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Home » John Paul Jones

Fitzgerald’s, Houston, Texas

15 March 2000 6,213 views No Comment

Set List (approximate): 1st Set: Zooma/Goose/Grind/Smile Of Your Shadow/Nosumi Blues/No Quarter/Spaghetti Junction/Going To California (begins w/That’s The Way excerpt)/Steel Away/Snake Eyes/Nobody’s Fault But Mine
2nd Set: Triple-Neck Acoustic Solo/Crack Back/Bass N’ Drums (w/Heartbreaker and D&C excerpts)/B Fingers/Jump Blues/When The Levee Breaks/Tidal Encores: Trampled Underfoot/Black Dog

JPJ and Co. blew into town yesterday just ahead of the biggest rainstorm this town has seen in a year. A group of 10 or so early-goers were standing watch outside the club door when I arrived; one was Badgeholder Chris Barbero, who informed me that the band had arrived without fanfare by taxi, as in other cities. We loitered outside the club with the others, but when the band started its soundcheck we went inside to the downstairs bar to have a few cold ones, where we could clearly hear the check proceeding. Back outside for a smoke, and the bouncer opened a fire-escape door to the upstairs, treating us (and the neighborhood) to renditions of Nobody’s Fault and what sounded like Nutrocker from the 1977 tour, followed by a lengthy blues guitar/bass excursion. Throngs of fans soon accumulated, including old-school rockers in classic Cameros and Trans-Ams. The line snaked down the street until the club opened its doors at about 7:30 – of course, the area in front of the stage filled immediately. The venue is arranged thus: small stage, an open floor with bar service at back, and a small balcony affording seating overlooking the stage. Tapers were in evidence (barely bothering to hide their gear), and cameras were everywhere, with no attempt being made to control picture-taking. This show should be circulating shortly, and it should sound great, because the mix was VERY, VERY LOUD and clear. The band took the stage at 9:05 amidst wild cheering, and JPJ did that head-ducking, aw-shucks bit that reveals his modesty – he seemed genuinely surprised at the rowdy greeting. The setlist held no real surprises for those in the know, but the crowd was great – Zooma cuts were warmly received and the Zeppelin covers sparked rabid fits of whooping and fist-pumping. Early on, one churl bellowed his demand that the band “Play Zeppelin”, but he was quickly silenced. A more welcome, loud request for Carouselambra was seconded by many members of the crowd, to no avail – will we ever hear this masterpiece performed live? Nick’s Stick was inaudible for the first few numbers, but, once mixed properly, began generating the wild sounds that characterize Zooma. JPJ, remarking upon the muggy Texas heat, seemed pleased with the full-size bath towel proffered for brow-mopping purposes and compared its generous size to the hanky-sized tissues provided at previous shows. As a general comment, the interplay between the Stick and JPJ’s bass is fascinating: JPJ will lay down a tectonic groove over which Nick solos, but, in a heartbeat, they will switch roles so that Nick picks up and continues the groove while JPJ does his melodic-bass thing. Further, as has been observed by others, the band is much tighter unit than they were when I saw them in New York in October. Although this opinion verges on heresy, I thought No Quarter really missed Page (or at least a 6-string), especially the crashing chords just prior to the chorus and the free-form jamming later in the song; judging from the number of lighters held aloft, however, my opinion is definitely in the minority. Spaghetti Junction was a standout for the first set, featuring an exuberant give-and-take between Jones and Terl. Does anyone else think this number resembles Green Onions by Booker T & the MGs? Aside: a few hapless Deadheads celebrated this song with the peculiar dances of that tribe – head-down, hand-flapping twitching for guys and those bizarre, butterfly-catching hand motions for the ladies.
That’s The Way/Going To California drew the expected cheers, and JPJ really stretched out, marking (or reclaiming?) this song as his own. Steel Away sounds to these ears like a re-worked You Shook Me. The first set drew to a close with Nobody’s Fault, fully capturing the majesty of the dinosaur and leaving the audience happy but hungry for more. Quick battery/media checks (first set exceeded 74m) and trips to the bathroom, and the Man re-took the stage for his triple-neck solo showcase, Hugh beaming in the background like a proud father. JPJ had some trouble obtaining the proper synchronization for his samples, and even had to stop entirely at one point, giving the crowd a good-natured, sheepish grin before plunging onward. Afterwards, the triple-neck was borne ostentatiously across the stage, JPJ’s logo proudly on display, to the strobes of multiple camera flashes. Bass N’ Drums earned its name, and the offhand references to Heartbreaker and Dazed & Confused were met with knowing glances and grins between the cognoscenti. During the exhilarating run-through of Jump Blues I suddenly flashed that this song was essentially the boogie/medley section of Whole Lotta Love (more later). Now for the home stretch: When The Levee Breaks showed Terl at his best; he’s a very powerful drummer and can really knock it out, but he can also swing when needed. He really pins back our ears on this tune, which was a crowd favorite, judging from the extended applause thereafter. Trampled Underfoot featured great playing, but needs vocals – this is the only song I can say this about. Finally, Black Dog was a tour-de-force and the perfect ending to a perfect performance; the slide bass work approximating the vocal lines is intoxicating. If all audiences are like this Houston crowd, then JPJ should perceive this tour as a wildly successful outing. After the show, JPJ came out onstage and gave autographs for AT LEAST one hour, signing every single thing put in front of him (and you wouldn’t believe some of the amazing items/memorabilia people brought to the show – basses, drumheads, vintage lps and picture discs, programs, etc.). He was extremely accessible and generous with his time, and everyone was able to shake his hand and take pictures of him. I asked him about my aforesaid theory that Jump Blues is a reworking of the Whole Lotta Love boogie/medley, and his response was along the lines of a friendly “No comment”. Nick and Terl also signed items for the hardcore fans, and Terl seemed quite pleased with all of the attention. I was able to speak with him for some time, and asked him what he’d done before signing on with Jonesy. “Nothing” was his reply, but I would expect him to get a lot of good work after this stint. All in all, a fantastic show featuring virtuoso playing in every respect, and the chance for fellowship with Zep brethren shouldn’t be missed. Page should be kicking himself that he picked Plant over Jones – I know I am.
David Montgomery
Venue Information- Fitzgeralds Club is an old bank building that has been converted to a club with an upstairs and downstairs. In actuality it looks like a haunted house and is extremely old, a perfect place for jpj to shake the cobwebs out of the rafters. Stevie Ray Vaughn used to hold court here in the early eighties before stardom. Seating capacity around 500 to 700 people. Estimated crowd is 500, no seating standing room only. JP played upstairs. JPJ came into Houston and kicked 150,000 tons of ass. The only thing I can use as a visual guide for everyone is to think of the old godzilla movie with Raymond Burr describing how Godzilla is destroying Tokyo and substitute jpj for godzilla and Houston for Tokyo. This was complete and total annihilation people the man in the background came to the foreground in a big way and showed once and for all that Page and Plant were not the only zepmeisters, in fact during this show jpj was musically saying I am the zeppelin as he really made the P&P show look rather banal with his avant-garde attack. The sound in this small club was top notch and extremely loud and clear even the stick sounded great. I think it is the nature of the instrument and not the soundboard volume that makes the touch guitar sound a little soft at times. The initial barrage of bass laden songs set the tone as it was obvious that the band was in a good mood and playing great. Smile brought out the mandola for the first section then switching to lap steel for the songs conclusion this was the first taste of jpj master musician as he easily slid from one instrument to the next as he would do effortlessly throughout the evening. Nosumi Blues rocked hard and and was followed by the first zep song of the evening and it was into NO Quarter. No way to bring out the old zep pomposity for this one but the thought was there and it was played admirably. Spaghetti Junction followed and was all jazzed up keys and grooved along nicely. Snake Eyes was next and was cool especially the play off at the end between jp and nick (and the computer?). The first half closed with the best song of the night and it was Nobodys Fault But Mine. I can barely describe the euphoria of the crowd during this song, plaster was actually falling off of the walls (well maybe). How unbelievable that jp is not only playing the guitar parts better than Page could at this point but also playing the lyrics on the lap steel basically saying I don;’t need either one of you as I can do the whole song by myself thank you very much. To top it off jp played two solos during the song, at the harp break and at the regular lead solo break. After this there was a sense of witnessing a major event as the crowd were buzzing like bees as we headed for the bar. The second half opened with the triple neck in all of its symbolic glory. Having seen zep in Houston in 77 it was nice to see old trip back in town. Next was Going to California with a brief That’s The Way tease. Nice finger picking by jp on this one. The next song is listed as Steel Away on the boot of one of the shows I have but it was obviously You Shook Me. Awesome Mandolin playing solo included inserted were the harp solo would be, then sliding to the lapsteel for the conclusion. A note here the lap steel playing during this show was phenomenal as jp absolutely let rip every time he played it. Crackback was cool but nick could not match the raw intensity of the page soloof the album version, still a great song. Bass & Drums featured a brief Dazed interlude followed by a full Lemon Song jam, amazing. B Fingers should be called stick fingers as this was nicks biggest moment of the night, he was sending out weird bits of information sounding like some kind of alien language, full shred. Jump-Junk Blues turned into a wild boogie children sounding jam that seemed to last about ten minutes, a lap steel orgy. When the Levee Breaks rocked mercilessly. Of course this was a major highlight, headbanging just like the tea party. Tidal closed the show in a tidal show of force with jp and nick squaring off like a couple of cowboys at high noon. First encore was Trampled Underfoot, I was not at all impressed with this song, it just never really takes flight. Black Dog closed the night and what a storming version once again the lyrics are played on the lap steel, funny how the lap steel has no problem hitting those original high notes. The show went right around 2 hours and twenty minutes. The usual tour comments were made by THE MAN ie. Time for the dinosaur stomp. In retrospect this was one for the ages, having heard a boot from the tour I knew what to expect but the sheer power and volume of the show in such a small venue was almost indescribable. Go see this tour if you want to here the future of music. If your scared STAY HOME. Its on to Austin baby and jpj at the south by southwest music festival. ROCK IT.
Stephen Christensen

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