Pop: Been a long time since they rock 'n' rolled
Saturday 07 November 1998
FROM A distance of 60 yards, Robert Plant looks just the same as he did when this critic last saw him at Shepton Mallet in 1970. That is, a live rock icon with the world at his feet. Nice feeling of deja vu then, when Page and Plant did "Bring It On Home" and "Heartbreaker" in the opening set. Jimmy Page lacked the floppy hat and beard, but the guitar maintained his trade mark resonance.
The show rambled on with an excursion through Led Zeppelin II, but you suspected the duo were just warming up for something else. Correct. The next song was "Walking Into Clarksdale", a non-Zep original, but none the less borne along by the same unique voice/guitar combination. Jimmy Page continues to extract fantastic but essentially new noises from the instrument, his mastery of sustain and feedback second only to Jimi Hendrix. And what of the Plant voice, patented in 1969 and imitated ever since? "When The World Was Young" provided a good test. Robert yodelled comfortably along, surfing easily on Page's guitar-generated waves. Yes - the same voice.
Stools were produced for "Going to California", which apparently started the "request" section of the gig. There were moments during this song when the guitar and vocal parts actually became indistinguishable. The same went for "Gallows Pole", which Plant insisted was an old English folk song. The difference is the Burundi drum beat that drives at double speed. Distant memories, also, of John Bonham.
"Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" signaled the beginning of an exercise in voice control by Robert Plant, each "baby" landing perfectly after the previous one, as Page's loping guitar quickly converted from rhythm to lead and back again. "Psychedelic," uttered Plant as the intro began for "How Many More Times?" And so everyone waited for Jimmy's special bit in the middle. A cheer went up when he seized his bow from the top of an amp, and began steadily sawing his guitar strings. It's his oldest trick, but he does it perfectly, creating sounds usually only possible in the bath.
Straight into "Most High", their favourite new song, featuring Middle Eastern drumming, and other noises from the desert, including the mysterious oriental oboe, actually produced on a keyboard. Page and Plant look as if they're heavily into this new stuff, performing with much more seriousness than when they lapse into the "easy" songs, for example "Whole Lotta Love". Whether Page played this with his eyes shut could not be seen at a distance of 60 yards, but it sounded like it. Plant's "way down inside" part was OK, but required a lot of echo assistance on the microphone. The crowd bayed for an encore when "Whole Lotta Love" ended, and they were rewarded with "Black Dog". Everyone went home happy.
A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's newspaper
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food