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Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Concert Review: Madison Square Garden, July 16, 1998

SignFrom Rolling Stone

No disrespect to the musical legacy of Led Zeppelin, but nothing at tonight’s show better evoked the golden age of stadium rock than the sight of Robert Plant’s golden mane blowing around his head. Sure, he can still wail like a banshee and compatriot Jimmy Page can still make his guitar roar like a venerable lion, but it was Plant’s hair blowing in the AC gales that truly made you remember laughter and the indelible stage presence of Zeppelin.

Yes, Zeppelin. Let’s call a spade a spade. When Page and Plant snubbed Zep bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones on their “No Quarter” tour four years ago, they stressed that they were determined not to trade in nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake. Hence the “Page and Plant” tag and the accompanying orchestra of middle eastern musicians to help give warhorses like “Kashmir” and “The Battle of Evermore” a unique spin. It was a tenuous excuse in theory, but the results were interesting enough to distinguish the duo from countless other re-heat-the-hits reunion tours, ranging from the Eagles to shed-acts like REO Speedwagon and The Doobie Brothers.

But with this current tour, supporting Walking Into Clarksdale, Page and Plant’s studio “debut”, all those concessions to originality have been thrown right out the window. Plant admitted as much himself tonight: “We’ve got no Egyptians, we’ve got no hurdy gurdy; we’ve just us and a few bright ideas”. The bright ideas in question consisted of three new songs and a whole lotta straight-up, ungussied Led. There was drummer Michael Lee in the John Bonham seat, and bassist Charlie Jones and keyboardist Phil Andrews filling in for the still-absent John Paul Jones, but the songs remained the same and Page and Plant made no apologies for it.

It was a strategy that kept the crowd standing for ninety-seven percent of the show and inspired deafening hoots and hollers of “Zeppelin!” in the Garden’s hallways after the show. Page alone probably could have inspired such an afterglow had he merely played the riff to “Whole Lotta Love” for two hours straight. Indeed, for the first six songs he might as well have been by himself given what a chore it was to hear Plant through the muddy thunder of a mix that rendered stompers like “Heartbreaker” and “Ramble On” indistinguishable from the new “Walking Into Clarksdale”. For all the visual majesty of his billowing mane of golden locks, Plant could have been replaced by a cardboard-cutout — or former Page one-night-stander David Coverdale, for that matter.

Thankfully, by the time “No Quarter” came to a slow boil, the levels were evened out and Plant’s voice was brought into proportion with Page’s Les Paul. With it too came the opportunity for Jones, Lee and Anderson to spread out and express their own strengths. Soon after, the stools and chairs were broughtout for pseudo-acoustic fare like “Going to California,” “Tangerine” and a propulsive, harrowing “Gallows Pole”, all of which proved to be much more impressive outlets for Page’s talent than his trademark marriage of violin bow to guitar neck — a gimmick that looks cool but is a genuine bitch on the ears.

The evening’s best moments were “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and the new “Most High.” “Babe,” clocking in at well over ten minutes, was like a concert inminiature, a rock opera which found Page and Plant working off each other’s every nuance. As for “Most High,” it played like a condensed “Kashmir” withoutall the dull bits — a direct descendent of their finest work in Zeppelin that was infinitely more exciting than the following “Whole Lotta Love” and the encore’s rote run-throughs of “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.”

As for “Kashmir,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Dazed and Confused,” well, they didn’t play any of them. Fine, but shouldn’t their omission have left rooms omewhere in the set for such undervalued Zep classics as “The Ocean,” “Overthe Hills and Far Away” or “In My Time of Dying”? Apparently not, although the whole of Physical Graffitti could have been played in the time it took the band to leave the stage after their extended display of waving and bowing to the crowd. Such stadium rock indulgence is their due, though — and mor epower to them — but it was hard not to feel short changed by the time they finally left and the house lights came on. Without a more committed effort to producing more *new* music on par with “Most High,” Page and Plant would do well to take in a Doobies shed show before touring again: for there but for the grace of their vaulted names go they.

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Jimmy Page & Robert Plant MSG 1998 | | Leave a comment