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Arthur Lee Benefit Concert, Beacon Theatre, New York City

23 June 2006 1,080 views No Comment

In The Evening, Bummer in the Summer, What Is and What Should Never Be, The Old Man, For What It’s Worth, When Will I Be Loved (with Ian Hunter), A House Is Not A Motel, Can’t Help Falling In Love, Hey Joe, 7+7 Is, Ramble On
Encores: Thank You

This review by Li who wrote this review exclusively for and has been used with kind permission
Four hours until Robert came on and well, well, well worth the wait! What an absolutely amazing show. The other bands played very short sets (Ian’s was a bit longer) and pretty well just did their “hits.” A few of them played a Love tune, though the only one I recognized was Nils Lofgren doing Alone Again Or pretty true to the original. Not Robert – he really worked a set list that was not only paying homage to Arthur Lee, but chose other songs that fit the era from which Love was popular.
Bummer in the Summer, one of my favorite Love tunes started off very slow and acoustic and then kicked in electric with this great groove to it. Quite different from the 2001 version, which was much funkier. Robert spoke about Love a bit and said this next song was one he’s wanted to sing since he was a kid and this was the first time he was going to perform Love’s The Old Man. It was really beautiful and Robert gave quite a heartfelt performance. Clearly the song means something to him.
In a very funny moment, Robert tried to get Ian Hunter out to sing with him but Ian was nowhere to be found at that moment. Robert quipped, is there anybody in there which usually he says, is there anybody out there to the audience. It was quite humorous and Robert just went on to a stunning a trippy version of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth which at one point Ian came out on guitar and played. He stayed on stage for a fantastic version of When Will I Be Loved. I don’t know who originally wrote it, I can only think of the Linda Rondstadt version. Robert put hers to shame. It was great to see him and Ian singing together.
Another absolute favorite Love tune was next – A House Is Not A Motel. This interpretation was more melodic than some of the versions I’ve heard Strange Sensation do. Absolutely awesome and great to hear it live again. Robert even grabbed an acoustic guitar and played! That was quite cool.
Robert spoke about the band and that how 2 days ago was the first time he met any of them. I don’t know where they were from other than the guitarist whom I know – James Mastro who’s a local musician that’s been around for quite a few years. They were really good. Robert said that he’s been in many bands over the years but it was the first time he’s played with an American band and said it was “quite liberating” but he wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to say!
Can’t Help Falling In Love was really a lovely moment in the show. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever heard Robert sing Presley before. It was a good song to showcase just how beautiful Robert’s voice is.
Hey Joe followed which was dedicated to Zoe Bonham who was in attendance, Robert stating that he and John Bonham used to play it. Very different from any versions Robert has done in the past. It had a real 60s sort of vibe but not in the wah wah guitar of Hendrix. More melodic and slow as though you could almost hang on to every word. It made the already haunting lyrics even more intense.
7+7 Is was also fantastic – really hard driving.
Before he left the stage, Robert started to say thank you and said, no I can’t say that, I have no right and then wished Arthur to get well soon. Sigh – an incredibly giving and selfless man who incidentally footed his own expenses for this.
Robert is just endless in energy and creativity. The whole time I kept thinking, here he is in this situation of 2 days rehearsing with a band he has never worked with and most musicians would have played it safe – done the straight interpretation of the songs. Robert clearly put his mark on all of them as did the band and the whole vibe of his performance was truly a reflection of the kind of music Arthur Lee created . It was just an amazing evening and such a special treat for us in the states to get the opportunity to see Robert again and help out someone in need.

This review from Wyatt Brake
The concert was a long and enjoyable one, so I’ll just hit on a few highlights.
Flashy Python and the Bodysnatchers were the first group to play, although I believe they were only a group for that night. Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah led the band into a convincing rendition of Love’s Andmoreagain to open the show. Following the Love tune, two more songs were performed. Ounsworth’s vocals reminded me very much of a young Dylan.
Garland Jeffreys gave a very energetic performance, although he did not sing any Love songs. He did, however, give an a cappella reading of Little Red Book before leaving the stage.
The set changes between acts were fairly brief. There were two wheeled risers for drum kits that were simply pushed out onto the stage as a unit when necessary, which limited the turnaround time. A lot of Love was played over the loudspeakers, but also other songs roughly of the era.
Jeffreys was not the only performer not to do any Love songs. Gavin DeGraw and Ryan Adams & The Cardinals didn’t play any either. DeGraw apparently had originally been asked to play, but believed he couldn’t, and then decided to at the last minute. He did two songs, including one of his own that got a lot of radio play in the US, according to my companion at the show (someone who listens to MTV TRL type stuff). The first song he did may have been something from Ray Charles – I’m really not sure. It did showcase a genuine vocal talent.
Ryan Adams and his band presented a kind of alternative country/rock blend that was quite good. He was heckled a little, apparently for saying he couldn’t really play any Love due to his vocal range. He blew them off, retorting, “yeah, I know you went to college.”
Nils Lofgren, unbeknownst to me, was/is a guitarist with Springsteen’s E Street Band and has also worked with Neil Young in the past. He put on an enjoyable performance with some long jams. He played one of his own songs, Shine Silently, and a great version of Love’s Alone Again Or, minus the horns. He closed with a dynamic “Because the Night,” which was a big surprise and got the crowd into a frenzy.
Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame preceded Robert. I was unfamiliar with much of what he played, except for a 60s standard, the name of which eludes me at present – and of course All the Young Dudes, for which he led the crowd in a sing along.
I believe the last three acts played with the same backing band. The drummer was mentioned as being from Paul McCartney’s Wings. There were also two guitarists, a bass player, and an organ/keyboard player named Andy. He was there for almost all the performers. When the DJ from Q 104.3 (acting as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening) inquired, Andy told him that he had rehearsed over 400 songs with the various acts for that night (seems unlikely). He was also asked early in the evening if he had rehearsed any Zeppelin tracks, and his response of “maybe” got an ovation.
So when the band finally came out after Hunter’s set, it was not the Strange Sensation. It was instead a group of unfamiliar guys. It might be worth noting that the drummer sat behind a bass drum that was the smallest I had ever seen used for any Led Zeppelin song ever.
In any event, the band was on stage for a full thirty seconds or more, playing something unrecognizable, before Robert Plant emerged from the darkness on the left side of the stage. He raised an arm to the cheering crowd, strode to the microphone and sang, “In the eeevening…..,” at which point the band exploded and I couldn’t hear anything besides a throaty growl of “YEAH!” which turned out to be coming from me.
Ironically, when I saw Robert five years ago for the first time, I said to my companion that the Strange Sensation seemed eminently capable of doing a fantastic version of In the Evening. Now he’s chosen to sing the song for the first time in about ten years with a different collection of musicians altogether. Indeed, Robert remarked later in the night that the past two days were the first time he’s really worked with American players, and he found the experience quite… “liberating” and then wondered aloud if he should use that particular word. The song was great, and well received. The crowd got a few chances to sing the “oooh – I need your love” portion and Robert smiled through the whole song.
As the previous TBLWeb reviewer Li mentioned, Bummer in the Summer was drastically different from the 2001 Strange Sensation performances. It began slowly on acoustic guitar before kicking in with the electric. The fast arrangement gives Robert the opportunity to do something that approaches rapping (essentially he was just singing very, very quickly) which is quite interesting to hear.
What Is and What Should Never Be was next, and Robert and the band delivered. He smiled and motioned back and forth during the ‘stereophonic’ section in which the guitars stand alone, first from the left, then right, and so on. “Everybody I know seems to know me well, but does anybody know that I move like hell?!”
Robert had spoken about the challenge of singing Old Man the previous day on the Soundcheck interview show. He approached it very carefully, and sang it very softly. In fact, throughout the night, it seemed very much like he was limiting himself somewhat and tending to ‘under-sing’ some things that I know he’s still capable of wailing. It seems as if in big spots with lots of exposure, he’s a little afraid of belting it out for fear of the voice breaking. Performances on Letterman, Leno, VH1 Storytellers (where he didn’t even do the loooove section at the end of Whole Lotta Love), and Austin City Limits are good examples. This was my eleventh time seeing Robert Plant in concert, and though his voice has certainly aged (the man is going to be 58 this year, after all), he can still reach the upper register. Tin Pan Valley provided positive illustrations of this on his last tour.
After Old Man, Robert was looking around for Ian Hunter for a duet, but Hunter failed to materialize and instead the band went into the Buffalo Springfield classic For What It’s Worth after a brief introduction about playing the song with John Bonham in the Band of Joy (which appears on the Sixty-Six to Timbuktu retrospective). Midway through the song, Hunter emerged with an acoustic guitar and played along to the conclusion after a few words in Robert’s ear.
The next song, written by one of the Everly Brothers and popularized by Linda Ronstadt, was When Will I Be Loved. Hunter and Plant traded vocals and Robert looked like he was laughing most of the time when he wasn’t on the microphone. There were a few times when either he or Ian was off slightly and they would look back at each other. Not flawless, but fun.
A House is Not a Motel, once again with original Love guitarist Johnny Echols, was changed slightly from previous Strange Sensation and Priory of Brion versions. I would agree with the previous reviewer, Li, in that it was perhaps more melodic. Robert grabbed an acoustic guitar from the rack onstage and played along during the ending section. Echols sounded amazing on the solo, and Robert kept looking over approvingly.
The Elvis song that came next was a tremendous surprise. When Robert stepped to the mic and began with “Wise men say…only fools rush in…” there were smiles all around. This was another song he sang very carefully, standing very still, with his legs crossed at the ankles. He successfully kept his voice in the lower register for the duration of the song and sang it very well. Throughout the evening, he was more ‘tight than loose, more light than shade’ I would say, and most Zeppelin fans might know what I mean when I say that. It was a distinct pleasure to hear Robert give proper treatment to a Presley tune after listening to him sing bits and pieces in all those Zeppelin performances.
Hey Joe was done in similar fashion to the regular Strange Sensation renditions, only slightly…spookier is really the only word for it, I think. Just a little bit slower. Eerie. After the “Just like I saaaaid” portion, the band went into something different and Robert was singing something else – presumably a Love song I didn’t recognize.
7 & 7 Is was done a little closer to the original from Love’s Da Capo rather than the Strange Sensation versions – leaning toward punk.
When the drummer put a cover over the tom, I said “wow, Ramble On…” The song was given a fairly standard run-through, but it was still nice to hear. The house lights came on after the song, and the crowd started to leave, but Robert ventured back onto the stage for one more.
Before Thank You, Plant said that “Well, people get married to this song, and people get married because of this song. I don’t know…”
The DJ acting as master of ceremonies mentioned a few times that there would be an after-show party at BB King’s on 42nd street, but no one from the show came to the club. There was a guitarist named Jon Paris who was a pretty good blues player, but nobody there to live up to the marquis that said “Arthur Lee Benefit Jam.” He played a little Kashmir unaccompanied, then stopped and said, “we’ll see who shows up later.” Other hints were dropped, so maybe something was planned and didn’t materialize, or maybe there was just a deal to funnel people to BB King’s. Robert probably either went to bed or went somewhere where no one was wearing a Zeppelin shirt. Adam Bomb (the guitarist that played the insane solo on JPJ’s Angry Angry on Thunderthief) did stop by and play Rock and Roll, Hendrix’s Fire, and briefly light his pink guitar on fire.
Other than the minor disappointment at the end of the night, it was an incredible evening.

Enrique Garcia couldn’t make the show but sent this anyway
I Couldn’t make it to the show, but here is how Rock critic Robert Christgau of the Vilage Voice described it in this week’s edition. The article is about how he attended 32 shows in 30 days:

“But the big-ticket house, which wasn’t full, had come for Robert Plant. Plant owns any room he enters. He could have fobbed off three Loves, three Zeps, a solo promo, and “Danny Boy.” Instead he spent two days with the pickup band, rehearsing a set that honored Lee personally
and culturally.
The Zeps were early, the Loves exquisite. “For What It’s Worth” led to a Hunter-assisted Everlys tune (the Elderly Brothers, Weitzman called them) and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Highlighted was “Hey Joe”-a perfect Zep-Love link, misogyny and all. And into the middle of a psychedelic fantasia-based on his own 2002 revival, not Love’s peppy single or Hendrix’s psychodrama-Plant inserted “Nature Boy,” an inspired evocation of Arthur Lee the L.A.
eccentric even if you didn’t know its composer was an L.A. longhair when there were no longhairs and its hit version a turning point for black pop pathfinder Nat Cole.
At 57, Plant no longer had his high end. But because the music was new and the occasion felt, he was singing fresh. This wasn’t the somewhat automatic mastery of great Springsteen or Stones. It was a lesson in charisma full of near misses and intricate meshes, the most life-affirming thing I witnessed all month. My daughter and I fought through the rain at 1:30 a.m. just as if we
weren’t exhausted.”

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