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Home » Robert Plant

Corn Exchange, Cambridge

11 October 2002 2,299 views No Comment

Set-List: Win My Train Fare Home/Four Sticks/Down To The Sea/Morning Dew/Going To California/Medley:Girl From Thr North Country – In The Mood/Big Log/Celebration Day/Fixin’ To Die/A House Is Not A Motel/Tall Cool One/BIGLY
Encores: Hey Joe/Whole Lotta Love

This Review By TBL/Webman: Dave Linwood
So its back to Cambridge. The Plant TBL/nomads return to the City where we all saw Priory a couple of years back.
The Corn Exchange is a nice old building with a beautiful wooden roof. It holds about 2000 people, about 500 seated upstairs, the rest standing downstairs. I had an almost perfect view of the stage and about the first ten rows of standing individuals

20.51 Lights off! – and then nothing! Cheers begin to die down as a bemused crowd waits in the darkness. Obviously the wrong cue has been given “upstairs”. About 90 seconds later the band come on, and begin to pick up Win My Train Fare Home….At this point there is a mass rush as people stumble in to find their seats upstairs in total darkness – there had been no warning given at the bar. In between the bodies obstructing my views, Plant enters do that usual clapping thing he does – the crowd reacts warmly.

The sound is well balanced, there is a hiss which remains for much of the show (so don’t blame any people you get the show from when trading!). Regular TBL/Web watchers will know that “Train” is one of my favourite Sensations song and they can do no wrong with it in my eyes.

Four Sticks follows: a very grunty sounding guitar, but not a great deal of bobbing around in the crowd. I was surprised at the static and reserved response.

The first Plantation referred to playing up the road at the Junction – and included a play on words involving soup and soup-son (groans from the audience!). Down to The Sea followed. Like many Sensation songs, it starts slowly and gathers momentum. I liked the Plant Bono-style “hoo-hoo”‘s (yes difficult to describe in print!) towards the end. The whole thing was really impressive!

Morning Dew next. It was preceeded by comments about the current tensions in the world reminding people that this is anti-war song. Compared to PoB, this is Morning Dew on speed..! Its a lot faster now, and has more urgency. Great showpiece for the rythym section which they pull off with gusto. The song now includes an extended keyboard solo. For me this song demonstrates the perfect Zep-style evolution from a studied piece on vinyl to a full-blown hurricane on stage. Great stuff.

The usual lovely version of Going To California follows, Plant invites the audience to participate in a Queen-style sing-along .

The Girl from the North County/In The Mood segment was just brilliant. I loved the PoB version, and this is very different, more guitar before a lazy jazz piano takes over, Plant swaps from one song to the other (and back) with the same ease that you or I would switch from one song or another on a CD player. One of the many highlights of the evening.

Big Log came next (Dave Lewis had mentioned in the pub that he had heard the band playing it during the soundcheck) – a moody Massive Attack (“Missing”) opening before the familiar guitar part kicks in. A nice version, obviously a bit rusty on stage, if they continue to play it during the tour, I would expect it to become polished and smooth – like the original.

Celebration Day was workmanlike, the sound on skim’s guitar was a tad too echoey for my liking which cause his solo-ing to be lost in the mix – this was a shame as he played it well.

Fixin To Die and House Is Not a Motel – both had a workmanlike run through. Plant takes a back seat as the band take over.

Tall Cool One – I love these old rock’n’rollers. It was just fantastic. Its nice to see the band keep it simple and nail it. Bloody Marvellous! More More More!!

BIGLY – The hissy sound stopped halfway through this song. Its a great Zep original. Who could mess this up? No one if Plant’s in charge. I wrote down three words, “Brilliant Vocal Performance”.
There is some criticism of the way both Plant and have continually rolled out the old standards (more on this later) but personally, I thougt this was a *wonderful* version.

And then the encores. But in true TBL/Webman style, it was off to the Gents to canvass opinion from the crowd (well, not exactly but its a great place to hear what others think.!) Very positive comments from everyone, summed up by one comment I heard “He’s still doing a great job”.

Hey Joe – Menacing green then blue search lights scouring through the audience as the band put their mark on this traditional tune. I believe that Sensations can now add their version to other definitive interperetations. You just cannot get the drama and fear on a CD – you have to witness it live.

WLL
A long Plantation intro which finished with “just a little entertainment”. For regular Sensation watchers, the familiar slow “moaning-blues” opening before Skin hits the main riff. The sound he gets and the way he plays it is, dare I say it, *better* than Page has done on some tours?
Despite being “old and tired” according to some commentators, to me the song had so much energy! I loved it. It even had the Bonzo cymbal-style percussive comments during the “orgasmatron” section. My notes said “Played With Gusto”.

Show Ends 22:31. A unified bow and off. The crowd reaction tonight is probably best described as friendly and attentive with being ecstatic. (No good for the “whoo-hooo” brigade then!)

Plant’s Parting comments? Sounded like “Nostalgia? Don’t you believe it!”

So there you have it. My opinion: Plant and the Sensations were just Brilliant. I never expected to come away from the gig on such a high. They were absolutely stunning – its the best outing of the solo-Plant/PoB/Sensations that I have ever seen. A five-star performance.

This from Ross Galvin
I had a distinct sense of trepidation about this gig after seeing the set list on TBL. I dunno, the choices just seemed a little … uninspired I
suppose. This was undoubtedly due to the large number of covers although my apprehension was partly due to my lack of enthusiasm for Dreamland itself. I played it quite a lot in the week it came out but it now lay gathering dust in my collection. In fact I’d almost forgotten about the gig and it was only a couple of days beforehand when I thought I’d better dig it out and get accustomed to the songs again.

Suffice to say with such low expectations I was completely blown away by the gig. Robert was in good form and I thought his voice sounded the best it has done for a long while. Overall the Dreamland songs come across a lot better than they do on CD, partly due to better vocal performances and partly due to the Sensations instilling them with a little more drama and colour.

There was a small hiccup at the start when the lights went down and the intro music stopped and then … nothing. Doh! Anyway once the band actually hit that stage they opened with Train Fare Home. I inwardly groaned, why have they decided to start with probably the dullest track off Dreamland I wondered? However, they seems to have subtly changed the dynamics and it seems to pick up pace much earlier on. Not too shabby I thought and they kept up the pace with a cracking Four Sticks. Down To The Sea seemed very in keeping with the Sensations current sound and was a nice choice from Nations. As someone else commented Morning Dew now has a kind of Doors like feel which took a little getting used to. Going To California was, as always, excellent although it has a special resonance for my wife and I so I would say that 🙂

Next up was the Girl From The North Country and In The Mood medley,the former attributed by Robert to ‘Zimmerman’ which is pretty much the same as saying Bring it on Home was a Page/Plant original. 🙂 Before I actually heard these two I wondered how they could shoe horn Mood into North Country. What I didn’t know was that the Sensations played it in a rather jaunty fashion which seemed rather inappropriate after seeing Roy Harper play it for years in a much more Spartan format. To me its a song about wistful longing and I didn’t
know quite what to make of this version. Anyway the switch between tunes was seamless. Afterwards he made a comment along the line of the Sensations joining the folk circuit with Fairport which reminded me that he had sung that same tune with them at Croperdy.

Next up was the big surprise of the night, Big Log. A bit rusty perhaps but it very pleasant return none the less. God knows how long it’s been since he last sang this one. Celebration Day quickly followed although it was hampered slightly by the dodgy Corn Exchange acoustics (nice building but unfortunately it’s little more than a converted barn and the sound tends to suffer accordingly). Fixin’ To Die for me is a
highlight of Dreamland so it was very welcome on the night and it was followed by a stirring A House Is Not A Motel, why this isn’t on the
album I don’t know? Tall Cool One and BIGLY were all present and correct, perfectly paced to leave the audience baying for more when the
band briefly left the stage. The question was now what were we going to get for an encore?

I was hoping for Siren and WLL, what we got was Hey Joe & Whole Lotta Love. Is only me who thinks HJ is a complete abomination? Aside from the beginning being very dull (you could see the uninitiated shifting uneasily at this point) the latter half is a tired reheat of the Hendrix
version. It seems like they have nothing new to add or say. Song to the Siren on the other hand is the centre piece of the album IMHO (Exhibit A being the fact that it is the only song to have it’s lyrics printed in the CD booklet, exhibit B being the figure on the cover looking, well,siren like!) and it would have topped the night off quite nicely. However, WLL more than made up for the previous track and brought the house down accordingly. The gig was marred slightly by a lot of hiss from the PA. You only really noticed it’s presence when they managed to get rid of it for a while, if that makes any sense! 🙂

Upon reflection I enjoyed the gig enormously, however, it still leaves me with the sense that although Robert is undoubtedly enjoying what he is doing, to me he seems to be travelling further into what I can only describe as a musical backwater. A process that began with Clarksdale. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy for Robert to continue with his solo venture but in his effort to move ‘left of centre’ he is not playing to his strengths. What I would like to hear is more original material, recorded with a decent producer. However, in this day and age things seem to move at a glacial pace so I’m not keeping my fingers crossed for anything soon.
Just a few thoughts on last night. Cambridge, not being the best place to park turned out to be a nice venue and they had merchandise at the Corn Exchange with a programme – things must be getting serious! Along with the well healed 5&7 series crowd from the surrounding area it was a tight fit as most thought by purchasing a ticket they also acquired the land they were standing on.
Once the show was on the road everyone settled down to a great evening. Now to the music, what a show. Robert was on top form with nice interplay with Arthur Brown who was standing in the wings for most of the show after his stirring opening and rendition of Fire. There is no point going through the set list song by song but great to hear a different set with Big Log being put in and this House is not a Motel being expanded and sounding far better than on the album.
No Darkness Darkness or Siren but hey, there’s always another gig to go to. The encore with the blues opening to WLL was the best I have heard for a very long time. Needless to say the Zep songs stole the show and the sell out crowd cried for more but to no avail.
As a footnote it was nice to speak with Arthur and Steve Harris after the show and Lena Lovich who all appeared to be as happy with the evening as we were. roll on Monday.
Thanks Roly

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