Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Led Zeppelin's music featured at MerleFest

While Led Zeppelin didn't make an appearance at MerleFest 2008 (was anybody predicting this?), the group's music did. The Waybacks chose to perform Led Zeppelin II in its entirety for the Hillside Album Hour on Saturday afternoon. Here are some clips from that performance:



John Paul Jones has been semi-regular at the annual MerleFest in North Carolina over the past five years. He first attended in 2004 when he was taking mandolin lessons from Chris Thile. He returned the following year, performing together as members of Mutual Admiration Society. In 2007, Jones performed again at MerleFest, sitting in with Uncle Earl, the Sam Bush Band, Donna the Buffalo and the Duhks.

This year, Jones was assumedly overseas, readying for an onstage performance April 30 with Robyn Hitchcock at Bergenfest in Norway.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Where things currently stand between Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin

Here's a topic that will never go away. Where do things stand between Robert Plant and his former bandmates in Led Zeppelin?

Well, the topic would go away if he were joining them. Rumor has it that Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are playing with Jason Bonham in a London rehearsal studio, aiming to write some new music.

I can confirm for sure that Robert Plant isn't there. I just saw him two nights in a row in Tennessee. I can also confirm that Jimmy, Jonesy and Jason were not there. (Members of the Spin Doctors were at the Chattanooga show though, down a few seats from Alison Krauss's parents.)

Robert's concerts with Alison contain a few examples of what I would call "Zeppelin moments." What I'm referring to do has nothing to do with the song choice. It has everything to do with Plant's enthusiasm and energy while he's performing. The band gets tight and in the pocket, and once they achieve that, they can become loose. And a Zeppelin moment is not a Zeppelin moment solely because it is tight but loose, or because there is light and shade (which there certainly is in Plant and Krauss's song arrangements). A Zeppelin moment is defined by the presence of unbridled emotion. There were two distinct Zeppelin moments in Knoxville: They came in "Hey Hey, What Can I Do" and "The Battle of Evermore." There were also two distinct Zeppelin moments in Chattanooga, and they weren't even in Zeppelin songs! (I know I'm going out on a limb here. Love me or hate me; agree with me or disagree with me. Just don't shoot the messenger. I know what I felt at the show.) The Zeppelin moments in Chattanooga were in Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'" and the Page-Plant song "Please Read the Letter." There, I said it.

In his constant and ongoing evolution since 1980, Robert has written and covered songs that mean as much to him as the ones he wrote with Led Zeppelin. Songs by Arthur Lee, Bukka White, Skip Spence and Gene Clark hold personal meaning to Robert, as much as tunes by Willie Dixon, Blind Willie Johnson and Memphis Minnie did to him in the Zeppelin era. He has spent more than 20 years latching onto those influences and writing incredible solo material. And in that time, we witnessed him first abandoning the Zeppelin material and then re-embracing it, arguably even improving on it. Along the way, he has come to terms with his history, becoming able to play Led Zeppelin songs in concert once again, and even without making it necessary to share the stage with Jimmy Page or John Paul Jones (or, hell, for that matter, Jason Bonham). Robert has come to terms with who he is.

Know who he is? Lyricist for "Black Dog." Lyricist for "The Battle of Evermore." Singer on "Black Country Woman." Lyricist and bluesy belter on "Hey Hey What Can I Do." Singer on "When the Levee Breaks." All of that, and more. Think he's ashamed of that? Hell no!

["Misty Mountain Hop" and "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)" aside, right? And his self-inflicted Spinal Tap references notwithstanding.]

Point is, he's come to terms with his past life as Led Zeppelin's dynamic frontman and has discerned a way to make that complement everything he's doing today, whether it be with the Strange Sensation or Alison Krauss or whatever. What he's doing is commercially viable, and it's lately been dramatically successful, both commercially and critically, moreso than anything else he's done recently.

But notice the words I've just slipped by you? "Past life" as Led Zeppelin's singer. Probably didn't make you flinch. Probably not. He was Led Zeppelin's singer in 1980. Yeah, he did it again a few months ago, but it was as foreign to him playing a fourpiece version of "In My Time of Dying" as it was for us, the listeners. He didn't know what to do onstage when approaching that song. He's said as much himself; listen to David Fricke's interview with him in Rolling Stone if you don't believe me! Robert Plant was unsure of how to carry himself heading to the stage in London this December. Why? Because he had to go back in time, way back in time, to get there. Mentally. Personally. Maybe physically. Zeppelin was how many years in the past? We're talking 1980, so what's that? 2007 minus 1980... That's 27 years!? Sounds like "past" to me, over a quarter of a century.

Ok, let's use the word "challenging" here. You tell me, I'm a dumb guy here. What's more challenging: doing something you've already done, decades ago, and proved recently you can still do, or spreading your wings and trying something brand new? Which is more challenging? To be sure, I'm talking about the difference between singing on a Led Zeppelin tour that would be teeming with the "Ramble On"s and the "Rock and Roll"s that come with a tour.... And oh yeah, don't forget "Stairway to Heaven"... Difference between that and what he's doing now, the Raising Sand 2008 tour.

One of my biggest lasting visual impressions of the shows the past two days is of Robert sharing a single microphone with two other male singers, with Alison Krauss a few feet away delvering a spiritual number. He's harmonizing with these guys. He's humbling himself. In Knoxville, I tried to figure out which of the three male voices was his, and I couldn't. Have no clue. Promised myself to listen more closely in Chattanooga and figure out for sure who was who. And I was a lot closer to the stage and I blocked off all distractions and put nothing between me and the sound and visuals coming at me. Know what? I still have no clue which voice was Robert Plant's. No clue! My favorite singer in the world! And I couldn't tell you if that voice was his or that of some dudes named Buddy Miller or Stuart Duncan. And that's the whole point. He blended so well. He's working out with this thing. Now you tell me what's challenging. Not only challenging but enticing. Plant may view it as reverting to the past or repeating history unnecessarily to try out a Led Zeppelin tour and give that another go. Even if there's the call of new material, it may not be enough to draw his interest.

And bear in mind, as my traveling mate just reminded me, there aren't enough doctors in the world to support a Led Zeppelin tour.

Above photo from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss concert Knoxville, Tenn., courtesy of Bruce "The Buckeye"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

LedZeppelinNews.com review of Plant-Krauss show in Knoxville, Tenn.

Photo from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
concert in Knoxville, Tenn.,
courtesy of Bruce "The Buckeye"

8:57 lights out. A soft musical intro rich with fiddles is cued onstage. The band members take their instruments, with T Bone. Taking center stage for ampment. The golden god steps on from stage left. The dazzling bluegrass angel steps on from the opposite side. "Rich Woman" has started, and we're underway in Knoxville.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss both have long, flowing, curly blond hair. Alison's ruffles are sweetly swaying. She's checking out the action between lines. Plant, on the other hand'is just snapping his fingers and moving his body from the waist up. To me, that's what cool is. He's smiling, they're looking back and forth at each other, and he's right on for every musical cue.

They're even gesturing to one another for the lyrics 'She's got the money, and I've got the honey." Plant seems to be amused by this. Plant owns the song a few different times too' after choruses when he adds a few ad libbed lines and at the song's end when he moves with the final note.

"Leave My Woman Alone" is a faster number that wouldn't have been out of place on the album. Alison's got a fiddle with her for this one. Plant's taking care of the verses here, the country star he is these days. That black button-down shirt and graying beard of his don't seem very out of place in this setting. On this third show of the tour, and having already picked up a CMT award last week, he's fitting in quite well into this new role. Which may be why the next song also works in this act.

"Black Dog" isn't the pounding thumper it was in 1971. Now it's arranged quietly, with a banjo picking the riff. Thank goodness that riff's not lost! Robert and Alison grace us with the opening line, and folks recognizing it are appreciative. The guy next to me is laughing with amusement. Each line of the song is greeted with loud screams. The place loves it! Robert beckons the crowd to echo back the "ahh ahh"s -- I would really prefer to listen to the band during those parts though! This arrangement is brooding and it cooks. A violin solo takes the place of a guitar solo, filling the place well.

For "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," Robert takes his seat on a stool behind Alison where no spotlight is on him. He's oohing and ahhing behind her on this tune from the Sam Philips catalog, which she is nailing on both vocals and that set of strings she loves to wield. Robert's intent gaze is on her during her instrumental interludes. The tempo is a tad lower than on the album, which is a welcome fact. Alison remains the center of attention for "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Three-part harmony gets us through portions of this tune, courtesy of Plant and Stuart Duncan, who has already established himself as a multi-instrumentalist.

The logical thing to do after a two-song Alison spotlight is to do the same for Robert. Well, he gets that for the next song, "Fortune Teller," which is delivered with amazing conviction. Then even better is a two-song hit of Led Zeppelin material. Plant says "Black Country Woman" was very Tennessee. For the later verses, he and Krauss are singing their hearts out, and the PA is at max volume as it was for the choruses of "Through the Morning, Through the Night." The next song is the best-received so far, "Hey Hey What Can I Do." Toward the end of it, he's singing like he did back in Zeppelin days, and it really shows how much he is into this. Give this man a break!

And he gets one. A long one. T Bone Burnett leads the band in a few, "The Rat Age" and "Levez les Bons Temps Rouler." Alison's take on "Trampled Rose" follows, with "Green Pastures" next. Finally, Plant is back to sing with Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller in a three-man harmony part backing Alison on "Down to the River to Pray." I'll have to listen again tomorrow because I couldn't identify which part -- low, medium or high -- Robert was singing.

The next song was all his. "Nothin'" featured a slightly different arrangement compared to the one on their album. To me, the album version works better, but this one still maintained a measure of light and shade, which is what the song demands.

Plant and Krauss return to duo mode now for a soft "Killing the Blues." Alison absolutely shines on the solo piece "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson," which Robert watches from the side of the stage with a can of something in hand.

"When the Levee Breaks" sounds like it has been combined with another song. For another assignment, I'll have to figure out what those additional lyrics are from. Anyway, the tune works. This is really hot. After this is "The Battle of Evermore" in probably the best live arrangment it's ever been in. Alison weaves in and out of it in fine fashion, although I must admit it seemed she was not completely sure of her parts and Robert was coaching her through it. They sounded great together again on "Please Read the Letter," the third song in a row that Jimmy Page helped Plant to introduce to audiences through the years.

A glimmering backdrop is revealed behind the stage for "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)" to make it look like their CMT award-winning video. And it sounds just like it too!

Never forget: Nurses do it better.

That's about all I'm posting now. More from Chattanooga after tomorrow's show!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fan details first Plant-Krauss show

The following is posted with permission of its author, Tim Druck:

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Louisville, Kentucky
The Palace
April 18, 2008

Lineup:

  • Robert Plant - Vocals
  • Alison Krauss - Vocals and fiddles
  • T Bone Burnett - Guitars and vocals
  • Stuart Duncan - Guitars and mandolins
  • Buddy Miller - Guitars, mandolins, pedal steel and autoharp
  • Dennis Crouch - Bass and banjo
  • Jay Bellerose - Drums and percussion

Robert Plant is alive and well, and what a show. This evening saw the triumphant return of a golden god, accompanied by the voice of an angel, who held her own even in the glare of one of rock's brightest stars.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took the stage with a roar of approval from the crowd – Robert particularly drawing cheers but gracefully diverting attention to Alison and T Bone Burnett. Robert enters wearing a grey-on-grey suit coat embroidered with flowers over a black/purple iridescent vest, white ruffled shirt and worn, faded jeans – he's playing every bit the old codger, moving slowly and shuffling hump-backed around the stage, eyeing Alison up and down as she faces away, then he looks away when she notices and grins. No funny business here – this is a professional relationship. Alison is gorgeous in a spaghetti-strap red-and-white checkered dress that strikes her just below the knee – a simple country-girl cotton dress that seems to suit Robert just fine. T Bone is resplendent in a charcoal blazer over a bright blue Nehru-collared vest with about 15 buttons and gray slacks cut like 1890s pants – what a star. The rest of the band is appropriately subdued and watching just like the rest of us as the magic unfolds.

The ensemble tears through a gorgeous rendition of "Rich Woman" and a very naughty-looking Alison singing straight through "Leave My Woman Alone" without ever changing a lyric – Robert notices and approves. Robert is still doing the stiff codger thing, snapping his fingers and looking very Tony Bennett. Off comes Robert's jacket at the end of the song, just as a very familiar tune comes from the banjo – the crowd erupts in recognition, and a very different "Black Dog" pleases the jam-packed and very fired-up Louisville crowd.

Alison treats us to a ghostly "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" with Robert singing backup, and Robert stays in backup mode for a simply crackling "Through the Morning, Through the Night," Alison at her best, the heartbreak dripping from her adorable twang and Robert soaking up her tears with a very good baritone. Robert steps out front for "Fortune Teller" and thrills us by just being Robert, telling us at the end that "Now I gets my fortune read for free."

What? Surely not! A Physical Graffiti appearance – Alison really into it as the crowd explodes at recognition of "Black Country Woman." It's everything you would think it is, Alison and Robert shouting soul at each other and the outstanding band bringing wonderful rhythms out of the percussion section.

Here's an oddity – a sudden, unexplained appearance of "29 Palms" and the first time all night that Robert and Alison seem uncomfortable. I don't think Alison likes this one. Sung well, but a bit of a flat spot.

Here Robert introduces "the mastermind of this whole project," T Bone Burnett, and he and Alison leave the stage while T Bone and band blast through an expert set with a dirty, Keith Richards feel ... "Waiting for a Long Time," and "Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler ("Let the Good Times Roll" in French)" – the music is good but the crowd is getting restless.

Alison returns for a simply spot-on perfect, soaring vocal on "Trampled Rose." Angelic under white light, this amazing voice just seems to pour from her whenever she opens her mouth, effortlessly. The band is ghostly behind her, the dark aura of the music returning and the audience silent, spellbound, erupting for a standing ovation after the song.

The crowd is silent again for a truly amazing Alison vocal (does she ever tire?) on the legendary Emmylou Harris' "Green Pastures." Robert on very close harmony backup, with just bassist Dennis Crouch and guitarist Stuart Duncan accompanying them, and again a very appreciative crowd erupting at the end – Alison interrupts the crowd by starting the spiritual "Down in the River to Pray," a cappella, as Robert gathers guitarists Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller to hum tenor background, then full background, the singers sounding like an old-time church choir and the audience not sure how to act, wanting to cheer but right now they're in church and they know they better not act up.

Robert leads us through Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin'." Introduces the band.

Alison joins up for what's become a parade of very pretty songs – who'd have thought? "Killing the Blues" is an interesting twist for a lady you almost didn't believe a few songs ago when she told you she wasn't capable of killing a man. Robert's mostly in backup mode again, and deflecting attention to Alison, who's polite to him and not quite sure what to make of this superstar attention and rock-and-roll crowd.

The crowd knows what to do though, and cheers them on. Robert and the band start playing and singing about old Rosie ... my girl ... the mournful fiddles foreshadowing what's next ... can it be? "If it keeps on raining, the levee's gonna break ..." Only this is a funeral dirge, slow and nasty with Alison's wail over Robert's apparition and the thunderous drums of Jay Bellerose.

More? Stuart Duncan strolls around behind Robert and Alison and, out of nowhere, those ethereal first chords of "The Battle of Evermore" and those who ever suggested they do this one are proven right in an instant, as the spare arrangement and Alison Krauss turn this into a treat not heard since Sandy Denny herself – listen to this, Najma!

Here comes "Please Read the Letter." I'm so wrung out after this night that I just can't write anymore. "Gone Gone Gone." Lots of crowd noise calling for encores. Encores. Good God, go see this show. Beg, borrow, steal.

Set list:

  • Rich Woman
  • Leave My Woman Alone
  • Black Dog
  • Sister
  • Rosetta Goes Before Us
  • Through the Morning, Through the Night
  • Fortune Teller
  • Black Country Woman
  • 29 Palms
  • Waiting for a Long Time
  • Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler
  • Trampled Rose
  • Green Pastures
  • Down in the River to Pray
  • Nothin'
  • Killing the Blues
  • When the Levee Breaks
  • The Battle of Evermore
  • Please Read the Letter
  • Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)

Encores:

  • Stick With Me Baby
  • One Woman Man
  • Your Long Journey

I also want to talk about the opener. This young lady from Philly was introduced as "CBS recording artist Sharon Little." A few songs later you discover she was a waitress a few months ago ... between songs she seems almost embarassed, but when the music starts, she gives a sultry-voiced, hip-grinding, basement juke-joint, down and dirty set that stunned the enthusiastic crowd and earned a hearty standing ovation at the end. This girl is the real deal, and if there's any justice in the world, she'll be huge. If I had to describe her, I'd say if Chris Robinson impregnated Gwen Stefani and she was raised by Alannah Miles, that would be pretty close. Her name is Sharon Little, her CD drops May 27, and you should listen. Let's get behind this young lady and make sure we hear from her for a long, long time.

Set list:

  • Follow That Sound
  • Set You Free
  • Holdin' On
  • Ooh Wee
  • What Gets in the Way
  • Try

Robert Plant begins U.S. tour with Alison Krauss

Here is the first professional review I've seen from the tour by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, reprinted from the Louisville Courier.

Palace concert was fit for royalty
By Jeffrey Lee Puckett
April 19, 2008

As their impeccable band swung into "Rich Woman" with an easy flourish, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took the stage Saturday night at the Louisville Palace to the first of several standing ovations.

Plant, still the god king of rock 'n' roll, strolled out with a quietly confident swagger, his hair in that tangle of curls so familiar to Led Zeppelin fans. Krauss looked like she was headed to a prom in her pink dress, maybe one with "Stairway to Heaven" as its theme.

And when they began singing, it was clear they still felt the chemistry so evident on their "Raising Sand" album, his well-traveled yowl blending perfectly with her pristine voice. There were a few goose bumps, and not the last.

This was the first night of the "Raising Sand" tour but both the singers and the band sounded fully warmed up. Krauss didn't hit a bad note all night, almost flaunting her perfect pitch, and the band, led by T Bone Burnett, was nearly flawless. Plant was Plant, and that was plenty.

Krauss and Plant performed nearly all of "Raising Sand," a handful of Led Zeppelin classics and a couple of songs associated with Krauss' solo career. They also threw in a George Jones cover just because they could.

As expected, the Zeppelin songs drew a huge response -- one guy screamed "Led Zeppelin rules!" barely five minutes into the show -- but they weren't the highlights (although "Black Dog," with the world's spookiest banjo, was pretty amazing).

"Fortune Teller" was better, with drummer Jay Bellerose exploding the song from the inside out, and Krauss broke every heart in the place with "Through the Morning, Through the Night." "Killing the Blues" and "Trampled Rose" were also contenders.

But the most unexpected song might have also been the night's finest. Krauss, backed by Plant, Buddy Miller and Stuart Duncan, soared through an a capella version of "Down to the River to Pray," from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," that was so beautiful it sucked the air out of the room.

Everyone who went back for Sunday's second sold-out show should be so lucky.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Touring partners Plant, Krauss awarded for music video

Musical partners Robert Plant and Alison Krauss earned a CMT Music Award last night for their first music video, "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)." Both singers were on hand in Nashville to receive their award, given in the category named Wide Open Video.



Finding himself at a ceremony surrounding him with country music stars including Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Kellie Pickler, Plant remarked about "how peculiar it is to be here."

Still, he said he was enamored by the attention given to Raising Sand, his album with Krauss. "It's a great honor to have made a record in Nashville that sounds so good," Plant said. "We'd like to thank T Bone Burnett, our amazing producer ... and the people of Nashville who have been amazing to us."

Plant also thanked the classic songwriting team behind the tune. The Everly Brothers cracked the Top 40 singles chart with "Gone, Gone, Gone" in 1964, for the last time in their singing career. "I'd like to thank Don and Phil Everly for getting me through my teenage years," said Plant, "and I'd like to thank Alison for helping me get through my late 50s."

The video, which debuted on CMT in late November, stars Plant, Krauss and Burnett performing on stages surrounded by bubbles in one scene and balloons in another. The song earned Plant and Krauss a Grammy in February.

The video has now been followed up with a second one for the two singers, this one for the song "Please Read the Letter." The only tune on their album co-written by either Plant or Krauss, it is a 10-year-old song from Plant's back catalog with Jimmy Page.

The first touring dates for Plant and Krauss comes this weekend as they play both Saturday and Sunday at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Ky. LedZeppelinNews.com picks up the tour in the next two cities, covering the April 22 show in Knoxville, Tenn., and the April 23 concert in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The full itinerary for the concert tour is as follows:

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR -- FIRST LEG
  • Saturday, April 19 – Louisville, Ky. – The Palace Theatre
  • Sunday, April 20 – Louisville, Ky. - The Palace Theatre
  • Tuesday, April 22 – Knoxville, Tenn. – Knoxville Civic Coliseum
  • Wednesday, April 23 – Chattanooga, Tenn. – Memorial Auditorium
  • Friday, April 25 – New Orleans, La. – Jazz & Heritage Festival
  • Saturday, April 26 – Birmingham, Ala. – BJCC Arena

EUROPEAN TOUR

  • Monday, May 5 – Birmingham, England – NIA Academy
  • Wednesday, May 7 – Manchester, England – Apollo
  • Thursday, May 8 – Cardiff, Wales – Cardiff International Arena
  • Saturday, May 10 – Dusseldorf, Germany – Philipshalle
  • Sunday, May 11 – Brussels, Belgium – Forest National
  • Tuesday, May 13 – Paris, France – Le Grand Rex
  • Wednesday, May 14 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Heineken Music Hall
  • Friday, May 16 – Stockholm, Sweden – Hovet
  • Sunday, May 18 – Oslo, Norway – Spektrum
  • Monday, May 19 – Bergen, Norway – Bergenshalle
  • Thursday, May 22 – London, England – Wembley Arena

NORTH AMERICAN TOUR -- SECOND LEG

  • Monday, June 2 – Roanoke, Va. – Roanoke Civic Center
  • Wednesday, June 4 – Uncasville, Conn. – Mohegan Sun
  • Thursday, June 5 – Boston, Mass. – Bank Of America Pavilion
  • Saturday, June 7 – Canandaigua, N.Y. – Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC)
  • Sunday, June 8 – Atlantic City, N.J. – Borgata
  • Tuesday, June 10 – New York, N.Y. – Madison Square Garden Theatre
  • Wednesday, June 11 – New York, N.Y. – Madison Square Garden Theatre RECENTLY ADDED
  • Friday, June 13 – Columbia, Md. – Merriweather Pavilion
  • Saturday, June 14 – Asheville, N.C. – Asheville Civic Center
  • Sunday, June 15 – Manchester, Tenn. – Bonnaroo Music Festival
  • Tuesday, June 17 – Detroit, Mich. – Fox Theatre
  • Wednesday, June 18 – Highland Park, Ill. – Ravinia Festival Pavilion RECENTLY ADDED
  • Thursday, June 19 – St. Louis, Mo. – Fox Theatre
  • Saturday, June 21 – Denver, Colo. – Red Rocks Amphitheatre
  • Monday, June 23 – Los Angeles, Calif. – Greek Theatre
  • Tuesday, June 24 – Los Angeles, Calif. – Greek Theatre
  • Wednesday, June 25 – Santa Barbara, Calif. – Santa Barbara Bowl
  • Friday, June 27 – Berkeley, Calif. – Greek Theatre
  • Saturday, June 28 – Stateline, Nev. – Harvey's
  • Monday, June 30 – San Diego, Calif. – Humphrey's
  • Tuesday, July 1 – Phoenix, Ariz. – Dodge Theatre
  • Monday, July 7 – Grand Prarie, Texas – Nokia Theatre RECENTLY ADDED
  • Thursday, July 10 – Atlanta, Ga. – Chastain Park Amphitheatre RECENTLY ADDED
  • Friday, July 11 – Raleigh, N.C. – RBC Center RECENTLY ADDED
  • Saturday, July 12 – Philadelphia, Pa. – Mann Center for Performing Arts RECENTLY ADDED
  • Monday, July 14 – Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Molson Amphitheatre RECENTLY ADDED
  • Thursday, July 17 – Cleveland, Ohio – Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City RECENTLY ADDED
  • Friday, July 18 – Lexington, Ky. – Rupp Arena RECENTLY ADDED
  • Saturday, July 19 – Nashville, Tenn. – Sommet Center RECENTLY ADDED
  • Sunday, Sept. 28 – Austin, Texas – Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park NEWLY ANNOUNCED

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Jimmy Page says new music to emerge in documentary

The most pressing revelation in the May 2008 issue of Uncut magazine, which contains interviews with the three surviving original members of Led Zeppelin, is Jimmy Page's claim that new music of his would appear in a film documentary.

The magazine says Page "has recently been filming a documentary with Jack White and The Edge." It quotes the Led Zeppelin guitarist as saying the film features "three generations of guitar players."

If Page has indeed written original material, it would be the first to be issued in 10 years. Addressing that point in an interview for Uncut conducted March 10 with David Cavanagh in London, the guitarist says, "That doesn't matter! No! What does that matter?"

After suffering a back injury in the middle of an aborted U.S. tour with the Black Crowes in the summer of 2000, Page's onstage appearances were rare. While the past 10 years have seen Page overseeing releases of a long-awaited DVD set of live Led Zeppelin and a newly remade version of the 1976 film The Song Remains the Same, Page's scant, one-off in-studio collaborations of the same period have all been of cover tunes.

Only during a live performance for the massive charity event Net Aid in 1999 could Page be seen debuting unreleased material in a live setting. An instrumental, titled "Domino," was introduced to a listening public in a set broadcast globally on television and via satellite.

Cavanagh reflects in the interview on 1998, the last time Page worked with Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant on any permanent basis. That year, they released an album of all-new material and went on tour in North America and Europe, playing mainly tunes from the first five albums of Led Zeppelin's catalog with a few of the newer numbers thrown in for good measure. Scheduled tour dates for Pacific nations and South America were suddenly canceled at the end of that year.

In subsequent interviews, Plant has held that he had been longing to do something different. Page, on the other hand, rarely fields questions on why his four-year collaboration with Plant came to an end. Probed by Cavanagh in this interview, Page admits "there could have been a follow-up" disc. "I had some new material written for another album," he details. "I had about a dozen numbers, and some of them were really good, but Robert heard them and he wanted to go in another direction. He wanted to do another solo album. Fair enough."

Plant, interviewed Jan. 18 by Allan Jones for Uncut, also addresses the work he and Page did with each other between 1994 and 1998, before he played anonymously in a band called Priory of Brion and thereafter returned to his solo career backed by a new lineup called the Strange Sensation, which backed him on the 2002 solo album, Dreamland. In this interview, Plant speaks at great length about his long relationship with Page. "He was my buddy, he will always be my buddy," says Plant, who was 19 years old when they first met in 1968.

Plant addresses how he felt about Page right from that very first encounter, in which Page submitted an idea that the young singer from the British Midlands might make a good fit in the band being assembled with John Paul Jones and a drummer yet to be named. "I felt immediately this was a different kind of guy to anybody I'd met before," Plant tells Allan Jones. "So I was welcomed into Jimmy's home, and immediately I realized that his interests and the whole landscape of his music and his life was very broad and pretty esoteric."

Plant speaks eloquently of his time together with Page in studios and in the quaint, somber settings where they worked together to write some of Led Zeppelin's most beautiful acoustic songs. "As a couple of guys, we really, we sat by the fire at night, and I've still cassettes somewhere of the old grandfather clock ticking," he says. "There was no electricity, outside toilets, the smell of woodsmoke and alcohol."

But it was at a certain point, Plant reveals, that Led Zeppelin became unworkable for him. This he attributes partly to family obligations; he says he found it less possible to do justice to being a globetrotter as well as a homebody. "I wasn't upset with Jimmy," Plant says. "I didn't become remote. He didn't become remote. We'd both just moved to another place."

He also recognizes Page's suffering health played a factor: "Later, when Jimmy's health wasn't too good, it wasn't the same ... it was a different time." The interviewer asks Plant whether Page's heroin use was having an effect on Led Zeppelin. "I think that with most users," Plant replies, "the denial is part of the condition, and because most everybody around was in one way or another denying something, there was no central point of solidarity. ... I still think that by that time Jimmy and I had become quite adept politically at keeping it going, even though I felt very compromised. I also felt for him, you know."

Asked about that time they played together between 1994 and 1998, Plant implied Page may not have been in the best of health at that time either. He was comparing Page's health in 1994 with his impeccable health at the time of the one-off Led Zeppelin concert on Dec. 10, 2007. "If Jimmy had was as healthy then -- and when we came to do Walking into Clarksdale -- if he'd been as open and as healthy, and he'd had the resolve then that he has now, we'd probably have gone somewhere else again."

Plant, who has been readying for a tour with Alison Krauss that will begin in two weeks, appeared glad to spend much of his Jan. 18 interview for Uncut discussing Page. Many of the questions Cavanagh hurled at John Paul Jones in their session 10 days later also focused on Page.

Says Jones, in an interview that took up only one page compared to the three devoted to either of his counterparts', "I know it sounds obvious, but [Jimmy] was always one of my favorite guitarists, and as soon as we started rehearsing [in May 2007 for a planned reunion concert], I was amazed to hear go he'd actually improved. He seemed to have grown since I saw him last."

The last time Jones and Page were known to have played music together was also with Plant, during a jam session following Led Zeppelin's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in January 1995. At the time, Page and Plant were off on a Zeppelin-heavy tour that famously did not involve Jones. "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number," was the overlooked bass player's short jab at his former bandmates during a brief acceptance speech, given just before the three awkwardly strapped on instruments together for the first time in about five years. An abridged set, also involving Neil Young and Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, followed.

At that time, Jones was upset at not having been asked to take part in the Page-Plant reunion and, worse, not being informed of it in advance. "I wasn't particularly glad for anybody at that point," he tells Cavanagh in the Uncut interview, dismissing those feelings as a thing of the past. "It was quite a hard time for me. But we're past it, if you know what I mean."

Now, Jones is uncertain whether Plant would be available to work with him or Page once again. "I'm not sure. I'm not too certain about anything, right at the moment," he says. "I've got no idea what's going to happen. But I'd certainly like to play with Jimmy again."

Jones says he was happy to perform the two-hour set with Page, Plant and Jason Bonham in London this December. "That we did a full Zeppelin show ... albeit a short one, at two hours ... [Jimmy] was very happy. [He] probably [felt] similar to what it meant to all of us, which is: It's nice to be able to do it, to prove to yourself that you can do it."

He again addresses the concert: "It was great to do the show. [Jimmy and I] spoke afterwards, and we both thought the same -- it felt like the first night of a tour. You think, 'Oh, I could do that a bit better, or change something in that song.' And we didn't get a chance to do any more."

Jones, in the Jan. 28 interview, seems unable to comment definitively about the future; asked if he believed the reunion was over, he said, "It's possible. It is possible." Page, grilled on March 10, was unwiling to speculate on whether or not Plant would be willing and able to continue the Led Zeppelin reunion. Evidently annoyed by repeated questioning, Page interrupts Cavanagh to say, "That's as fair an answer as I can give you."

Page was interviewed one week after a report in the Sunday Mirror on March 2 said Plant had turned down a lucrative offer for a Led Zeppelin tour. When Cavanagh brings this up and asks about the chances for any further reunion activity, Page deflects the question, saying the band members never intended to do more than just that one-off concert, which was a tribute to their late mentor and friend, Ahmet Erteg√ľn of the Atlantic Records label. "The focus," Page says, "was the O2 show. That's what I had my focus on. As for Robert, he had a parallel project [with Alison Krauss], and it's been successful, which I suppose means he doesn't have time for Zeppelin at this point. What I do know -- what I do know -- is that the rehearsals, and the O2 gig, were really inspiring. OK? That's all I'll say."

Upon further questioning, Page adds, "Everybody had such a great commitment to it. Now, if you're talking about a tour -- other dates, maybe recording together -- there's only one thing that's going to be the common denominator with that. And that's commitment. That's how we did the O2."

Getting back to the future that is more certain, Page says he is ready to unleash some of his new material on a public that hasn't heard any original songs of his in the new millennium. "I know what is really challenging, and that is the sort of direction that I personally -- personally -- intend to go," he says. Of the music he has been writing, he says, "They're the sort of vehicles and frameworks that could be applied [or] used in various situations. I might have one thing that could be just as easily recorded with an ethnic drum orchestra as with a rock 'n' roll band. Do you see what I mean? Or you could play it acoustic. It's the application of it. But I'm ready. I'm ready, now, to present the stuff that I've got."