in their musical catalog and is a staple of the band’s live performances.

Back to present day and the killer show I witnessed in a most intimate venue, I peeked around the curtain and could see that I was not alone in my reminiscing as I noticed multiple people seem to lose themselves in the magic of both the moment and the memories of listening to Zebra back in the day. Randy is most definitely an underrated guitarist in the annals of rock and roll lore and the musical chemistry between he, Felix Hanemann on bass and Guy Gelso on drums is truly amazing. Felix pulls double duty between the keyboards/synthesizer and his bass guitar and Guy joins them both with vocals while keeping perfect rhythmic time. With much appreciation to Mike, I was in absolute perfect position during Guy’s drum solo and think I got some fantastic shots of him in action.

While for the majority of the show I could not see the crowd, I could certainly hear their reaction after each song and from my vantage point there was as much appreciation from the band for the crowd as was being returned by us fans. I returned to the soundboard as the band closed out the show covering Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’. I will say that after the show I heard nothing but positive remarks about the show we just witnessed. I met a couple who were gushing over how happy they were to have finally be able to see one of their favorite bands of all time, and I saw on Facebook a post of someone who had traveled from Denver just to go to this show.

Although Zebra has not released any new studio material since 2003, they have legions of loyal fans as evidenced by the sold out crowd and the reception the band received. I had a most excellent time, reminiscing while rocking out and enjoyed immensely being the vantage point I was most appreciative of. After the show the band very graciously stayed at the stage to sign autographs and take photos with the fans. With only three dates left on the current tour, hopefully there will be some future dates announced soon. \m/

Zebra tour dates – https://thedoor.com/#tour

Zebra is:
Randy Jackson – Lead vocals, guitars
Felix Hanemann – Bass, strings, keyboards, synthesizer vocals
Guy Gelso – Drums, percussion, vocals

Zebra Setlist, December 16, 2023, Capitol Theater, Clearwater, FL
Better Not Call
Bears
Light of My Love
(Zebra (Debut Album)):
Tell Me What You Want
One More Chance
Slow Down (Larry Williams cover)
As I Said Before
When You Get There
Take Your Fingers From My Hair
Don’t Walk Away
The La La Song (followed by Guy’s drum solo)
Who’s Behind the Door (out of album order – song dropped down setlist due to dead battery in Randy’s guitar)

He’s Making You the Fool
Time
No Tellin’ Lies
Arabian Nights

Encore:
Wait Until the Summer’s Gone
Last Time
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)


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