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TBL ARCHIVE EXTRACT:ROYAL ALBERT HALL FEBRUARY 9 2002

10 February 2010 4,886 views 4 Comments

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This piece first appeared in TBL 16. It’s my account of one of the most beguiling nights spent in the company of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

This was the occasion they chose to appear separately on the same bill at one of the series of Teenage Cancer Fund shows in 2002. Looking back I think there was a sense amongst fans that they could still easily pick up their collaboration of the mid to late 1990’s – but by then things had moved on, particularly for Robert. It’s interesting to read again my analogy concerning The Who. Back then they were celebrating their catalogue with commendable unpretentiousness and eight years on they are still doing just that, witness their wonderfully effective ‘’give the audience what they want’’ medley at last week’s half time performance at the SuperBowl.

 

Things have never been that simple over in the Zep camp. Back then Robert moved on to the Dreamland album and tour which would cement his relationship with the Strange Sensation line up. Jimmy meanwhile undertook the massive challenge of trawling the achieves to come up with the five hour DVD and How The West Was Won album. This did reunite the three former members as they (and us) saw and heard at first hand just exactly what had made Led Zeppelin so special.  

Before all that there was a date down at Albert’s place. A confused and often frustrating night as you will read on. If you were there, let me know your thoughts on it now eight years on. This is how it was for me on that night back in February 2002…

 

Photos: Freda Hyatt

 

ROYAL ALBERT HALL FEBRUARY 9 2002:

WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN?

 

Right from the start this one was always going to be a bizarre one. The saga commenced on a Friday morning back in early December when a week of shows in aid of the very admirable Teenage Cancer Trust were announced via The Sun.

They were to feature Marti Pellow, Oasis, The Who over two nights and Paul Weller and guests on the final Saturday night. The story broke in The Sun and mentioned that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page would be appearing on the Weller bill.

I was due in London that day on the annual Wallbanger reunion drink so I couldn’t really check the story.  Confirmation though arrived once I got to the capital as the early editions of the Evening Standard carried a full page ad for the shows and there emblazoned for Saturday February 9 was The Paul Weller Band with guests Jimmy Page, Gary Moore, plus Robert Plant & Strange Sensation.

 

Ticket prices were hefty -very hefty ,but it was for an excellent cause and if this was to be the  next sighting of the pair then it was a matter of course to get it sorted which I was able to do (at vast expense!) at the near by Stargreen box office.

This Albert Hall benefit would herald the UK debut of Plant’s new line up and a separate appearance by Jimmy. You had to be there…simple as that. Tickets for the date sold out within a day.

Curiously the Weller, Page and Plant night was deemed the most expensive of the week of shows.

Christmas came and went as it does and Feb 9 soon loomed large. Leading up to the gig it was evident Page and Plant would not be appearing together. Plant was set for a 50 minute support slot for which he warmed for with a low key date the previous Wednesday at Bristol University. Page’s involvement was still uncertain – a few numbers jamming with the Weller band? A solo acoustic spot? Stairway live instrumental? The rumours abounded

 

So it was with much anticipation I approached the first few days of Feb. The whole event was compounded for me with a call from the Page office to supply the programme notes for Jimmy’s insert in the official programme. This I was more than happy to do, though the turn around to get it polished off in time brought forth the usual early morning and late night schedules in between the usual work/family demands.

 

There then occurred something of a diversion that indirectly put me at a distinct disadvantage in assessing the February 9 gig. A ticket came my way (thanks Phil T.) for The Who’s warm up date at the Watford Coliseum.

Now I haven’t seen the Who for 22 years. Back in their peak years as a live band they were second only in my book to Zep. A lasting example of my enthusiasm for The Who at that time can be viewed by checking the closing scenes of their Kids Are Alright movie, that’s me leaping on  to the stage at the end of their Shepperton filming  gig I was lucky enough to attend in May1978, hugging Pete Townshend and accidentally cuffing Daltrey in the eye. Yes there some great days with The Who during the 1970s. Their appearance at a rain soaked Charlton football ground in 1976 was another 

memorable encounter.

 

After Keith Moon died it was never the same and I avoided all The Who and friends arena tour reunions opting to keep my memories of them unscathed. However the  opportunity to pay homage to them from the 8th row in a small theatre  now stripped to the basic four piece with  Rabbit on keyboards was just too mouth watering to pass up. Their appearance on a cold late January night in Watford was a revelation. They looked great, Daltrey defying his 57 years incredibly well and Townshend playing with venom and panache. They played for over two hours and played every song you could possibly want to hear and more. (On a sad note it would be the last time I would witness the startling bass playing of John Entwhistle who died later that year)   

 

Coming away from the gig left me focusing on one underlining thought.

Page’s quote in that Classic Rock interview last year was so spot on ”Led Zeppelin should be out there” he said and looking at how The Who have maintained their credibility you have to agree.

 

THIS is exactly what Page, Plant and Jones should be doing. With no pretension and no damage to their legacy.  Possibly with Michael Lee on drums – no Egyptians, no big light show, just a two hour set focusing on the more potent side of their catalogue Wanton Song/Night Flight/Royal Orleans/Quite You/Immigrant Song/Ramble On/Four Sticks/The Ocean/……need I go on. They could still concentrate on their individual projects – and come together periodically like The Who in a mass celebration and execution of the greatest rock back catalogue of all time.

But that’s all too easy. The stumbling block is that for one particular ex  member such notion is not on the agenda.

You know it’s not going to happen.

 

It certainly wasn’t going to happen in any shape or form on Saturday February 9. But we knew that and grudgingly accepted it. The opportunity to be in the presence of Plant and Page however fragmented, was more than enough to put the old TBL road show back out in force.

 

So it was a good feeling to be in the company of like minded souls from all over Europe and some from a far afield as the US at the pre gig pub meet in Kensington in the late afternoon.

The usual attendees on such occasions, Billy and Alison from Scotland, Steve and Gary from the west country, Guy St John, Mr Linwood, the TBL crew with the good lady Janet, Tom Locke and Den, the Foys, Michael from Sweden, the French and Italian crews, Christophe, Ellio etc etc. It’s been a long time since we have all had reason to convene in this manner and surveying the packed pub it’s a familiar case of TBL comes alive. It’s a warm feeling that we can all still do this.

.In the pub speculation is rife of how proceedings might go. The word is that Page will perform one number probably Dazed And Confused. That might seem like short change for those who have travelled across the Atlantic such as the young lady near me -however she did have the consolation of bumping into Robert in the Helter Skelter bookshop yesterday.

 

Before show time let’s study the facts:

This is Plant’s first London appearance for three years and three months. Page’s first for two and a half years. It’s Page’s first appearance at the Albert Hall for 17 years (his last being the Arms shows in September 1983.) Incredibly It’s Plant’s first appearance on the Albert Hall stage for some 32 years – you have to go back to the night of Friday January 9 1970 at the famous filmed Zeppelin Albert Hall show for the last time Plant greeted an audience at this historic venue.

 

Walking into the grand old building it’s hard not to be overawed by the sheer history of the venue. In fact no other venue in the UK holds such esteem. Looking around the seated circular structure it’s easy to think of the ghosts of concerts past that are ingrained on memory and on film. The Rolling Stones in ’66, Cream’s final show in ’68, Zeppelin in ’69 and ’70 and that emotion filled night back in September 1983 when the fragile Page re interpreted his most famous composition. How welcome that would be tonight…

But you know it’s not going to happen.

 

The audience is a curious mix of old rockers (that’s us) and old mods (that’s them) weighted probably 60 -40 in favour of Paul Weller. Again this makes for an uneven reception to what follows.

After a standard blues wailing set from Gary Moore, Harvey Goldsmith takes the stage and gives the background to the charity intentions before introducing Robert Plant. With the hall still filling up the Strange Sensation line up takes it place. Drummer Clive Deamer to the left…keyboard man John Baggott to the right, Justin Adams and Porl (still with carpet) flanking the singer and the more familiar Charlie Jones stationed at the back. The singer strides on up to the mic for the long drawn out moanings of If I Ever Get Lucky.

 

Initial impressions. The voice is good – better I’m informed later by those who had witnessed the Bristol warm up when he was recovering from a virus. 

Morning Dew is next more free form (as most of the number are) than the Priory version, full of jazzy keyboard runs effective if perfunctory. The introduction of Four Sticks raises the required cheer and it’s this point it should all take off.

Except it doesn’t.

 

The arrangement is excellent with that slowed down reflective section (A Strange Sensation trait) but Robert seems less than animated opting to hug the mic rather than strut in a manner that this classic piece of Zep 4 history demands. The other minor distraction is the fact that the original composer of this Zep standard is somewhere in the vicinity of the building. At any moment you hope of hopes that he will glide on stage, Gibson at the ready and rock out on one of the most durable riffs from the golden era…

But you know it’s not going to happen.

 

I knew what to expect with Hey Joe having heard and seen some of the SS tapes and videos from last years US tour- the most left field of arrangements with some atmospheric guitar and keyboard motifs that work well and Plant effectively interpreting the traditional lyric. If you work at it there’s some fine stuff going on here – trouble was on this night, it was all  a little too early to concentrate on doing so.

 

Song To the Siren is next -expertly sung but somehow at odds with the less than intimate surroundings and completely lost of course on the Weller audience. Love’s A House Is Not A Motel follows and this pin points the shortcomings of the SS ethic. With the Priory Plant delivered this with the urgency and flair of the original. Not so tonight. The edgy opening verses kick off in the right direction but it all moves on into a spacey improvisation that quickly strips the song of its impetus -the guitar and organ creating a wash of sound.

 

Unfortunately there is no time to recover – no final blast of say Misty Mountain or Babe I’m Gonna Leave You which had been performed at Bristol. No encore, no nothing…lights up Plant and co off. All decidedly unfulfilling. Which is a great shame because the Strange Sensation does have new ideas and places to go musically. It just never lent itself to tonight’s occasion. In it’s own right and with far increased set list length this latest Plant venture could prove enlightening. On the other hand it may be his most off centre project since Shaken’ N’ Stirred. Until the album appears the jury is out on this one.

What we can’t hide is a collective thumbs down for what we have experienced so far tonight. Much of that disappointment maybe down to the circumstances of the evening, but it’s still a frustrating state of play.

 

Still…there is the silver lining of Jimmy to come but quite how and when remains a mystery.

 

Now I’ve long admired Paul Weller as an artist. I may even be in the minority of people here tonight that can boast alongside the countless Zep CD’s I own, I also have much of Weller’s work crossing The Jam, Style Council and solo. In many ways his career parallels that of Plant. He is another artist who has found it hard living in the shadow of his past work and like Plant he tends to please himself artistically. Like Plant he finds his past catalogue of  little attraction.

 

Tonight there will be no greatest hits set -instead we get an overlong and often overwrought trawl through his solo work. There are recognisable songs, Wildwood, Changing Man and You Do Something To Me amongst them but there are also many indulgences -trips to the piano to perform obscure album tracks and introduction to guests such as Carleen Anderson, Noel Gallagher and The Stereophonic’s Kelly Jones.

The celebrated Gallagher could have course delivered one of the several noteworthy compositions he has conjured up over the past decade. Wonderwall, Live Forever, Don’t Look Back In Anger…instead we get the nonscript B side One Way Road.

Likewise Jones who has written some fine tunes with The Stereophonics, indeed his cover and current hit Handbags And Gladrags (as used on the brilliant The Office TV show ) would have probably gone down very well…instead we get Woodcutters Son. Weller does relent for a version of The Jam classic Town Called Malice but even this is performed as a semi acoustic romp – when surely his ardent supporters were just crying out for the Motown bass line driven pace of the original.     

 

And so it goes on, and all the time we await the appearance of James Patrick Page. ”Got some special guests coming on soon” is Weller’s only hint after the Jam revival of a change in the menu. Then as if someone had picked up the remote and switched the TV over everything changes.

 

You can see the Gibson…Weller goes off, his band mates mill around, lights flash down…and there on stage is Jimmy Page.

Cherubic smile, well cut shirt, slimmer than in very long time, low slung  Gibson Les Paul and sure enough it’s Dazed And Confused  the instrumental…… Right at the back of ones mind …there’s a tiny hope that the singer who first lit the fire of this particular Zep gem will walk on and take the mic and…

But you know it’s not going to happen.

 jp090202c

Jimmy though is on form. The place erupts and throughout the eight minute performance there is no doubt that we are in the presence of a living legend -if that sounds corny well….you had to be there, because it was just so evident that Page still carries that indefinable something that makes him what he is.  Musically it’s also probably more than we could have expected given the Weller band’s unfamiliarity with the song, and the fact the guitarist behind Page was wearing a fish tail parker that even beats some of Jonesy’s Spanish epics in the bad fashion day stakes.

 

The violin bow is wielded to huge cheers,the middle solo spun off as if he was back in 1970 and we  were all a lot younger…and the crescendo ending signals mass applause, smiles, hand shakes…and then he’s gone.

 

That’s it and as quickly as we’ve switched to Channel 4 we are back to BBC 2 and yet more later with Paul Weller .

‘Gonna do Walk On Gilded Splinters’’

This was a hit for Marsha Hunt back in the days when Zep played this venue and maybe a possible Priory contender had they still been up and running.

There is no acknowledgement of Jimmy at all which was frankly insulting.

How the whole event would have been lifted had Jimmy stayed on, brought out the double neck, and gone into an instrumental Song Remains The Same supported ala 1995 by Porl Thompson…rounding it off with Stairway.

That really would have made it…

But you knew it’s not going to happen.

 

Instead we are left for Weller to bring on Roger Daltrey for a spirited finale of the rarely played Who 1960’s hit I Can See For Miles.

Personally I was still getting over the adrenalin rush of seeing Page – and the nervy Mr Foy was still struggling to find his glasses that had sped off his nose in the excitement to greet Page.

 

So we shuffle out the evening over. Dazed…yes…confused…yes …frustrated yes…but perhaps thankful for small mercies. The train back is long and weary. The next two days are spent coming down after all the build up and no getting away from it, there is a definite feeling of what might have been.. what should have been…..and what never was….

 

POSTSCRIPT:

Predictably the TBL web site is alive with tour watch comments – perhaps the most debate of any gig ever covered on the web. The consensus is an absolute thumbs up for Page …but less positive for Plant.

The question of the actual billing, Paul Weller’s domination and Jimmy’s minor role within the night prompts major disappointment.

 

So where did it all go wrong? Certainly given his billing on the adverts, Page should surely have had a more decisive role. In hindsight was this the right night for them to perform anyway?  Weller and co having no association with them previously and as we saw on the night, the line up appealed to distinctly differing musical audiences. Surely it would have been far better for them to be supporting The Who as will be the case for Plant on the summer 2002 tour.

As for the matter of Page and Plant appearing separately- word was that there was no animosity. Plant apparently viewed Page’s stint from the side of the stage and there had been a suggestion to perform Thank you together but the strict schedule of the night thwarted any such plans -in fact Robert was forced to drop one number on the night due to the tight schedule.

 

Confusion, Frustration.

We’ve endured plenty of it. And that all said it’s still with immense pride that I will boast in years to come that I was there when Jimmy Page stripped the years away and proved once again that he is the quintessential guitar hero and eternal keeper of the Zeppelin flame.

 

But there again, as I explained, I was at a distinct disadvantage alongside anyone else who saw The Who over the proceeding week. Watching them in action, well they made it all seem so uncomplicated.  No obscurities, no elongated 60’s freak outs – just great rock’n’ roll played right from the heart.

The whole month turned out to be a bit of a so near and yet so far in more ways than one, culminating in Spurs dismal defeat in the Worthington Cup Final.

 

Football….maybe that’s the final analogy. The Who plug on like some sleeping giant ala Newcastle United while P and P while still holding the attention and striving to be attractive and innovative, are shrouded in their glorious past ala Tottenham Hotspur.

 

So this Albert Hall gig will go down as one of most bizarre nights in the long concert history of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

Those of us in attendance to use yet another Who-ism, will probably hope we won’t get fooled again…

But of course it won’t stop us coming back for more.

 

Dave Lewis Feb 26 2002

 

Postscript 2010:

It didn’t!

 

Copyright Dave Lewis/TBL 2010 -not to be re-produced without prior permission.

 

Written and published for Tight But Loose 16

Back issue still available. £5 UK, £6 Europe, £7 USA –email davelewis.tbl1@ntlworld.com 

    

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4 Comments »

  • Andrew Tipple said:

    I too was there that night…I considered it worth the (expensive) ticket prices just to see Page play Dazed & Confused. The great thing about the evening for me was that my wife came with me and we hadn’t long been together. We also went to the Who night…my wallet took a while to recover.
    I’d been banging on about all matters Zep ad nauseum (as you do) so for her to see Page first hand was a real eye opener.
    She understood what all the fuss was about from that moment on.
    I still feel guilty that she couldn’t come to the 02 show with me (but that’s another story).

  • Simon Webber said:

    I wasn’t there but remember reading this piece in TBL at the time, and thinking I was glad not to have witnessed the show. We all know what (or rather who) the stumbling block is in the way of a Zep reunion, and it’s interesting to note that as far as that goes nothing has really changed since 2002 – this article could just as easily have been written last week. In a way, one thing I wish would happen in near future is that robert comes out and just says ‘Sorry guys, I don’t want to do it and it’s not going to happen’. I’m getting sick of all the ‘will he or won’t he’ stories – and in particular of Plant saying he won’t do it because people don’t want to hear Led Zeppelin’s music anymore, when the truth could not be more contradictory and is staring him squarely in the face.

  • Iain said:

    I went to the show without any real interest in Paul Weller or Gary Moore so I was completely underwhelmed by the whole thing.

    In retrospect, Robert played a set, which although showcasing his then new band, wasn’t perhaps best suited for this oarticular occasion – I would say most of the crowd were perplexed by his choice. I’m a huge fan of his time with the Strange Sensation, but one or two more Zep numbers would have been welcome, especially to get a bit more crowd response. As it was, it all seemed very sterile.

    As for Page, well it was great to see him on stage again, but why only one track? That’s certainly not what was expected, especially as he had an equal billing on the night and featured prominently in all the adverts for the show (and the programme).

    As mentioned above, Wellers complete lack of acknowledgement to Page was indeed an insult and it would have been nice for both Page and Plant to have a mini reunion at the end of Pages’ slot – a quick run through of Wanton Song, Trampled Underfoot or Celebration Day would have been most welcome. Ah well …

    Certainly the most disappointing show featuring the dynamic duo I’ve ever seen.

  • NIall said:

    Yes yes I was there on the night with my girlfriend of the time and a great balcony seat.
    I remember cutting it fine and taking our seats as Strange Sensations were on their second number and Plant had a red silk shirt on.
    They did not take off but I had a buzz watching him perform in a venue which Led Zeppelin played 32 years before. I remember listening to his voice bounce around the beautiful enterior and imagined what it would have been like when he had Bonzo backing him up back in the day.
    It was a bloody insult when Paul Weller did not acknowledge Page after his performance. I took that as pure ego.
    Mods and Rockers maybe?
    Page did look great as I remember he was recovering from an injured back after touring with the Black Crowes, so you heard nothing of the man for a good year before
    Dazed and confused was amazing even though Paul Weller’s rhythm section he was using looked bored during the performance but Page was amazing anyway which goes to show the genius that he is.
    Soon as he kicked in he was away in his own beautiful musical world that raised the hairs on the back of me neck. Shame he couldn’t stay on longer.
    Then Daltrey came on at the end to sing “I Can See For Miles” and gave the night a kick up the arse that it really needed. He was brilliant.
    A night to remember.

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