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Ashton Court Festival, Bristol

19 July 2003 2,736 views No Comment

If I Ever Get Lucky/Four Sticks/Morning Dew/Seven And Seven Is/Going To California/Girl From The North Country/Gallows Pole/Hey Joe/Ramble On/Tall Cool One/A House Is Not A Motel/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
Encores: Darkness Darkness/Whole Lotta Love

This from Jonathan Taylor
Was it just over a year ago that I went to Liverpool to see The Strange Sensation for the first time, and left distinctly underwhelmed. Well, by the end of Saturday night at the Ashton Court Festival in Bristol, Plant and the Sensation had managed what I had believed impossible…they’d bettered their performance at Bristol Academy last October, and delivered an absolutely stunning set which must rank among my favourite Plant performances.
While I still have reservations over “Lucky” as an opener, particularly at an outdoor gig, and while the mix for a rampant “Four Sticks” initially had the bass up far too loud (Difficult to hear messrs Baggott, Tyson and Adams), once the inceasingly Doors-y “Morning Dew” had flowed smoothly by and the Sensation were blazing through a mighty “Seven And Seven Is”, it was apparent that this particular line-up is as good as any that Robert’s worked with since the halcyon days of Zep. Justin Adams isn’t a classic rock guitarist, he’s a multi-faceted magician, adept and inventive with anything with strings; John Baggott added some wonderful jazz inflections to “Girl From The North Country”, and now drives a reworked “Hey Joe” with an achingly desolate piano figure; Clive Deamer’s percussion (It would too simplistic to just refer to what he does as ‘drumming’) powers and drives the band, but adds delicacy to “North Country” and “California”; relative newcomer Billy Fuller does himself proud, especially during “Four Sticks” and “A House”; and Skin…a revelation. This man was an artist tonight, using the broad canvas that this music provides to paint with both infinite acoustic subtlety and broad electric strokes.
And the Man himself? Confident enough to push the boundaries of these songs, relaxed enough to trust this band to do the right thing at precisely the right time, and still possessed of that voice. Tonight’s Plant quote: “The hardest working man in showbusiness!”
The music itself is still being stretched, remoulded, re-thought and played with fresh verve. Adams takes “North Country” into bluegrass territory, “California” now has a new, extended coda, and “BIGLY”, following its flirtation with it back at Bristol last October, now sports a full-blown flamenco section, courtesy of Skin and Plant.
And the really great thing? On this evidence, if Plant decides to keep them together, the potential of this band is frightening. An awesome evening’s entertainment.

Dave Adds:
This was a home town gig for the Strange Sensation – most of the band are from Bristol, and the 50,000 audience knew it. The band were very animated and seemed to really enjoy it. The set lasted 1 hour 40 mins, much more than the 1 hour advertised in the programme. (Plant got permission to extend by half an hour.)
Plant introduced Morning Dew with “This is for President Blair” and later when introducing Girl From The North Country said it was written by a different kind of President – Bob Dylan.
Highlights for me were Gallows Pole and Ramble On (both of which really
got the crowd dancing), A House Is Not A Motel and Darkness Darkness.

Michelle Eve writes:
Darkness Darkness was paticularly atmospheric and crystal clear. It was mindblowing to hear Gallows pole once more too, there was also hey Joe, Ramble On, Four Stcks, Call my Name, Going to California, Babe i’m gonna leave you, Morning Dew. all topped off with WLL….the crowd which was mostly younger people really went for it and a surprising number seemed to know the words! Roberts voice was in top form and the band spot on, my only compaint which maybe isolated to where I was standing was that the base was up tooo loud, or the speaker was naff, cos it was really booming at times. Robert commented several times on the antics of President Blair and seemed particularly keen for us to know that “we have the power…”
Steven Connor
First of all, Ashton Court is a real revelation – a brilliant festival!
My companion and I made the bus journey from London to discover that, when we reached Bristol, there was little sign that a festival was taking place anywhere. After a half-hour walk through a striking and downright weird landscape we crossed the Clifton suspension bridge and stepped into a different world.
Tens of thousands of people were already chilling out in the sunshine and enjoying a collection of performances at several different stages. Events ranged from acoustic folk to drum ‘n bass, and from spoken poetry to Senegalese mambo music and all for a fiver!
Throughout the day the host at the main stage made several mentions of the “legend” headlining the event and by 10pm there was a truly vast gathering to greet Robert Plant and Strange Sensation.
The crowd was varied. There were many more youthful faces than I’ve seen at Plant’s concerts of late and a lot of people clearly hadn’t seen him before but the anticipation was definitely there. There were even comments from some of the locals that they couldn’t believe he was playing their festival.
Strange Sensation arrived onstage looking eager and happy. There was an appreciative cheer as Plant strolled on to the opening bars of If I Ever Get Lucky and this soon gave way to whoops of amazement at that voice. Things really livened up, however, for the Zeppelin songs.
From Four Sticks onwards each Zep song was greeted by a bouncing frenzy of younger festival goers. The other material received warm applause, probably warmest for Hey Joe.
There was a tremendous energy throughout the set, the band sounding tougher than I’ve heard them before and Plant just incredible.
I’m not going to go through the evening song-by-song so I’ll just note a few points:
There was a lot of talk of how most of the band members are from Bristol and Bath.
Plant said he’d had an aunt from Taunton(?) – a cross dresser who gave him a great start in life!
Plant dedicated Morning Dew to “President Blair” and repeatedly reminded the crowd “Live at the Apollo” style that “You got the power!” The guitar tech gruffly put an end to one attempted stage invasion. There were many crowd chants. Several were loud pleas for LSD. Others involved singing “Robert Plant, Robert Plant” as if he were a football team.
After about 1 hour and 40 mins, the encore ended on a breathtaking rendition of WLL. The elated crowd was very reluctant to go home but the announcer told us time was up.
A big thank you to TBL for spreading the word about this event. I’d never heard of Ashton Court before and I’m very glad I went. It was the best Sensation gig I’ve seen. Roll on Canterbury.

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