The Pavilions, Plymouth
I had mixed feelings before this gig – sure, it would be great to see Robert Plant once again (last time was a rather larger event at the O2 10 years ago with one of his old bands whose name escapes me), and I really like the last 4 albums (Raising Sand onwards)… but…oh, I don’t know….I was expecting a whole heap from the new album and probably a couple of Led Zep re-workings to keep the old fans happy.
So, what was it like..? Flippin’ amazing, that’s what. Seth Lakeman had done a great half hour support slot totally solo – he was clearly delighted to be involved in all this, and he was on home turf (‘This is my easiest ever commute to work – 9 miles!’) and the crowd were very warm and enthusiastic. ‘Imagine you’re in a folk club’ he said at one point, and it was great to hear him in this large venue. He mentioned family a freinds in the audience and I spotted his Dad, Geoff Lakeman, during the interval looking suitably chuffed.
After a rather unnecessary half hour interval, the Sensational Space Shifters hit the stage and launched into Killing Floor in full Led Zep mode. I doubt anyone expected this as an opener and it had everyone roaring – what a start! A couple from the new album plus New World from the previous set were played with a power and urgency that is missing on the studio versions – this band are astoundingly good, with Skin Tyson’s guitar an absolute joy, and Seth integrates seamlessly. That’s The Way is an performed in a version which stays close to the original but takes it in new directions – glorious! The rest of the set proceeds in similar fashion – the newer songs are extraordinarily good played live and the older material generally reworked to fit in seemlessly, e.g. Gallows Pole is quite different to either the Zep version or the Page/Plant reworking 20 odd years ago. However, the showstopper was Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You – introduced by Plant, without mentioning the title, as a song he learned from Joan Baez in the 60s (which I had never twigged) and he told of a recent charity tour with Joan, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, and eulogised Joan Baez’s contribution to music. It was a stunning tour de force – close to the original Zeppelin version, you were transported back to 1969 as Plant extracted every ounce of emotion from the song and, boy, can he still cut it vocally. Incredible stuff.
If this was seemed hard to follow, then we shouldn’t have worried. The set list below shows the same pattern of new and old favourites, and the crowd were going nuts by now, aware that this was a special night. The encore finished where we started, with a song from Led Zeppelin 2, and it had to be Whole Lotta Love. Again played pretty much as the original, but straighter and without the record’s sound effects but with Seth Lakeman adding a different colour to the mix, and you have to admit there is something primal about that crunching Page riff. I was nearly in tears.
An hour and 3/4 and they were gone. This was simply one of the best night’s I’ve had at a concert for ages – totally exceeding my expectations.
Here is the set list which I have lifted from the internet, but seems correct. They called the first song The Lemon Song, but I’m going with the original as there was no mention of lemon juice shenanigans thankfully!
Turn It Up
The May Queen
That’s The Way
All The King’s Horses
In The Light
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
Bluebirds Over The Mountain
Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die)
Misty Mountain Hop
Satan, You’re Kingdom Must Come Down
Whole Lotta Love
A mix of young and old – plenty of Led Zeppelin T shirts, of course….I shunned that opportunity out of high mindedness but rather regretted it.
It made me think..
1. We take some artists totally for granted. Bloody hell, he’s good.
2. Plant is absolutely doing the right thing in not schlepping round the world in Led Zeppelin. This band are something else.