Live Review: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant - Rolling Stone
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Live Review: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant

Madison Square Garden, New York, July 16, 1998

No disrespect to the musical legacy of Led Zeppelin, but nothing
attonight’sshow better evoked the golden age of stadium rock than
the sight of RobertPlant’s golden mane blowing around his head.
Sure, he can still wail like abanshee and compatriot Jimmy Page can
still make his guitar roar like avenerable lion, but it was Plant’s
hair blowing in the AC gales that trulymade you remember laughter
and the indelible stage presence of Zeppelin.

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

But with this current tour, supporting Walking Into Clarksdale,
Page andPlant’s studio “debut,” all those concessions to
originality have beenthrownright out the window. Plant admitted as
much himself tonight: “We’ve got noEgyptians, 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 lottastraight-up,
ungussied Led. There was drummer Michael Lee in the John
Bonhamseat, and bassist Charlie Jones and keyboardist Phil Andrews
filling in forthe still-absent John Paul Jones, but the songs
remained the same and PageandPlant made no apologies for it.

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

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

The evening’s best moments were “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and
the new “MostHigh.” “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’severy nuance. As for “Most High,” it
played like a condensed “Kashmir”withoutall the dull bits — a
direct descendent of their finest work in Zeppelinthatwas
infinitely more exciting than the following “Whole Lotta Love” and
theencore’s rote run-throughs of “Black Dog” and “Rock and
Roll.”

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

In This Article: Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant

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