| One of these guys is not like the others. Robert Plant, second|
from right, suggests his entertainment goals differ from those of
Jason Bonham, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.
In a new interview published by the U.K.'s Telegraph on what happened to be the singer's 62nd birthday, Plant discusses several aspects of his career from the original Band of Joy to his modern-day incarnation. That band has a pair of London dates on Sept. 1 and 2, but of course the article diverts several times into a discussion with Plant about Led Zeppelin.
Of that group's classic and historic run from 1968 to 1980, Plant tells reporter Neil McCormick, "We were never a middle of the road band; we were really quite fearsome."
In his article, McCormick overviews some of the highlights, twists and turns Plant has embarked upon since 1980, including "the vintage R'n'B of The Honeydrippers," "a wild concoction of hybridised world music with his band Strange Sensation," and his ventures into Americana, first with Alison Krauss on their "extraordinary, ethereal album" Raising Sand, and now with the wide range of genres one can expect at a Band of Joy concert, including "hints of wild psych rock to keep old fans entranced."
McCormick was one of the few journalists who spoke to Page in 2009. When they met at the London headquarters of Gibson guitars late last year, their conversation was about the instrument, of course because it is the subject of the movie It Might Get Loud, whose U.K. premiere Page was promoting at the time. Their conversation delved into Page's own beginnings with guitar and his eventual innovations, plus his current musical leanings and even his goals. As to the question of a possible Led Zeppelin reunion, Page gave McCormick direct orders: "You'd better ask Robert Plant what the future of Led Zeppelin is."
He even brings that up in his article, that he was under the advisement of Page to ask. The reunion concert happened once; would Plant agree to another?
"I don't think so."
Wow, this time, he doesn't sugar-coat his answer with some kind of statement suggesting it could be possible to do it every now and then, for the right reason. Such as in early 2007, when he was still touring with the Strange Sensation, and he told Jeremy Lawrence of timeoutdubai.com, "It would be wrong to say that I wouldn't want to play in a big stadium again, but it would have to be for the right reason."
Of course, he's not exactly addressing a Led Zeppelin reunion question there. Try his interview in the May 2008 issue of Uncut magazine, where he's reflecting on the Led Zeppelin reunion concert and says, "Hopefully, one day, we could do it again. Our profit is -- it's metaphysical."
What's astounding is that the May 2008 issue of Uncut, which also featured new interviews from Page and Jones, gained a write-up on the news page of Led Zeppelin's official website that year. Only six stories have made that distinction since. It's almost as if Led Zeppelin had some kind of a future that year.
Plant's current-day "I don't think so" does leave some wiggle room for him to change his mind. He's not giving a firm, resolute "no." But this is Plant we're talking about, a guy who changes his mind with the flow of the tides.
Now that he's telling this interviewer he doesn't think he would sing for Led Zeppelin again, even once, how does he explain himself?
"You've got to have a lot in common with the people you're working with at this time in your life. Everything has to move on and forward, in all relationships."Hmm, so Plant's observing he doesn't have certain things in common with Page and company. What kind of differences exist?
"I know that bands that haven't put out a record for 10 years are playing to 20,000 people a night. But that's not the achievement. The achievement is to knock yourself out. It's a very selfish thing. The tail must never wag the dog."Interesting commentary. So, in other words, he thinks he and the others have different goals in mind in terms of their desired achievements. He thinks the other guys weren't talking about new music.
This is what I have to ask, under direct orders from myself: Wasn't Plant paying attention when Page and John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham spent much of 2008 jamming on new material? Was he somehow unaware it was their intention to tour in support of an album of new material?
On the other hand, maybe the sheer act of releasing an album of new material isn't enough for Plant. After all, it wasn't that long ago that he and Page did go out with a new record, Walking into Clarksdale, and play to 20,000 people a night. The album sales weren't there, but the concert sales were. As a result, play "Heartbreaker," and the people are enraptured. Play "Heart in Your Hand," and it their bladders must be emptied. They were playing Zeppelin-heavy sets, and new songs like "Shining in the Light" had some curious neurobiological effect that would trigger long lines outside the restrooms.
And what did Plant do before all of the tour dates had elapsed? He walked out on the remaining dates. He obviously wanted something more than selling out arenas and stadiums only to have the vast majority of people ignore his latest achievements.
We can discuss ways stadium rockers can avoid the mass bathroom-break phenomenon until we're blue in the face. But one way to avoid it is not to be a stadium rocker. Have a more intimate show in a reduced-capacity venue, as Plant has done with his tour of mostly 3,000- to 5,000-seat venues in the United States this July, and you're more likely to attract only those hardcore fans who will not just endure "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" but, more importantly, sing and dance along with it.
If the measure of success and satisfaction is the ability to keep audiences captivated with lesser known songs like "Monkey" and "Harm's Swift Way" when you're also peppering your sets with the likes of "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Over the Hills and Far Away," then Plant has found that success and satisfaction with the Band of Joy in the intimate gigs they've been playing this summer.
"You can create an intimacy that this music kind of demands and its not getting lost in some crazy cube which is going to be holding a car show the following week. Theatres are built because they were the boards for entertainment. Something about looking up into those proscenium arches and seeing all the dangling ropes and all that stuff makes you think, 'Yeah, I've actually made it! I'm an entertainer.'"