Page & Plant / Cornwall Coliseum, St Austell

Click to follow
In some ways, the hideous entertainment multiplex modestly named the Cornwall Coliseum is an ideal Led Zeppelin venue. It squats grimly on a granite beach a matter of feet from the Atlantic ocean. It is featureless, implacable, massy yet compacted, as if dropped on Cornwall from a great height: corrugated concrete blocks set against black cliffs and a riffing sea.

Perfect, you'd have thought, not only as a metaphor for Zeppelin's most inhospitable music but also as the setting for a memorable entrance: Robert and Jimmy, horned and cross-gartered, in the prow of a Viking longship driven hard up the beach like a sword into the maw of Gossips' niterie.

If only. Sadly, the realisation of such a coup would ask unanswerable questions of the chaps' security operation. And besides, how keen are the chaps going to be to plug in their Gibsons while gartered in sopping thongs? In the event, we had to make do with the group appearing gingerly from behind a curtain of green and vermillion light to the sound of chugging Arab modes. It was bathos, but it was good bathos.

The same went for the rest of the show. P&P's solution to the problem of being too young to die but old enough to worry about it is to take their heavy business lightly. They came with a full complement of Egyptian drummers, but not the orchestra scheduled for later shows, eschewing theformal solemnity of last year's do in favour of all-out Arabian crunch- rock.

Indeed, they went off at the deep end with a somewhat perfunctory "Whole Lotta Love", during which Plant essayed the occasional bottom-clench and hair-toss before leaving it to his accomplice to make an unspeakable racket with his Theremin thing. This contraption has been around since the early days. It's constructed out of a black toolbox, Meccano, some gaffer tape and the gear-stick off an old tractor and it sounds like an earthquake. Page played it like a laid-back traffic policeman waving his arms at an intersection, looking chuffed to bits while the tarmac cracks and suppurates all about, belching black vapour and the smell of testosterone.

"Since I've Been Loving You" was pretty torrid, too, as was "Four Sticks", which snicked the vibe up a gear from the pervading matey languor. "Kashmir" was the clincher, though, being long, hot and cinematic. Guitars swelled and bellied like sails, Arab drums lurched and swayed: Viking sea-dogs rode ships of the desert. Page grinned afterwards like a 12-year-old.

There remained an element of restraint in Plant's demeanour, however, which may have been the product of a 47-year-old's natural angst at having to clench his bottom in front of strangers or may simply have been from the effort of making his voice soar more freely than at any time since his original separation from his pallid chum. It brought a lump to the throat rather than to the trousers.