Review Originally released in 1994 `No Quarter’ contains 14 musical pieces, mostly intelligent and imaginative re-works of songs written jointly by Page and Plant and recorded by Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. Most buyers interested in this collection will be Zeppelin fans and very familiar with all the `originals’ from Zep’s back catalogue.
One of the reasons Page and Plant hit it off when they met in 1968 was that they shared wide-ranging musical interests, and their subsequent joint-compositions incorporated ideas from North African and Indian music (check out Page’s frequently unconventional guitar tunings) as well as Mississippi Delta blues, Appalachian mountain music and the folk traditions of the British Isles.
On this album the duo perform some of their best songs with new arrangements backed by 7 musicians playing variously banjo, mandolin, bodhran and hurdy-gurdy as well as bass and percussion. To add further spice to the mix, a traditional Egyptian 11-piece musical ensemble is deployed on many of the tracks, and – on those recorded in Marrakech – 4 Moroccan musicians. To top it all off, the entire string section from The London Metropolitan Orchestra (violins, violas and cellos) guest on a brand new interpretation of the Zep classic `Kashmir’ to close the album.
Some of the songs on the album are performed in front of a live audience and some are studio recordings; some recorded in Marrakech in the open air and some at a cottage in Snowdonia. Overall the result is a very rich musical experience, more complex and varied than any one of Zeppelin’s glorious albums to which this collection will inevitably be compared. One or two songs – `Since I’ve been loving you’, `That’s the way’ and `Battle of Evermore’ – don’t really get the full exotic treatment but are re-worked in a more conventional manner, and improved on nevertheless.
Overall this is a truly excellent and mature piece of work which will appeal to any Zeppelin fan, and also to any open-minded listener with wider musical horizons who wants to hear something a bit different. Production values are exemplary, giving a rich and satisfying sound where no instrument or voice dominates the action, but where everything is in fine balance.
Review Calling this album by the video title of “Unledded,” as a takeoff on “Unplugged,” sorely misses the point of why “No Quarter” is not just Jimmy Page and Robert Plant doing acoustic versions of Led Zeppelin songs.
The primary attraction of this album is the infusion of Eastern rhythms and sounds into their old songs. The Egyptian Ensemble’s percussion section uses instruments you just do not hear on rock ‘n’ roll albums: Dobolla, Duf, Bendir, Reque, Merwas, Nay and Finger Cymbals (for good measure the back up band includes a Bodhran and Hurdy Gurdy). As soon as you hearing the opening of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” you know that there is an exotic twist to these songs this time around. “No Quarter,” “Friends,” “The Battle for Evermore,” “Gallows Pole” and “Four Sticks” all benefit from this fresh approach.
Then, just to make things really interesting, we get the string section of the London Metropolitan Orchestra to come in on the awesome version of “Kashmir” that ends the album. Consequently, the songs were we do not really get the full flavor of this exotic twist, such as “Thank You,” That’s the Way” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” seem a bit out of place. It would be hard to argue that Plant’s voice is everything it once was, but ultimately he is just another instrument on this mix.
I have always appreciated the mixing of musical styles, whether it is Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel using South African influences or Loreena McKennitt blending Celtic and Eastern music together, so I certainly consider “No Quarter” to be in that successful vein. The fact that these are Led Zeppelin songs just makes this album that much better.
Review This album contains a superb and ambitious re-working of some classic Zep songs such as Kashmir, No Quarter and Four Sticks. This is a more mature and refined sound than the original Led Zeppelin songs while retaining the tightness and intensity of the originals.
In the Zep days, the dynamic duo were influenced by Arabic and Indian music to the extent that Page frequently used unconventional guitar tunings in some of his songs. But in this album they have brought their Eastern influences to the forefront by incorporating an Egyptian orchestra. This works exceptionally well with several tracks, which they have taken to new heights and directions.
While remaining grounded in their Blues roots, they also pay homage to their eastern influences by recording informal sessions with Egyptian musicians which adds a touch of simplicity and mysticism.
Plant’s voice is as strong and bluesy as ever (check out Nobody’s Fault But Mine) and Page’s guitar solos are inspired and played from a place “deep down inside” (check out Thank You).
We’re not talking about your average rock-stars here – never content with resting on their laurels, the album bursts with creativity, originality and ambition. From the haunting and vibrant No Quarter to the East-West fusion of Kashmir, P&P inspire, delight and take their classic songs to parts very few rock bands have reached, and beyond.
Review Ex-Led Zeppelin vocalist and lyricist Robert Plant always said that the true spirit of Led Zeppelin as represented within a single song was more evident in “Kashmir” than it was in AOR standby classic tracks like “Rock & Roll” and “Black Dog”; the notion that a hard rock blues-based band of English white boys who practically invented the heavy metal music genre could in fact be considered the godfathers of “World Beat” music a full generation before Peter Gabriel came along is conveniently overlooked by Western rock music fans, as is the notion that the principles of Eastern music (in terms of Indian and Arabic theories and applications) were far more prevalent within Led Zeppelin’s work than that of the Beatles, typically more associated with Indian music thanks to George Harrison’s association with Ravi Shankar.
This outstanding live performance recorded 10 years ago as of this writing is a fantastic example of Plant’s opinion and the Led Zeppelin vision of musical exploration gloriously realized. As detailed within the interview included with this DVD’s bonus features, Plant and guitarist/co-songwriter Jimmy Page chose a set that lent itself well to a broad interpretation and that reflected less the brute force of the riff-driven heavy metal classic tracks that permeate albums such as “Led Zeppelin II” and their self-titled 4th album (although “Four Sticks” and a wild reinterpretation of “When The Levee Breaks” are included) and more of the songs crafted as introspective compositions from “Led Zeppelin III” and “Houses Of The Holy”.
This is not Led Zeppelin in their prime; that would be “How The West Was Won”. And in truth John Paul Jones’ absence is much lamented by this listener as he may well have been the best musician in the band and was the unifying force keeping them together during their last years…but the musicians filling in for him and the late John Bonham are certainly competent and their absence tugs at the sentiment of the heart rather than the sensitivity of the ear.
But for me the accompanying musicians are what really makes this set go. This is not a case of adding an extra guitarist (i.e., Pat Smear from the “Nirvana: MTV Unplugged” concert); the musicians added to this performance play every thing from banjo to hurdy-gurdy to native Arabic lutes, in addition to both Western and Eastern string sections as well as Arabic percussion specialists. The culmination of the meshing of musical talents and the melding of musical sensibilities is no better realized than in the epic performance of “Kashmir”, my personal favourite Led Zeppelin song (and perhaps my favourite song by any performer). The song is hardly recognizable as the 8-plus minute classic rock radio staple; it has instead become the living embodiment of the spirit of the band and with its new energy surpasses the original studio recording whose orchestral sounds were generated from an early synthesizer (by John Paul Jones); the energy and the determination exhibited by the lead and supporting musicians during its performance is thoroughly inspiring and worthy of one of the finest performances in contemporary rock history.
This is a tremendous sampling of a band broken down to its most musical elements. Not specifically rock, folk, or even acoustic. Just evidence of the work of one of the finest bands to ever record. All the elements are there; you owe it to yourself to partake of them.
Review Well, Sir Robert and James Page have done it again!
This time, in a re-release of MTV’s 1994 Special UnLedded Page and Plant video, the full beauty of Robert’s voice, and Jimmy Page and his mastery of guitar legend abound.
It is replete with wonderful moments, such as Gallows Pole, featuring Jimmy playing one of his own Black Mountainside Brand custom acoustic guitars, Friends, a fabulous, exotic song from Zep III, and a heavy version of THE song, Kashmir, replete with cello phenom Caroline Dale, her entire ensemble of British cellists, Giles, Milne, et al, an Egyptian string ensemble, (with monstrously talented Egyptian violin soloist Wael Abu Bakr) doing lead violin solo, and Jimmy playing the 50,000$, multi computerized Gibson Les Paul Transperformance guitar – capable of instantaneously moving and retuning to nearly 100 different modal tunings real time- with relish. Jimmy has that device down to a science. Kashmir is simply still astonishing and brings tears to the eyes delivered like this. Power and glory abound here.
There is EVEN Page/Plant/Jones and Lee, doing a parody of Dred Zeppelins’ (Nobody’s Fault) doing a parody of Led Zep. How about that for turnabout? All in good fun of course. It’s even dumbed down to Dreds level for extra gusto.
The other piece de resistance’ is No Quarter, the beginning song, filmed outdoors, in the woods, in Wales, with Jimmy doing a totally re-worked No quarter in modal 12 string, acoustic, and Robert handling his own array of black boxes (on his lap) through which he does misty mountain hopping special FX for his voice, in real time. THIS is priceless.
There are a few (very few) weak spots here and there, but after all, these guys are middle aged fellows, like many of us, here, and none of us are what we were when we were 25. And Bonham’s presence is noticeable at times. Thank You could have been a better take.
But on the whole, this is thrilling music, with enormous scope, big time arrangements, TOP talent doing backup roles. The hurdy gurdy, rich mandolins, and violas and Bodhran add especially flavourful ethnic mixes to the final product. It is exciting, fresh, and full of new twists. I loved the jam with the musicians in Morrocco. And in Marrackech, that anthem, with Pagey doing the moonwalk, is just plain loud fun.
Where Pagey gets these special effects is anyone’s guess. He never runs out of new ideas, or new gear. No one, save perhaps Gilmour, knows more about the technical end of guitar, electronics, FX, cutting edge tech, and the like. These two fellows have pushed the state of the guitar ahead 100 years… if only there were people behind them picking up where they left off. As long as that is not the case, WE need JP showing us the way..
SIBLY is again, great. If you liked Led Zep, I dare say you will probably love this video. It is worth watching and keeping. You won’t find another live rock band like this for another hundred years or more. And with this high calibre of musicians backing them up, you won’t see a show like this again. That much is assured. Guaranteed.
Review The first thing you notice about the record is the way it has been recorded. It is certainly not a slick, polished, radio-friendly production, and in a sense is perhaps an audiophile’s nightmare. Frequencies sometimes sound indistinct, and many of the vocal takes are recorded very dry, whilst the instrumentation is enhanced by merely room ambience, rather than excessive use of plug-ins, digital reverbs, compressors, EQs and the like.
In reality though, it is this dynamic and organic approach to cutting tracks that the record benefits from. Frequently the band swing from passages so quiet and gentle you fancy you can almost hear Plant breathing into his mic, to powerfully loose sections in which Page is often inspired to produce fretwork that is magnificently understated, beautifully executed and very moving. The rhythm section combine to subtly underpin the melodic passages and drive the harder sections with a dynamic aggression; they’ve never sounded better, and Page and Plant have never been more ably supported.
Throughout the recording Page makes subtle use of effects to enhance his guitar playing – a touch of tremolo here, a dash of tape echo there – and it sounds as though most his overdrive comes from careful use of his guitar’s volume control rather than pedals or rack effects; once again it’s this natural approach to playing that makes it rank amongst his best on record.
The songs themselves are amongst the finest that Page and Plant have written together. Plant’s lyrics are straightforward and resonate with an honesty that is refreshing and rewarding to listen to time and again. His more poetic side is beautifully balanced, for the most part not drifting into pastiche. The melodies are interesting, and often a song will traverse several moods with musical twists and turns along the way, never becoming formulaic. What they do require is time and effort – time to actually sit, listen and enjoy. There are one or two exceptions – Burning Up, House of Love and Sons of Freedom sound to me as though a few riff driven rockers were urgently needed and had they been consigned to the b-sides collection, I wouldn’t be complaining.
A reviewer below questions Albini’s involvement and suggests his presence is hardly felt. In so saying, he has completely missed the point of Steve Albini and good producers in general. Albini was not brought to the sessions to make Page and Plant sound like Nirvana, (for which we are all no doubt, very thankful), but what he has done is what every good producer strives to do – get the best out of the band and onto tape. If a record sounds like a producer has left their muddy footprints all over it, then it becomes the producer’s record, not the band’s. This is the sound of a band playing together in a room, and Albini has captured it well.
I understand why some people haven’t taken to it. It doesn’t have the immediacy of some of their earlier recorded output, nor the weight and urgency. It is understated and reflective, and that’s exactly what I love about it, and what many, it seems, hate about it. Well, that’s OK, I guess, each to their own! But, overall, in my opinion, this is an excellent record, expertly performed, beautifully recorded and well worth the money.
Review I avoided this one when it came out, wary of the possibility of an embaressing superstar-reunion-type situation. I bought it used, on a whim, not really expecting much. But I’m eating my words with a spoon. This is truly one of the finest albums I have ever heard. Each of the songs is strong, and together, they create a powerful collection, completely deserving of the Grammy won in 1999 (for “Most High”).
Jimmy Page’s performance is a terrific surprise. While no one can fault his godlike capability with his instrument, many of his post-Zep solo efforts have seemed a little cold and clinical. Here, he weaves a lush wall of sound that is not only a mindblowing ride up and down the fingerboard, but is also warm, passionate, yearning, experimental. Plant’s voice has retained its visceral beauty; this album expands his thematic and emotional ranges.
The songwriting is powerful: solid, mature lyrics paired with impeccable musical composition. It’s like Zeppelin all grown up — this is what the band *could* have achieved if not for John Bonham’s untimely passing. The only way it could have been improved (not that it needs improvement) would be if John Paul Jones had made an appearance. For anyone who hasn’t checked out JPJ’s solo work, especially the eponymous “Zooma”, you’re missing out.
If you enjoyed the “No Quarter” version of “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” and Plant’s latest, “Dreamland,” you will *love* this album.
Led Zeppelin Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award (Seattle, June 1972 & Fort Worth, August 1971 & Page/Plant London, August 1994)
Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award is a potpourri by Empress Valley gathering together three fragments that has nothing to do with one another and presents them in one convenient package. Empress Valley packages this in a thick cardboard gatefold sleeve exactly as they did with Windy City II. The photos are a little incongruous with the Hiroshima 1971 photo on the front and one from a 1973 press conference on the inside. They also duplicate the picture from the “Unledded” recording found in The Concert File on the inside.
Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – June 18th, 1972
Disc 1 (77:05): Announcement, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California. Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971: Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven
The first approximately forty-five minutes of the first disc is the June 18th, 1972 Seattle fragment that has seen several releases over the years. It appears on Trouble In Vancouver (LZP 388) on the old Gold Standard label, on the no label Sub Zep and most recently as a bonus on the Flagge title Axeman of Cometh with the June 11th, 1972 Baltimore tape.
The tape is very good and clear and is of comparable quality as the older versions. It begins with the house announcer saying the show will start at 8:30 to give the people from Vancouver more time to arrive. After a small cut in the tape the drone used to open the show for the latter half of the tour is audible.
Usually this lead directly into “Immigrant Song” but Plant interrupts it to have a short sound check and to address some hecklers before the band begin playing. After “Heartbreaker” Plant says to the crowd, “What can we say? Somebody tried to do a lot of damage in Vancouver, breaking down doors and all that old shit” and asks if anyone is from Vancouver to dedicate ”Black Dog” to them.
The band was originally scheduled to play that city on this date but the city were concerned about violence and cancelled the gig. It is commonly assumed it is based upon the behavior of the manager at 1971′s show in Vancouver where they broke a government officials equipment but that explanation really doesn’t agree with Plant’s comments on the tape.
It probably had more to do with the riot on June 3rd at the Rolling Stones’ concert in the city where, according to The Sun: “The Rolling Stones and an ecstatic crowd of 17,000 were inside, flying stones and an unruly mob of 2,000 were outside…285 policemen faced a barrage of rocks, bottles and, for the first time in recent Vancouver history, Molotov cocktails…Thirteen of the police required hospital treatment…thirteen people were arrested…PNC directors will meet within the next few days to draw up new ground rules for rock concerts.”
The riot occurred when fans attempted to snag free tickets and doors and windows were damaged in the melee. Whatever the case may be the band delivers a set that sounds very much like the San Bernardino gig on June 22nd, being the standard set delivered very well.
There are no hints they played any of the new material from Houses Of The Holy as they did the following night in Seattle and Los Angeles. It is impossible to tell though since the tape ends after the first acoustic number and until the rest of the tape surfaces or a second source is found we’ll never know how this show ended.
Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, TX – August 23rd, 1971
Disc 2 (57:48): Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown (fragment)
The August 23rd, 1971 Fort Worth tape follows Seattle to roughly replicate concert order. This previously unknown source first surfaced in the mid-nineties and was released by The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin on Hot August Night (TDOLZ Vol. 42) from second-generation copy. The masters are now hoarded but this is the complete document. The beginning of the show was taped by “Nick” the taper, but he flipped the tape to record the “Whole Lotta Love” medley.
He said to the fanzine Proximity “I think I realized at that point that I was taping over a lot of good stuff from the beginning of the concert, and that I would rather have that than the end of the show. Then I just went home. We would just replay and re-live the concert for the next week or, until the next concert came to town, then the tape would go in the drawer!” (Vol 8, No. 26, July 1997).
It is a very clear and enjoyable fragment capturing a hot performance. Empress Valley comes from the same source as Diagrams and sounds almost identical so there is again no improvement. It begins during the violin bow solo in “Dazed & Confused” and it is a great version with “White Summer” making a soft appearance about sixteen and a half minutes in during the coda section.
“Stairway To Heaven” has an interesting guitar solo. There is a small cut after “Celebration Day” and Plant complains about the heat and lights and asks for the white spotlights to be turned off. The acoustic set usually contained “That’s The Way” and “Going To California” but the latter was dropped for unknown reasons. “Moby Dick” is incomplete cutting out at fifteen minutes into the drum solo.
“Whole Lotta Love” has the standard inclusions in the medley with Plant singing an unknown blues during the early improvisation. The tape captures forty seconds of the first encore “Communication Breakdown”. The sound quality is poor because the taper managed to sneak backstage and began recording the encores from that position until Richard Cole kicked him out. It is a fascinating document and this release is the first time it has appeared on a silver commercial boot in almost a decade.
Hot August Night generated a lot of buzz when it first came out and it is a mystery why other labels didn’t jump on it to make it more common than it is. The original release has been sold out for a long time and Empress Valley did a good job in making it available again. Anything from the seventh US tour has special appeal since it is one of Zeppelin’s most creative and important tours. In place of finding the Diagrams release (nearly impossible these days), Ahead & After is a strong alternative.
Page / Plant “Unledded” filming sessions, Studio Two (London TV Studios), South Bank, London, UK – August 25th, 1994
Disc 3 (62:12): Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, The Battle Of Evermore, Gallows Pole, The Rain Song, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Four Sticks, Friends (fragment)
The third disc of this three-disc collection is an hour-long raw soundboard fragment from the “Unledded” sessions in 1994. The tape is very clear although the balance fluctuates between Plant’s vocal and Page’s guitar. It begins with the Arabic music intro and runs until three and a half minutes into “Friends” unfortunately omitting “Kashmir” and ”That’s The Way.”
“If you bear with us a minute we just got to plug in” are Plant’s opening words. The bulk of the television program comes from the second night on August 26th and it is great to have the first night in such excellent quality.
They deliver a strong but nervous set with Plant talking a lot between numbers during tunings. There is a short break edited out between “Gallows Pole” and “The Rain Song” and the only negative with the set list is that none of the newer songs like “Yallah” or “Wonderful One” weren’t played. This tape probably could have stood as a solo release but is much better with the older fragments.
They’ve certainly seen worse than this dark oak lined bar where Sydney Harbour glitters seductively just through the panelled doors. And they’ve certainly done this whole thing before, one of them with forgivable ill-humour.
But today they are jocular, blokey and their living-legend status is resting comfortably with them.
Robert Plant exchanges a firm handshake and throws a dismissive, “New Zealand, eh? Well, at least you’ve not apologising for it,” at which Jimmy Page roars with laughter and starts in about Canadians always apologising for being Canadians.
There is mutual hilarity, Robert leaves looking for a coffee, and Jimmy settles back with the air of nothing to prove – and not much to say, really.
By the time Plant returns, we’ve canvassed good places to stay in Marrakesh, illicit substances found therein and the five interviews already this morning (“and I haven’t had bloody lunch yet”). And this is day four. There’s talk of their performing on some television show tonight hosted by Andrew Denton whose previous programme closed with various people – Rolf Harris among them – doing versions of Stairway to Heaven.
Maybe you should do a Rolf song tonight, then?
“Too obvious,” pronounces an imperious Plant sweeping back into the room and challenging: “So, how’s New Zealand then? Still all getting pissed at that racetrack?”
At 47, Robert Plant is, despite some facial crumpling, an unimpressive figure: taller than expected, draped in a flowing hippie shirt, encased in crushed velvet pants, the unruly ringlets constantly pushed back over the ears and shoulders … He’s also a formidable interview subject.
While 50-year–old Page, all in faded black and languid beneath a worrying amount of seemingly windswept hair, offers anecdotes and mild laughter, Plant makes disconcertingly penetrating eye contact and is not a man to suffer fools at all – and he’s suffered a few at the previous day’s press conference.
Someone said “dinosaur,” to which he tartly rejoined, “Look, we are old blokes. But you journalists are neve short of the old cliché, are you?”
Plant might well feel miffed at the reception he is occasionally given. He is a witty, well read and sharply barbed conversationalist, who will – and often enough to make for awkwardness, does – answer a question with a monosyllabic “yes” or “no” to leave interviewers despairing. He’d done it to a few over these days in Sydney where he and Page have been promoting their new album No Quarter.
There’s something disconcerting about taking to Robert Plant – less so the pug-nosed, personable Jimmy Page – because here is the man who was the pivot of the sexual and pharmaceutical excess that was Led Zeppelin on tour in the 70s. The stories are legion and legendary, the girl in handcuffs, the customised jet (“Airforce One with satin sheets”), the notorious fish incident at the Edgewater Inn…
And the other stuff: Plant lost his son, drummer John Bonham died in Jimmy Page’s house, tour manager Richie Cole telling all the heroin ‘n’ harem stories in his Led Zepplin Uncensored, the occult, Stairway to Heaven …
Plant and Page carry that with them, and it’s difficult to get your head round, especially if you have only 20 minutes – and it’s ebbing away while Plant gets a coffee.
These guys not only invented a whole genre of music but also were ambassadors of the lifestyle. They made a million when a million meant something and when a truckload of cocaine was a very big truck indeed.
Understandably these aren’t matters either warms to and even when Plant broaches such subjects himself he’s quick to shut them down. He mentions dismissively being “crowned the kings of rock tedium.”
And the crown rests uneasily?
“It’s in the bin, it’s a paper crown anyway and comes from a glossy magazine with a bloke on the cover with his tongue sticking out,” he sniffs.
“Let it pass that at one time that bloke might have been him.
But settling back with a coffee on its way, he’s laughing about cricketer Geoffrey Boycott in the lobby (“still got that same bird with him with the tinsel skirt on”) and confusing Page with his reference to that racetrack in New Zealand.
“We didn’t play … oh, you and the Big Log thing” says Page, who seemingly gets considerable private humour out of Plant’s solo Big Log album/tour. “We played at Western Springs and Richie had that motorbike…”
He embarks on an enjoyable reminiscence, then is reminded of playing the Auckland Town Hall when he was in the Yardbirds, way back in the mid-60s.
“Yeah, with Roy Orbison and the Walker Brothers on the bill ,” he recalls with remarkable clarity, given the manipulation of body chemistry since then. He strikes you as a loose, likeable fellow.
But jocularity isn’t why anyone is in this room for scrupulously timed interviews. Page and Plant are back – not as half of Led Zeppelin but as musicians with a new album and that has placed them and the media on this collision course again. Both remind the press of the consistently poor critical reception Led Zepp got.
Plant is a man who takes himself seriously – and challenges all others to do the same. And he’s keen to talk up No Quarter, an album born of an MTV Unplugged invitation. It’s a musical cross-fertilisation which sees them revisiting some Zepp material, notably a swirling version of Kashmir with Egyptian musicians, a claustrophobically intense reworking of Gallows Pole and The Battle of Evermore with Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar. There’s dull stuff, too, but also new songs: the hypnotic Yallah and City Don’t Cry, extended chant pieces recorded in Marrakesh with musicians of the Gnawa, a religious fraternity whose members are descendants of slaves brought from across the Sahara by Arab traders.
But the story of No Quarter starts slightly further back, when Page was remastering the Zepp albums.
“There’s no doubt for me there was a certain amount of nostalgia when I was listening to that variety of material” says Page. “I couldn’t fail to think I’d want to work with Robert again, but he was really busy touring – and there was the whole time-span of 14 years apart.
“But MTV gave us something that was concrete other than just meeting in offices to discuss old Zeppelin business or getting together to do charity things. And if we were coming back together again, we didn’t want to step backwards but move forward in every respect with new material or pulling new colours into the old songs. And presenting the Celtic-Gaelic aspect in higher focus…and exactly the same with the Egyptians.”
No Quarter Addresses those often over-looked aspects of Led Zeppelin and Plant makes a dismissive comment about journalists who think “Whole Lotta Love and Black Dog sums up a career of 12 years.”
By deliberately not inviting former Zepp keyboard player John Paul Jones into the project (he, somewhat miffed, says it would have been nice to have been told rather than read about it in the paper), they have avoided all the “Led Zeppelin Reunion” headlines. This was an opportunity to address unfinished musical business, not Zepp business, and when Martin Meissonnier (a French producer) provided them with some percussion loops, “it gave us the opportunity to get in a room and see what we could do after all that time,” says Page. “And the momentum of the writing process was so fast we worked with Michael [Lee, drums] and Charlie [Jones, bass] who had been Robert’s rhythm section.”
Later they relocated to Marrakesh for four days to record with the Gnawa, back to the city that Plant clearly loves. He accords considerable respect to the musicians of the region and is acutely aware of the history of western musicians – , Ornette Coleman and others – going to the area to record or rip off. Bill Laswell, who has recorded both the Gnawa and Master Musicians of Jajouka for his Axiom label, is “doing basically the equivalent of what Alan Lomax did in the Mississippi Delta in the 50s – field recordings of the very highest quality,” Plant says.
“The trouble is, a lot of other people are going out to Morocco now and are fusing – if that’s the right word – with the different musical traits there, but in a very obvious and flaccid way. So you get this sort of jazzy fusion mix with Gnawa or Berber music, but neither idiom gains from it.
“We’d never met the Gnawa when we went there but they were very patient and smiling is a great currency. There was a lot of that going on. Establishing some kind of spiritual relationship comes when you are making the music to some degree. But these people are spiritual tradesmen, so they know how far to go to get the results they need – and what they were doing with us was having a morning jam. And that about as far as it went.
“But it still makes a lot of other stuff I do feel useless. I waste a lot of time diddling about in rock star mode – which is pretty innocuous, really, and a very fine line between parody and invention – or in some great illumination of art and skill. Somewhere between that and Cliff Richard is a huge chasm.”
The spiritual aspect of the Gnawa – a people whose musical ceremonies are most often held to placate spirits and for healing purposes – is something both feel attracted to. Plant dismisses ‘negative music or negative attitudes” with a sniff of derision and maturely observes there’s a lot of negative music out there today, “but you can trade anger for solutions, rather than compounding the fury.”
With No Quarter the idea was to reopen doors. Page notes that 20 years ago they recorded Four Sticks and Friends (both reconsidered on No Quarter) with Indian musicians in Bombay, and Plant indicates that after sessions with the Meissonnier tapes they could hear possibilities opening up.
“We did a lot of work developing the music before going to Morocco and it was so strong and powerful it almost begged the question whether we needed to do any of the MTV stuff and whether it might be nice to just make a new record and be counted along with everybody else in a totally contemporary form without using the past and reiterating it. But, of course, the lure was working with the Egyptians and making Kashmir, Four Sticks and Friends the way we’d always dreamed of.
“We didn’t envision Kashmir this way originally, but as time goes by, you know, you can elaborate things and make them into something which is probably more fitting for the mood of the song.”
As you get older?
“As you get old,” he laughs. ”And also the fact that there’s now the whole linking of North African music with – well, between everywhere and everywhere. Youssou N’Dour [from Senegal] is in the charts with Seven Seconds now. It’s great all this meld is taking place … but I can’t see Aerosmith working with a gamelan orchestra!
“So there are certain marriages made in hell. But if you’ve written songs that can have a new incarnation, then it’s worth exploring. We were very lucky because we travelled when we were young and used our concert tours over this way to go through Thailand and India. We were inspired by the big, beautiful world and, as Jimmy says, recorded in India in ’72. Then you go from that to … last year I played in Chicago, before Jimmy and I got together, with James Cotton, a great harp player. He played so fantastically – so there’s another reference across and sideways. All that blues thing alongside the Celtic stuff and the North African musics.
“James wasn’t all that well and there certainly wasn’t much Johnnie Walker left within a mile of the gig but his playing was fantastic. But because he wasn’t Robert Cray, the polite burghers of Chicago weren’t’ sure whether they should be standing up, sitting down or getting popcorn.
“It’s all labels – that’s the problem we’ve got,” he says in exasperation … and without a pause for breath adds, “Well, it’s been nice meeting you.”
The interview – polite but perfunctory – is terminated firmly, unequivocally, and professionally. No chance to compliment Robert on his contribution to the Arthur Alexander tribute album or even blurt, “So Jimmy, just how did you write Stairway?”
On departure the conversation turns back to Marrakesh, Plant offering the name of a cheap hotel ($60 a day) and Page, smiling but unstirring from his leather chair, says impishly, “You’ll like it there.” There are some nice-to-have-met-you lines but by the time you reach the door they are already asking the record company guy if they’ve got any more of these.
It’s a long day … but they’ve known longer.
Plant and Page live with impossible, and somewhat tedious, expectations so you have to respect their professionalism and patience. Playing with Gnawa musicians or an orchestra of Egyptian musician might not be as innovative as they wish to claim, but somehow their peers who don’t explore the parameters seem less interesting. No Quarter doesn’t always work, but at least it tries.
Rock culture, however, doesn’t applaud effort, only results. Sales mean more than sentiment, so it must have given them great satisfaction to see that – once again despite typically indifferent reviews – No Quarter debuted on the American charts at number four and in Britain at seven. And it didn’t even have a new Stairway on it.
But that crown’s in the bin, of course.
Page can still play; Plant can’t sing like he used to, is the conclusion I had after seeing Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on March 23 (my golden birthday) at the U.S. Air Arena in DC. The first part of the set was done in with standard rock versions of their songs. For a moment I wondered what happened to all the innovativeness present on No Quarter, but I needn’t have feared—it was just late in coming.
They opened with some sort of a poem—I think it was recited by someone who didn’t have a English or American accent. Then the introduction to Immigrant Song followed by the Wanton song was played. They followed it up with Celebration Day, Thank You, and Dancin’ Days. The first surprise of the show came when they played Shake my Tree which was originally done by the Coverdale/Page duo. Plant has made fun of Coverdale in various interviews, but I preferred Coverdale’s singing to Plant’s attempt at it. However, they could’ve picked other songs from C/P that would’ve gone over a lot better. Page was on the Theremin for this one.
Yet another surprise followed when they played Lullaby (originally performed by the Cure) accompanied by guitarist Porl Thompson who played a few more songs with them. Then it was No Quarter and Gallows Pole. Things really started to liven up when they introduced Nigel Eaton on the Hurdy Gurdy. It was interesting to hear my first Hurdy Gurdy live solo ever. They then went on to Nobody’s Fault but Mine, The Song Remains the same, Since I’ve been Loving You (which was when the strings orchestra joined in), and Friends (introducing the Egyptian orchestra). This was then followed by a medley of Calling to You, Light my Fire (by the Doors—which surprised me a bit), and a bit of Dazed and Confused. The last two songs before the encore were Four Sticks and In the Evening. Page’s guitar working on Black Dog during the encore was excellent, particularly the solo part. They toppped the whole set with Kashmir.
The set list choice was indeed excellent. The guitar playing was somewhat, rather typically, sloppy but still excellent. Plant’s vocals were never upto mark. This was most evident in their encore when they did Black Dog. But this shouldn’t be a surprise since Plant doesn’t do the high notes on The Battle of Evermore (which was a notable absence in this set list along with Stairway to Heaven. I don’t think Plant could’ve sung the high (and my favourite) part anyway). It’s not to say that Plant is a bad singer, but that he can’t do the vocal gymnastics he used to do before. In terms of a show however, it was quite well done—there was a lot of psychedelic projection to keep the audience engaged.
Rusted Root opened. I like this band a lot, especially the popular tune Send me on My Way, which I missed because we arrived late at the show. But I thought they performed the two songs I saw rather well, even though it wasn’t as polished and tight as the studio versions—there was some spontaneity that resulted because of this and I thought this was good. They remind me a lot of Jethro Tull, and I figure opening for Page and Plant, they should’ve gained some notoriety.
Plant asked “Can you feel it?” The DJ at DC101 didn’t seem to have a clue as to what he was talking about, but I have a suspicion it was about haze of pot that hung over the audience. Maybe my experience would’ve been better if I had smoked a joint, but I think of all the dinosaurs that are crawling out of the woodwork (oxymoron), Page and Plant are definitely on the bottom half of my list as far as playing live is concerned, but definitely on the upper end in terms of album release. I do think all the versions of songs on No Quarter are extremely well done and fresh-sounding, but they do not hold up well when played live, especially at a big arena.
It had been a while since I’d seen Jimmy Page and Robert Plant together, but not as long as one may think. In 1988, I went to New York City to attend the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. The concert was a 13-hour marathon, showcasing new talents Debbie Gibson and Nu Shooz — denizens of the ‘where are they now’ file — perennial favorites Phil Collins and Crosby, Stills & Nash, and several of Atlantic’s early R&B artists like LaVerne Baker, Ruth Brown and Ben E. King.
The most anticipated acts were, however, a handful of special groups reuniting for the event. This included Vanilla Fudge, Average White Band and The Rascals, to name a few. It was the closing act of the evening, the coup de grace of the entire day, the 20-year old proverbial drawing card and cash cow for Atlantic Records that seemed to have the Garden buzzing. I can still remember the excitement as Ahmet Ertegan, the Chairman of The Board for Atlantic Records, stepped up to the podium on the side of the stage and uttered those two highly anticipated words: “Led Zeppelin.”
At the time, I thought this was about as close as it was going to get to the real thing. All the important elements were there: Page, Plant, Jones and…Bonham? Well, actually, it was Jason Bonham who sat in for his deceased father. It became achingly obvious that young Jason was the only one who bothered to rehearse for the show. Needless to say, the band’s ponderous one-two punch of old was conspicuously absent. And any ideas for future reunions were firmly put to rest, although the four did reunite briefly when Zeppelin were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. They were joined by Neil Young who gave the entire ensemble a run for their money.
Just as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart had done in previous years, the principle players of Zeppelin decided to take their trip down memory lane, a la MTV’s Unplugged series. Ever the iconoclasts, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant dubbed their performance UnLedded, and in the grand tradition of the might Zep, blew away the competition, making the show the most widely viewed episode in the history of the Unplugged series.
Let’s face it: without discounting the contributions of John Paul Jones or the late John Bonham, the reunion of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant is a Led Zeppelin fan’s dream come true. The mystique that dwelled over the 70’s supergroup may be missing, but for all intents and purposes, Page and Plant were the band’s front line and principal songwriters. Purists may liken the combination to a strain of diet Zep, but with this outfit there’s an extra shot of caffeine.
For their appearance at the San Diego Sports Arena, the capacity crowd greeted the legendary duo just as enthusiastically as they did for Zeppelin’s last appearance in Southern California 18 years before. From the opening notes of “Thank You” to the final crescendo of “Kashmir,” Page, Plant and a consortium of support musicians that backed them, kept the pace alive and exciting, yet never predictable. The inclusion of Page’s “Shake My Tree” (a stand-out track from the ill-fated Coverdale/Page album) and Plant’s “Calling To You” (the opening guitar cut from his solo album, Fate Of Nations) were significant in showing how the guitarist and singer have come to grips with each other’s post-Zeppelin material. The lack of any of the new Middle Eastern/World flavored tunes from the duo’s No Quarter album aroused a bit of curiosity over the future of the project. This meant, of course, that the bulk of the music was drawn from the Zeppelin songbook. And that’s apparently what the 14,000 fans crowing into the San Diego Sports Arena came to hear.
For fans lucky enough to have seen Led Zeppelin in their hey day, there were several surprises. “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” the infamous B-side that never made it onto an album, received a swift and smooth treatment. A medley of “In The Evening/Carouselambra” was especially intriguing as they appeared on the band’s final studio album, In Through The Out Door and had never been played live in the states.
What is most interesting about this “reunion” is that the songs are not being recycled for purposes of easy satisfaction. A song like “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a start-and-stop hard rocker from 1976, has been completely stripped down and reconfigured with an acoustic guitar, a banjo, a hurdy-gurdy and a minimal amount of Bonzo’s signature drum fills. It’s almost as if some of the Zep classics have been injected with new life. Best of all, the new arrangements don’t seem to spoil the true essence of the material. In San Diego, the fans would have been just as receptive had the songs remained the same.
Avoiding the clichés and hit parade roll-out of past glories is a commendable attribute. It would have been easy for these guys to whip out “Stairway To Heaven” — arguably the most overplayed and overrated song in history — and many of the fans in attendance were disappointed in its omission. But Page and Plant understand the song and the band that played it had its time and place. And if these two have any expectations of taking this project any further, they must stay committed to moving ahead and staying fresh, especially under the pressure of rehashing a colorful and decadent past.
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.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page came here, to the Virginia Beach Amphitheater on July 8. It was the most fun I have ever had.
For impatient people who just want to see what was played, here’s the setlist. I’ll go into more detail, I promise. In fact, I can hardly wait.
The setlist was:
The Wanton Song
Bring It On Home
Walking Into Clarksdale
Shining In The Light
Going To California
Heart In Your Hand
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
How Many More Times/That’s The Way/How Many More Times
Whole Lotta Love
Rock And Roll
And now to go into detail…
I went to the concert with my entire family, but only my father and I had actual seats. My mom and brother had lawn seats that my mom won in a radio contest. I was in Section 203, Row W, Seat 9. Sure, I would have liked front row seats, but these were excellent. When we first got there, I made the ritual stop to get a tour shirt. After waiting for half an hour in line, we went to sit down. The show was supposed to begin at 8:00. At about five to eight, the opening band started to play; the Lili Haydn Band. They played about six songs, and I wasn’t incredibly impressed. Impatient was more the word. The band consisted of the norm for a rock band — guitars and drums, but this band had a violin and a cello. It was interesting, that’s all I can say. After 15 minutes of it I got up and bought another shirt. In truth, I was more interested in helping knock the beach ball around the stadium than I was in watching the Lili Haydn Band. I just wanted Jimmy and Robert to start. At 15 to nine, the roadies started coming out to set up equipment, and of course everyone got excited. There was nothing to be excited about, though, except for a really lame Best Buy commercial.
At ten to nine, the lights went out, and everyone went wild, even though it was a couple of minutes before the show started. There was no announcement. Jimmy just came out with his Les Paul and the band tore into The Wanton Song. All I could hear was the guitar. We were all clapping and screaming so loudly that Robert’s voice was totally drowned out. On screen, I could see his lips moving, but all I heard was screaming. Jimmy sounded great. After finishing The Wanton Song, they dove right into Bring it on Home, no pause or anything. By then the crowd had at least quieted enough that you could tell Robert was singing. The two songs just sort of ran together, and I really think I was too caught up in the excitement of everything that I didn’t quite take in the first two songs. I remember them, but nothing in particular about them…how odd.
The third song was Heartbreaker, and the opening chords brought wild applause. Jimmy’s solo was excellent. It was almost exactly like the one off of BBC Sessions — the normal concert solo.
Everyone, of course, also cheered enthusiastically when the opening bars of Ramble On started. Every time they broke into the chorus, the lights would flare up and the stage got really bright. It was so fitting…it seemed so right. In the chorus, all Robert sang was “Ramble on”, “Sing my song”, “On my way”, and then again “Ramble on”. This was the first point at which you could tell there were a lot of people in the audience joining in the singing.
I never really cared for Walking into Clarksdale, and it was extremely obvious that I wasn’t alone. I got really annoyed at the same ten or twelve people that would walk past to get more beer every time they played something off of the new album. They didn’t care how annoying they were, though. No one knew the words to Clarksdale…there was a lot of applause when they were done, though. Whether it was out of politeness, sincerity, or relief, I don’t know. It was a lot better than on the album. I liked it, and I think I was in a minority on that point.
I believe that I used the term “sacrilegious” when I found out that they were playing No Quarter without John Paul Jones, but my opinion changed quickly. They had a visiting pianist, whose name I can’t remember and forgot to write down. Anyway, he was excellent. He did the solo perfectly. There was a cameo appearance by Jimmy’s theramin to represent “the dogs of doom”. It was odd about the pianist, though, because on the cameras, it would only show his hands. They never showed his face, and the lights were arranged in such a way that you couldn’t see his face, even if you were in the front. They didn’t say who it was until the song was done, and for some reason, I was expecting the anonymity of the guy to be because John Paul Jones was there as a surprise. To my disappointment, it wasn’t him. He played the song so flawlessly that I thought it may have been him. It would have been cool.
Everybody fretted again when Robert said that they were playing another song from the new album, Shining in the Light. The song’s one of my favorites (from the album), though, so I was happy. It sounded just like it did on the album, except that Jimmy had a long solo in the middle. Hey, the song may not be adrenaline like the later songs they played, but it was good. You gotta have a mix, right???
It’s impossible to describe how wild the crowd went when they played the opening chords of Going to California. We were all singing every word, and I don’t think that Robert realized it until he got to the last line. All he sang were the lines “tellin’ myself it’s not as hard”, then he stopped, and we finished the line. His reaction was funny; his eyes got wide, then he threw his head down towards the ground and didn’t lift it up for a minute. I can’t think of a word to describe his reaction.
Tangerine…I never expected it to be in the setlist. It was, though. I liked it better than the album version because they ditched the slide guitar. Instead, a guy other than Page (Robert never said his name) was playing what I think was a mandolin. It was different, but I liked it. We were all singing the words again.
Although Gallows Pole has an almost lethargic (probably not a good word, but that describes my feelings accurately) feel to it, I like it on the album. When they played it, I expected Jimmy to be playing an acoustic, but instead he kept right on playing the electric. This version of Gallows Pole was a lot better than the one off of III. I could compare it to the one on No Quarter, only this one was even more electric and faster. I liked it.
The cheering was less than inspired when Robert announced that once again, this song was off the new album. No one liked Heart in Your Hand. For the third time, everybody went down to get more beer. Not much else can be said about this song.
There was a lot of cheering when Jimmy started into Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. The song had a guitar solo in the middle that lasted five or ten minutes, then they just jumped right back into it. I love the nonchalant attitude — ‘let’s just go right back into the song like we didn’t go off on a ten minute tangent.’ I love everything about Jimmy…not least of all his style.
How Many More Times got the most cheering of anything yet. Everybody loved the song. In the middle of Jimmy’s guitar solo, Robert started singing the opening lines of That’s the Way. Of course, I assumed that the song had ended with the solo and now we were listening to That’s the Way. Two lines later, the chords of How Many More Times are being played again. At least you don’t know what exactly to expect. The guitar bow was, of course, included here. The product was, naturally, more wild cheering on our part. It sounded eerie, and a lot better in person than on any bootleg tapes I’ve ever heard.
I think Most High was the only song off of the new album that everybody liked. People were singing again, but mostly only “so high, most high, so high”. The unknown pianist was playing again, and Robert said his name a couple times…I still don’t remember what it was. Most High sounded exactly like it did on the album, only they repeated the first verse at the end.
Right before breaking into Whole Lotta Love, Robert said that they would be leaving after this. No one heard, though, I think, because there was no real reaction. Of course, though, once they started playing it, everybody again cheered like mad. The cheering was even more inspired when Jimmy broke out the theramin. Of course, it sounded nothing like the album cut…it was better. It rocked, I was cheering the whole time.
At this point, the band left the stage. For five minutes we all screamed for them to come back and clapped and held up lighters. It almost looked magical — the lighters in particular. It makes me wonder what it looks like on stage. Finally, though, they came back out to immense cheering and a lot of ecstatic fans (myself included).
Black Dog didn’t start out as Black Dog. Jimmy played the opening to Out on the Tiles. For a minute I thought maybe they were going to play it, but then Robert started singing the words to Black Dog. This was even better, though. By the time they started playing, we’d been up and screaming our lungs out for five minutes, so of course nobody sat down during the entire encore. We were already psyched, and Black Dog has relatively simple lyrics, so we were singing all the words and you could tell. Robert let us do two or three different parts of the song, and it rocked. A lot.
After a little hesitation, Robert and Jimmy decided to stay and play another song. Before the guitar even started, everyone recognized Rock and Roll, and it was probably the most cheered song all night. Appropriate, since it was the last. Again, we sang all the words, and Robert let us sing “lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time”, and he looked amazed every time he heard how clear it was. Jimmy’s solo was more than perfect. I’ve never heard him so good as he was that night. Never.
They’d done one encore part, why not another? We cheered for five more minutes, and then the amphitheater people turned the lights back on. Damn. People started to leave, and it took about fifteen minutes to get out.
In case anyone is wondering about the non-musical details of the concert, I can fill in a little bit. It was really humid and the air didn’t start to circulate until we were about twenty minutes into the concert. Robert and Jimmy were both wearing long sleeves and pants; I don’t know how they did it, honestly. Robert was wearing a light blue shirt, loose but long-sleeved, and loose silver pants. Jimmy wore all black. Black pants and a black shirt that wasn’t tight, but wasn’t loose either. I know they were hot. I saw Jimmy mopping the sweat off of his forehead with a towel after How Many More Times. Robert’s shirt was drenched with sweat by the end.
A few interesting things that I couldn’t fit anywhere else…one was the pianist. I can’t remember which song this was in, but I think it was Most High. Robert said, “here’s our guest pianist” then the spotlight went over and there was a cardboard cutout of a kangaroo sitting in front of the keyboard. Robert got a really good kick out of it.
The other thing that was incredibly interesting to me was at the end of one of the songs. It was one of them in the middle. At the end of the song, Jimmy played the opening bars of Stairway to Heaven. I thought I was hearing things, but my dad and my brother said they both heard it too. My brother said that Robert mumbled, “She’s buying a stairway to heaven”, but I didn’t hear that. I found that very strange.
In short (although I realize that this is nothing but short) I enjoyed myself more at the concert than I think I ever have anywhere. If Page and Plant come again, I’m definitely going. Even if I didn’t like the music (which is anything but true), I would go because I had such a good time. I screamed my lungs out and clapped so hard my hands were sore for half an hour aftereward, but I enjoyed myself so much. It was so much fun!
On July 5th, an azure, crystal-studded zeppelin burst from the placid, unsuspecting Spanish skies to descend on Madrid’s Palacio de Deportes. The strange craft was about half the size of the original that appeared some twenty-seven years ago out of the then-paisley-flamed clouds. Piloting the ship this night, two of rock and roll’s most enduring and controversial legends: Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, in the middle of their world tour to promote their highly-acclaimed 1994 collaboration, No Quarter, Unledded.
Despite the unimaginative title of the album — let’s not forget the ‘other’ member of Led Zeppelin who co-wrote No Quarter, John Paul Jones, who, as I understand it, will receive a postcard from each concert site — Plant and Page were souped up with plenty of high-octane energy for the occasion (could we imagine anything less?) And they even had a few surprises in store for the crowd. In fact, the pair seemed to have more energy than the fifteen thousand or so people gathered at the venue. At one point during the show, Plant, in Spanish, prodded the audience: Talk, talk to me! and at a later juncture, even asked, More? More songs? as if he and his band were obligated to humor a bunch of Las Vegas dinner ballroom fogies.
The show began with a bouncy medley of The Wanton Song, Bring It On Home, and an unfortunately abridged version of Whole Lotta Love. Page then stepped to the forefront, as he would on several occasions this night, and shined like the star he is on Thank You. Thank you, Jimmy! The tempo slowed for a chilling, largely acoustic rendition of the ever-sinister No Quarter, and picked right back up again with Gallows Pole. This number had to have been responsible for at least a few cases of whiplash and strained knees for all the head bobbing and foot stomping it induced. A member of the band, Nigel Eaton, took over at this point and hypnotized the crowd with his hurdy-gurdy, grinding out of the Middle Eastern sounds prevalent throughout theNo Quarter album. Plant and Page returned with a somewhat tiresome When the Levee Breaks, followed by one of the few numbers performed that night that was not a Led Zeppelin song: Yallah, a forgettable cut from No Quarter.
The dynamic duo then pushed the zeppelin beyond the earth’s atmosphere with Since I’ve Been Loving You. Here, Page showed why he is among the all-time masters bleeding out his rock-bottom blues for want of his traded soul. Suddenly, the atmosphere erupted with The Song Remains the Same, and the crowd went berserk. These two songs marked the zenith of the night’s flight (catchy, no?); for ten precious minutes, we were treated to the peak force of Led Zeppelin’s raw power.
Plant then introduced an integral part of the entourage, a band of musicians called the Egyptian Pharaohs, hailing from — you guessed it — Egypt, who set the mood for five minutes with the whines and heartbeats of Middle Eastern strings and tablas, an apropos prelude to Friends. The crowd didn’t seem to know what to make of this song, but I will attest to having seen the Pyramids hovering over the stage. Then Plant slipped into a cut from his 1993 solo effort, Fate of Nations, titled Calling to You. As if to make up for the little-known track, Jimmy Page took over for a solo spotlight, jamming away with Plant whirling and twirling around the stage.
To my complete surprise, the band lurched into a medley of two Doors’ songs, a soporific Light My Fire , then Break On Through, which set the crowd hopping and thrashing their arms like straightjacket candidates. By the time we identified the next song, it was over: Dazed and Confused, perhaps the most explosive and gut-wrenching song in Zeppelin history. This night, they gave us a diluted two-minute tease of their thunderous hallmark, as though trying to format the track for AM radio. It was a colossal disappointment. They recovered with Four Sticks in a curried cous-cous flavor which had everybody shaking their asses. The Egyptian Pharoahs came back for a short spot, and Plant and his soundboard man played awhile with some wah-wah-wah-weeeird voice noises. The show closed with two strong, pounding numbers, In the Evening and Carouselambra. After five minutes of the crowd’s hooting and chanting, the two stars retook the stage for their encore: Black Dog, a genuine crowd-pleaser, and an extended trip to Kashmir (and its elevated outskirts), an appropriate finish to a spectacular evening.
I hoped and prayed to Allah that they would return one final time to perform Stairway to Heaven. My friend Carmen wanted to stick around, even though they’d raised the lights, just in case, and I tried to share her optimism, but Karl, who knew better, said simply, No way — Plant hates that song, he’ll never perform it again. Karl was right, at least for this night. Instead of a stairway to heaven, we faced a crowded stairway to the exit ramps.
Two hours of mystic, Middle Eastern hued, hard-driving rock, 21 songs in all, and yet I couldn’t help feeling a tad disappointed. I have been part of more enthusiastic concert crowds, and Page and Plant didn’t perform THE song. I also would have loved to hear a couple more ballads like Going to California, Tangerine, or The Rain Song, though anyone familiar with Led Zeppelin’s repertoire would feel that way. I solaced myself: the witnessing of two rock gods, in the flesh, performing their wizardry. Page was impeccable, and Plant, even after all these years, has preserved his soulful, screeching voice. Dare I forget to mention the Madrid Philharmonic Orchestra, which provided tasteful string accompaniments on half the numbers?
No black magic, no pubescent, fish-stuffed vaginas, but the Horned One himself, surely in attendance that night, had to be smiling as he watched the mighty airship Zeppelin take to the clouds once more.