Robert Plant made an appearance Tuesday night at London’s Royal Albert Hall during a performance by violinist Nigel Kennedy to sing Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and cover “Hey Joe.” The gig, a gala concert, had been billed as Nigel Kennedy and Friends and otherwise featured mostly classical performers. Fan site LedZepNews captured audio of Plant’s songs.
Prior to singing “Kashmir” for the first time since Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion at London’s O2 Arena, Plant explained that he’d met Kennedy when he was working on 1992’s Fate of Nations solo album. He’d recruited some Indian musicians for the session but was unhappy with their performance, so he got a hold of Kennedy and “this guy saved our lives.” He quipped, “I don’t know whether this is payback or what.” Then the symphony, complete with classical Indian instruments, began the droning intro to the enduring Physical Graffiti standout in a new arrangement.
First, Plant sings some of the tune’s lyrics in a ponderous way over the drone before it all comes crashing down with the iconic descending brass line and Plant’s more traditional vocals. Midway into the song, the band makes a full departure from the source material and indulges some chordal impressionism before the vocals and standard melodies return. It makes several similar breaks before wrapping about 10 minutes after it started – the audio file itself is nearly 18 minutes long and includes Plant’s intro, some applause and a recapitulation of some of the song’s music.
It was the first time Plant has performed the song without Jimmy Page.
Indian instrumentation also marked the performance of “Hey Joe,” a cover of the song popularized by the Leaves and Jimi Hendrix and the first song Plant performed at the gala. Two members of Plant’s Sensational Shape Shifters, Justin Adams and Jon Baggott, joined him for the performance, according to LedZepNews, and what unfolds is an eerie recitation of the song’s murderous lyrics against a sparse backdrop of classical atmospherics and echoey drums and guitar. It slowly congeals into a heavy miasma of strings and drums.
In addition to the audio, author and musician Brix Smith Start tweeted out a snippet of video of Plant singing “Kashmir.”
— Brix Smith Start (@Brixsmithstart) March 15, 2017