Monday, January 31, 2011

UK dates for Black Country Communion announced

By Brian Gardiner and Steve Sauer

Black Country Communion announced four UK shows following their appearance at London's High Voltage Festival this July. The festival, held at historic Victoria Park, takes place the weekend of July 23-24.

Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa perform a secret gig in London for Black Country Communion's September 2010 album release. Photo by Christie Goodwin; used with permission of Noble PR.
The newly announced UK shows are:
  • Tuesday, July 26: Leeds O2 Academy
    Tickets: £40.00 Standing; £45.00 Seated

    Box Office: 0871 230 1101
 www.o2academyleeds.co.uk
    55 Cookridge Street, Leeds, LS2 3AW
  • Wednesday, July 27: Newcastle O2 Academy
    Tickets: £40.00
    Box Office: 0871 230 1101
 www.o2academynewcastle.co.uk
    Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1 1SW
  • Friday, July 29: Glasgow O2 Academy
    Tickets: £40.00 Standing; £45.00 Seated

    Box Office: 0871 230 1101
 www.o2academyglasgow.co.uk
    121 Eglinton Street, Glasgow, G5 9NT
  • Saturday, July 30: Manchester Academy
    Tickets: £40.00

    Box Office: 0871 230 1101
 www.manchesteracademy.net
    Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PR
Tickets for the above shows are also available through 24-hour box office at 0871 230 1101 or online at See Tickets or The Gig Cartel.

A special ticket pre-sale will be available to O2 Academy Priority subscribers beginning Wednesday, Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. GMT. To become an O2 Academy Priority customer, please register at www.o2blueroom.co.uk. Tickets will then go on sale to the general public at 9 a.m. GMT on Friday, Feb. 4.

It's quite possible that by the time of the shows, their second album will have been freshly released. Progress continues on the album today, with singer and bassist Glenn Hughes providing frequent updates via his Twitter page. Yesterday, he said he expected to be recording vocal parts along with guitarist Joe Bonamassa for the new album today. As was the case on some tracks on their debut album, they would be sharing vocals on the new album.

"I'm a really big supporter of having a couple singers," Hughes told LedZeppelinNews.com at the time of the first album release. "I've shared the stage with a few singers, but I think David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes set the mark in the '70s for the dual lead singer thing," said Hughes, referring to their days as bandmates in Deep Purple.

He continued, "I've always liked to be in bands where there are two singers. A lot of lead singers want that mic all the time. I think it's great having a different timbre, a different tone coming in. It switches gears to a different singer. I think it's great. Lennon and McCartney, baby!"

The UK appearances follow a seven-show tour of Germany from June 30 to July 14. Those previously announced dates are as follows:
  • Thursday, June 30: Stuttgart, Germany
  • Friday, July 1: Frankfurt, Germany
  • Saturday, July 2: Leipzig, Germany
  • Monday, July 4: Munich, Germany
  • Tuesday, July 5: Berlin, Germany
  • Wednesday, July 6: Hamburg, Germany
  • Thursday, July 14: Bonn, Germany

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Robert Plant says his 'eyes and ears have been opened'

By Brian Gardiner

Robert Plant eyes up Patty Griffin
during "Rich Woman" in New York:
Mine eyes have seen the glory!
Robert Plant, it seems, does everything differently these days. When an artist plays Toronto one weekend, and New York the next, it is normal that New York is the one everyone talks about, even while the artist is in Toronto. For Robert Plant, who is playing New York this weekend to a wall of silence, last weekend's Toronto shows are again being talked about.

The Observer's Ed Vulliamy spent last weekend with Plant in Toronto talking in depth with Plant about his motivations for performing, how he gets to the shows, and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"There's no plan," Plant tells Vulliamy, "this band has a life of its own." Those are key words. When wondering what will Plant do, he is just as much in the dark as you are. Last week, I penned a piece chronicling his desire to write with Band of Joy after telling Rolling Stone he was done writing. The real answer to the question of what's next for Robert Plant lies in that answer: "There's no plan." And if that means Robert Plant is moving on from where his fans are musically, drifting out of significance, he understands that:
"The further I get into it, the harder it will be to get a gig in the Top Rank. I won't fit. If I continue doing this, it will mean obsolescence for me ... I'm just incredibly fortunate that my eyes and ears have been opened. I have to be honest with myself and remove as much of the repetition and fakery as is humanly possible."
Unlike other interviews, other comments, Plant is also more conciliatory, less dismissive, towards his time in Led Zeppelin:
"We were great when we were great. I was part of something magnificent which broke the Guinness Book of Records, but in the end, what are you going to get out of it? Who are you doing it for? You have to ask these questions: Who pays the piper, and what is valuable in this life? I don't want to scream 'Immigrant Song' every night for the rest of my life, and I'm not sure I could."
Comments like "who pays the piper" probably say more about why Robert Plant turned down huge money for a Led Zeppelin reunion. A tour the size of Zeppelin would be a machine grinding away at Plant's creative impulses. Besides, how would a reunited Zeppelin get to the gigs? Not, I suspect, by Plant's preferred method:
"It's all by bus. It's a great way to see America and a great way to meet interesting people. But most of all, I want to be on these kinds of terms with these kinds of people. There's no point in doing it any other way, and if I did, I'd feel uncomfortable. I've got a big name, but I've always wanted to be in a band, one of a band ... I do not want to arrive to join the band in a limo."
Plant is also less dismissive than he has been about other artists continuing to play their old songs, touring with 40-year-old music:
"It would become progressively more difficult to talk about music at a whist drive. All my colleagues that I've known and loved -- our lives have been lived in parallel for 40 years -- and you have to say: each to their own. People get off on what they want to get off on -- I'm not going to tell anyone how to live ..."
Band of Joy in Ann Arbor, Mich.: Robert Plant, Buddy Miller,
Byron House, Marco Giovino, Darrell Scott, Patty Griffin.
Photo by Wyatt Brake
Leaving aside his comments, direct or indirect, about Led Zeppelin, Plant has a lot to say about his Band of Joy as well.
"I wonder sometimes, how did I get into this family of people? Sometimes I feel as though I'm not contributing so much as getting away with it ... this band has a life of its own. It's breaking down all the terminologies; all the terms that apply to different genres are being torn asunder. ...
"It's about contribution. Everyone is throwing themselves into this abstraction called Band of Joy, and no one knows what it is. But we know how to find it, and we go looking. I asked [manager Nicola Powell] if my rambling between songs on stage is getting too obscure. She says no, it's just about mad enough to capture the spirit of the thing."
Why, at his age, does Robert Plant keep doing it at all when he could easily retire to the Black Country, watching the Wolverhampton Wanderers and minding the legacy of Led Zeppelin?
"I would say it was restlessness if it was not something else, which is inquisitive curiosity and the need to challenge myself. It's a two-dimensional gig being a singer, and you can get lost in your own tedium and repetition."
Plant's inability to get lost in tedium and repetition is what fans both love and hate about him. It explains the great moments in his career, and it also explains why Led Zeppelin didn't stop progressing after Led Zeppelin II -- or after their fourth album.

It also explains why he is riding the buses with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin and not jetting around the world with Led Zeppelin; why he is doing two nights at the Beacon Theatre and not seven at Madison Square Garden; why "Rock and Roll" is now a bluegrass number.

The Band of Joy is getting better as well, Plant tells Vulliamy. "Something went up a notch in Ann Arbor," the singer says, referring to the Michigan concert immediately before the pair of Toronto shows. It continued into the Toronto show, Vulliamy writes:
... in Toronto, somewhere during an old Uncle Tupelo song [sic] called "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down", a spell of sorts descends on the Canadian theatre, too, an alchemic moment, and the musicians Cheshire cat grin at one another, because they know.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wall Street Journal tracks Robert Plant's progress with Band of Joy

By Brian Gardiner
"The concerts are an eclectic mix pulled together by the charm and force of Mr. Plant's personality, the wonder of his voice and his spirited band ..."
One of the better stories and interviews I've seen with Robert Plant landed today in the Wall Street Journal. Heading into New York for two shows this weekend, Plant talked to the newspaper's Jim Fusilli about the progress of his Band of Joy.

Photo by Wyatt Brake
Recordings of the first Band of Joy show in Memphis immediately hit the Internet last July. Listening to it, I thought, Not for me. But by December, when I watched part of the BBC Electric Proms broadcast, it was clear either the show was much better or I had acclimatized to what Plant was doing.

It turns out the shows were better. Says Plant:
"I think we were masking a whole lot of nerves. It was great, though. It started becoming a bit more mysterious on the second and third nights."
The "project," as Plant refers to it, is ever evolving. During soundcheck the band sits in a circle and toys with arrangements. It's all part of the "workshop feel" of the American music scene at present, says Plant. Making the obvious reference that many reviewers -- including myself -- have made, he compares Band of Joy to Led Zeppelin III:
"The two projects have some similarities over 40 years: the spirit of the '70s."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Report: Jimmy Page in Cuba

By Brian Gardiner

What was Jimmy Page doing in Cuba?

Other than buying records and the iconic picture of Che Guevara taken by photographer Alberto Korda, his appearance in the Spanish-speaking nation raises questions about Jimmy's musical intentions.

2008 photo of Jimmy Page by christopherharte
Page spent at least three days in Cuba, reports Michel Hern├índez for Prensa Latina. Word first got out on Saturday that Page was staying at the old Havana's Hotel Saratoga, so local DJ Juan Camacho and Cuban rock band Tesis de Menta (Mint Thesis?) went down to talk to Page. The guitarist, reportedly looking fit and healthy in shorts and black t-shirt, told the admirers that he was interested in the work of Havana nightclub Maxim Rock.

Maxim Rock, along with the Cuban Rock Agency, works to promote rock bands in Cuba.

Last June, Page visited Brazil, including a stop in a local samba school. At the time, it was suggested Page would return in September to record local musicians. Everybody then believed, Page included, that he was going to be recording in 2010. That was Page's timeline late in the previous year, anyway, when he said:
"I intend to be making music next year, and I've got lots of new music to present."
By December 2010, his tune had changed, as he told Planet Rock's Liz Barnes:
"I'm desperate to be playing, but it won't be 'til next year."
It is now next year, and Page was just in Cuba checking out a rock club and promoter. Is Page planning on doing something with a latin/Spanish feel, much like he did with Moroccan musicians on the Unledded album with Plant?

Time will tell, but we can only hope this Jimmy Page sighting indicates that he's beginning work on his next project.

What's next for Robert Plant?

Note: This is the first article from Brian Gardiner to appear on this site. This guest columnist, who's been authoring his own Ramble On blog, will be posting here from time to time.

Enjoying their critically acclaimed tour, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy are predominantly playing music from their self-titled album. Each of those songs is a cover version, an interpretation of someone else's music.

The question Plant fans always have in the back of their mind is what's next for Robert Plant. In an interview airing recently on The Pulse of Radio, Plant hints that new, original music is coming from the Band of Joy:
"We're talking, we have to write songs now. It's all very well celebrating other people's songwriting ... But we've got to head that way soon."
Photo courtesy of Wyatt Brake
Getting excited about what Robert Plant is going to do down the road is a fool's bet, in this case possibly more so than usual. In a Rolling Stone interview released just two weeks ago, Plant says he's done with songwriting:
"I've kind of given up writing. All my writing is sort of meandering. The last time I picked up a pen was when Tony Blair became a Roman Catholic."
In the same article, Plant talks about the abandoned recording sessions with Alison Krauss in 2009, for what would have been a possible followup album to their Grammy-winning Raising Sand. "The sound just wasn't there," Plant notes, explaining why the sessions didn't result in another album.

Led Zeppelin fans who were anticipating a reunion in 2008 will recall Plant at times suggested a reunion could happen, and certainly Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham anticipated that it could.

Which is to say that pinpointing what's next for Robert Plant can be a moving target -- even, I have grown to suspect, for Robert Plant. Is the Band of Joy going to write new material, or is Robert Plant finished writing? Nobody knows, but time will tell.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Buddy Miller, trendsetter: Band of Joy follows guitarist's lead in donning cold-weather hats onstage for Michigan encore

Photos by Wyatt Brake
Trendsetter alert.

It was wear-your-funny-hat at last night's Robert Plant show in Ann Arbor, Mich. The theme of the evening was brought on by Band of Joy guitarist Buddy Miller, whose choice of cold-weather cap was shaped like a Viking helmet.

Wonder if any Michiganders immediately thought of the Land of the Ice and Snow, or "Immigrant Song"!

Buddy Miller is a trendsetter because the rest of the band, including Plant, returned to the stage for the encore set similarly attired. More photos below, all courtesy of Wyatt Brake.

Also, here's the set list according to Wyatt:

January 21, 2011
Hill Auditorium
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Angel Dance
Please Read The Letter
Down To The Sea
Rich Woman
House of Cards
--Patty Griffin sings ____ [not "Move Up"]
Central Two-oh-Nine
--Darrell Scott sings "Satisfied Mind"
Tangerine
Silver Rider
--Buddy Miller sings ____
You Can't Buy My Love
Houses of the Holy
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Oh What a Beautiful City
Tall Cool One
Ramble On
Gallows Pole
--Encore Break--
Harm's Swift Way
Rock and Roll
I Bid You Goodnight



Playing the part of Larry, Darryl and Darryl are,
from left, Buddy Miller, Robert Plant and Byron House.

Marco Giovino on drums 
Robert Plant, Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott
Also see Wyatt's complete album of photos from the show.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Turning down Led Zeppelin: Steven Tyler? Ronnie Wood?

The story about Steven Tyler supposedly having turned down an offer to record with Jimmy Page in 2008 has gotten a lot of traction on the Internet over the past few days, with a majority of the stories missing the point that their would-be collaboration was never intended to become Led Zeppelin.

But in the meantime, a new interview has surfaced in which Ronnie Wood says he'd once been asked about possibly joining Led Zeppelin. And he said no.

This interview is part of the episode of Carol Miller's "Get the Led Out" airing on U.S. radio stations this week. The episode also includes new reflections on Led Zeppelin from Wood's Rolling Stones bandmate, Keith Richards.

Miller, the New York-based DJ who hosts the 60-minute weekly and one-minute daily installments of "Get the Led Out" for a national audience, writes on her blog at LedZepOnline.com:
This week on "Get the Led Out" we're playing interview clips with two members of the Rolling Stones.
First, Keith Richards has been doing press for his autobiography, "Life," which is a national bestseller. He took some time out to give us his opinion of Led Zeppelin, and it turns out he didn't think much of the band. He's hot on Jimmy, but Led Zeppelin never "took off" musically as a band, in his opinion. 
We also caught up with Ronnie Wood, whose autobiography "Ronnie" came out in 2007. He remembers being asked to join Jimmy Page's New Yardbirds, which was to become Led Zeppelin. At the time, Ronnie was playing bass for the Jeff Beck Group, also under Peter Grant's management. Ronnie reveals what he thought when he first saw John Bonham! 
Their interviews are included on Miller's blog page at LedZepOnline.com and also air on this week's 60-minute episode of "Get the Led Out." Check with your favorite local classic rock station for air times or to request the show.

Disclosure: Steve Sauer is a consultant to Carol Miller's Get the Led Out and editor of LedZepOnline.com.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Them Crooked Vultures star reveals he died on the operating table

Photo by Bill Ebbesen
Literally. Dying on the operating table?

Josh Homme revealed in an interview for England's NME that he died and came back to life on an operating table last year.

He'd been in surgery last autumn to correct longstanding problems with his knee. That's when, he puts it bluntly, "I had an operation and died, and survived on the table."

Details, please?

"I had surgery on my leg and there were complications and I died on the table."

Wow.

"I was in bed for three months, and I've never done that before so I had time to reflect. I got cleared in the middle of December to walk round again and get out [of] bed, so after three months of just living in my mind, I was finally able to walk round again."

Three months without walking?

"So I just sprang into the new year, basically."

So did Robert Plant on New Year's Day 1976 after four months in a wheelchair and on crutches. That was from the auto accident that could have killed him -- and the hospital stay in Greece that could have stopped his life at age 26.

Two singers in bands with John Paul Jones in a similar situation just after tours!

Is Homme serious about this new revelation? NME's Dan Martin, who interviewed him, thinks so. Martin writes: "Josh is prone to exaggeration, but the serenity with which the Queens of the Stone Age leader talks about his flatline leaves us in no doubt that this is not one of his tall stories."

Josh Homme is still with us.

NME issues are available digitally.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Robert Plant extends tour with Band of Joy through April

Robert Plant has added some dates to his current North American tour with the Band of Joy. The schedule will now see the group get back on the road in April for some shows spanning both coasts and some big cities in between.

Their ambitious touring schedule in April is to include:
  • April 8: Louisville, Ky. - The Palace [Tickets]
  • April 9: Chicago, Ill. - The Auditorium Theatre [Tickets]
  • April 11: Milwaukee, Wis. - The Riverside Ballroom [Tickets TBA]
  • April 12: Minneapolis, Minn. - The State Theatre [Tickets]
  • April 15: Hollywood, Fla. - Hard Rock Live Arena [Tickets TBA]
  • April 17: Vancouver, B.C., Canada - The Queen Elizabeth Theater [Tickets]
  • April 19: Portland, Ore. - The Schnitzer [Tickets]
  • April 20: Seattle, Wash. - The Paramount [Tickets TBA]
  • April 22: Berkeley, Calif. - The Greek [Tickets]
  • April 23: Los Angeles, Calif. - The Greek [Tickets TBA]
  • April 25: Santa Barbara, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Bowl [Tickets TBA]
  • April 27: Denver, Colo. - The Fillmore [Tickets TBA]
Plant, who last week was nominated for the first BRIT award of his career, is currently on tour with his group in support the album Band of Joy, released last year just after the group's first trek through the States. The current leg of dates includes:
  • Jan. 18: Asheville, N.C. - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium [Tickets]
  • Jan. 19: Pittsburgh, Pa. - Peterson Events Center (University of Pittsburgh) [Tickets]
  • Jan. 21: Ann Arbor, Mich. - Hill Auditorium [Tickets]
  • Jan. 22: Toronto, Ont., Canada - Sony Centre for the Performing Arts [Tickets]
  • Jan. 23: Toronto, Ont., Canada - Sony Centre for the Performing Arts [Tickets]
  • Jan. 25: Boston, Mass. House of Blues [Tickets]
  • Jan. 26: Upper Darby, Pa. - Tower Theatre [Tickets]
  • Jan. 28: Mashantucket, Conn. - MGM Grand Theater at MGM Grand at Foxwoods [Tickets]
  • Jan. 29: New York, N.Y. - Beacon Theatre [Tickets]
  • Jan. 30: New York, N.Y. - Beacon Theatre [Tickets]
  • Feb. 1: Washington, D.C. - D.A.R. Constitution Hall [Tickets]
  • Feb. 2: Raleigh, N.C. - Raleigh, N.C. - Memorial Auditorium [Tickets]
  • Feb. 4: North Charleston, S.C. - North Charleston Performing Arts Center [Tickets]
  • Feb. 5: Atlanta, Ga. - Fox Theatre [Tickets]
  • Feb. 7: Charlotte, N.C. - Ovens Auditorium [Tickets]
  • Feb. 8: Nashville, Tenn. - War Memorial Auditorium [Tickets]
  • Feb. 9: Nashville, Tenn. - War Memorial Auditorium [Tickets]

Steven Tyler talks Led Zeppelin -- past and, uh, future? Howard Stern show recap

Photo by Daigo Oliva
An interview conducted live on the Howard Stern show today sheds some light on what Jimmy Page has been, and may still be, up to.

In the "surprise guest's" interview, Aerosmith singer and "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler said he turned down an offer to do some songwriting with Led Zeppelin's guitarist.

Still, Tyler's interview ended with a comment, maybe made in jest, that he might be performing soon with Led Zeppelin.

The conversation first delved into the subject of Zep when Stern, surprised by his guest's appearance, suddenly asked if Tyler really did audition for Led Zeppelin, as reports stated in October 2008.

A one-off Led Zeppelin concert in December 2007 saw Page reunited with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, along with Jason Bonham, son of original drummer John Bonham. The following year, while Plant was on tour with Alison Krauss, the others were gathered together with hopes of continuing playing music together.

However, with Plant unavailable, they considered forming, instead, a new band. Statements to the effect that Led Zeppelin would continue with any singer other than Plant were untrue.

The story at one time was that Tyler had auditioned for Led Zeppelin, implying Plant would be replaced. Tyler, through his words in today's interview, may have callously reinforced that notion.

Stern asked if Tyler auditioned for Led Zeppelin, and the singer didn't exactly say no.

Tyler mentioned by name the man who was Jimmy Page's manager, Peter Mensch. Tyler said Mench called him to say that Led Zeppelin had "just played live and that Robert wouldn't play with them again." So he was asked, "Want to come over and jam with the guys?" Tyler said it was natural to jump at the opportunity.

However, when he and Page met face to face and was asked to record an album with him, Tyler turned that down due to his allegiance with Aerosmith.

Previously, a source said it was Page who turned down Tyler after an audition Page deemed "shambolic."

(That is enough to make one wonder how Page would do as an "American Idol" judge. Unafraid to express harsh opinions with words such as "shambolic," Page could be the new Simon Cowell!)

Tyler's overall message on the state of Aerosmith's future was that he would drop "American Idol" if faced with a conflict between being a judge and being a lead singer.

Tyler said he thinks he could have several ongoing projects and they wouldn't jeopardize his position with his bandmates in Aerosmith. For instance, he offered, he could play some Led Zeppelin shows.

Yep, that's right, Tyler said of Led Zeppelin: "I may do some dates with them, just a couple of one-offs." But it wouldn't be a barrier: "That doesn't mean I'm joining Zeppelin."

Anyway, catch Jimmy Page's take on how it really went down in 2008 with Jones and Bonham. And how Jones says it went down.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Opera covering Anna Nicole Smith's life story involves John Paul Jones on bass

John Paul Jones is involved in an upcoming opera about the life and death of Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.

"I'll be playing in the pit for some of the time, with the basses," Jones tells Classic Rock Magazine, "and I'm also on stage playing with a jazz trio with Peter Erskine."

Erskine is a drummer, composer and professor (see his official biography).

"Anna Nicole," an English-language opera, debuts at London's Royal Opera House on Feb. 17 and runs for six performances through March.