Rock music: Still sexy after all these years

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Shepherds Bush Empire

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant

Shepherds Bush Empire

Rock music needs its occasions, and 30 years after the birth of Led Zeppelin, a surprise gig by the band's pivotal members still registered heavily on the music hack

Richter scale. Tonight's guest list was literally 800 names long, and there were enough pop stars in the audience for a Tussaud's Rock Circus. With the pomp, bombast and frivolous excess of 1970s rock hanging in the air like patchouli, the faithful prepared to pay homage.

The roar that greeted them as they came on-stage was immense, and there was also that pleasing sense of the surreal which occurs when one encounters icons of popular culture in the flesh. Plant looked the better preserved of the two, but then he has several years on Page, who's now pushing 55. They were joined by Michael Lee on drums, Plant's son-in-law, Charlie Jones, on bass, and Phil Andrews on keyboards, squeeze-box, and mandolin. Unfortunately Andrews was so quiet in the mix that he often appeared to be miming.

Wisely, they began with a medley of oldies, rather than slavishly promoting their forthcoming album, Walking Into Clarksdale. We got "Nightflight" from Physical Graffiti, then "Bring It On Home" and "Heartbreaker" from Led Zeppelin II. The latter served as an only reminder of why Jimmy Page is still revered in rock guitar circles. His riffs are mammoth hooks; sexy, melodic phrases that lodge in both the crotch and the cranium. And even although he's no longer the lithe, twenty-something who (together with Hendrix) pioneered the phallocentric repertoire of rock guitar posturing, he still has a certain elegant swagger when he gets going.

The acoustic interlude which featured "Going To California", "Tangerine" and the hugely infectious stomp of "Gallows Pole" seemed to induce a mass reverie of nostalgia. When Page teased his Les Paul with a violin bow, and when a roadie ran on with a fresh incense stick for Plant's monitor, it was a reminder of those heady days before This is Spinal Tap brilliantly deconstructed the whole heavy rock genre.

Of the new material, only "Walking into Clarksdale" and the single "Most High" came close to Zeppelin of old, but then to be fair the agenda has changed, with Steve Albini's production on the new album attempting (and often succeeding) to contemporise the pair's sound. The audience cared not a jot about this, of course - they simply wanted "Stairway To Heaven". Despite Page teasingly closing "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" with "Stairway's" opening however, they knew in their heart of hearts that it wasn't going to happen.

Instead, we got a truly incendiary "Whole Lotta Love" in which Page coaxed other-worldly squeals from an archaic theremin, and a strangely poignant "Thank You", the song which Plant wrote for his wife back in 1969. "Just silly old buggers singing songs about love," he grinned at the end. How could he have confused himself with Des O'Connor and Sacha Distel?

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little