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Hammerstein Ballroom, New York NY

24 July 2002 2,327 views No Comment

Setlist: If I Ever Get Lucky / Seven + Seven Is / Fixin To Die / Four Sticks / Darkness, Darkness / Hey Joe / Going to Caliornia / A House Is Not A Motel / Calling To You / Celebration Day / Tall Cool One / Whole Lotta Love
Encore: Song To The Siren / Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You


From John Balliet
Just got back from the Hammersmith show and had a great time, my ears are still ringng and my eyes are shot from those “beyond the strength of the sun” white lights. I’ve really been lucky to have been able to see JP/Black Crowes, Robert last year, and again Robert this year in such intimate venues. So many of the people in the audience are simply “starstruck” by the fact that they are less than 5 feet away from a living legend. When Page/Plant have played MSG, you could have never been so close without having had “connections” and/or an extra $250 per ticket. These small venue gigs are great for the simple fact that most are general admission, so if you don’t mind showing up really early and getting leg cramps, you can be just feet from a music icon (or rock god if you prefer)!
The Hammerstein Ballroom is exactly that, a ballroom, with a general admission standing only area and two-tier seating-only balconies. The show was promoted by “Best Buy”, a large elctronics/CD department store, but I was surprised by the lack of promotion via radio or print-ads. The classic rock station here hasn’t been playing anything off of Dreamland and only started mentioning the show this past weekend. WHY!!! Though, at the concert’s start, there were only less than 10 unfilled balcony seats. Most of the people I saw at the show I recognized from the Page/Crowes or Plant show last year.
I didn’t catch the opening act’s name, but they were a combination of country blues/fingerpickin/slide guitar. Shouts of “no more” from the suburnanites. Many people there had no clue about what to expect and as usual, people kept asking if Robert would sing “THAT SONG”. Very irritating to hard-core fans who know that it’s not ever gonna happen again. After the opening act finished, it took what seemed like forever to get through the band set-up and testing.
Unlike last year, the whole band just walked out and started into “If I Ever Get Lucky” and Robert just walked out after the first few notes….straight to the mic. He looked more in shape than last time, wearing a floral print white shirt and faded-washed denims, tight, and cowboy boots. I’m not sure if it was because I was in the front, or if it was just the acoustics or the mix, but I had problems hearing the vocals the whole night. The Roseland show was much clearer and better mixed, as was evident when he hit that first soaring “babe” in “Lucky” The song was interrupted by a disturbance right next to me. Two drunk guys pissed on two girls’s legs and feet. They freaked and security got involved. Out they went, and I got to the front. I definitely got lucky. Robert was in excellent form, smiling, joking alot. And I noticed several playful glances from and to each member of the band. Skin was really into it and the other guitarist Justin seemed like a man possessed the whole night. Many objects…..roses, t-shirts, joints, and balls went flying on the stage. at one point, about five different things flew up at the same time. A blonde even got past the security zone to personally deliver a white rose to Robert. He made a lot of eye conact, gestures, winks, and nods to members of the audience, he even spoke to people off-mic. He did look a little surprised whan an older woman (looked like she was about 30 in 1969) held up a “Robert, I Love You” sign. I later saw her smokin a joint with her daughter.
Best songs of the night were “Calling to You” “GTC” “Tall Cool One” and “WLL”. “Calling to you” was particularly good cause it got into a groove. And “Celebration Day” had Plant asking for “the bridge”. I really wish he would dive deeper into his own catalogue of music; he has so many gems. “In the Mood” was awesome in his 1988 concert tour and I know Baggot could do
keyboard wonders with it. And though he played “As long as I have You” with Priory, I was hopin for a return to a spruced up heavy version with the Sensation.
What I’ve always like about Plant, Zeppelin, and live shows is that, in the old days, a song could go anywhere, taken off on a tangent by any member of the band. This is what i miss. Being such a huge fan and bootleg collector, I miss the “anything can happen” atmosphere. Plant seems to use the same ad-libs now over and over. I think that, while his new band is technically awesome, I miss the interplay between members from the Zeeplein days and P/P 95/96 tour. The Strange Sensation has invigorated him, but they don’t push each other out of bounds. But, these are different days, i understand that.
Vocally, Plant was hot the whole show. I don’t think American audiences appreciate what he is offering. I was surprised by the amount of beer-guzzling, loud-mouhthed, pushin-and-shovin, lookin-for-a-fight type of men at the concert. Not conducive at all to what type of atmosphere Plant is all about. Fortunately, quite a few were escorted out by security. The audience even pointed them out. Good job!! Plant looked a little troubled at what was happening right before “Song”. A drunk frat boy scuffle. It seemed like a flashback to Zeppelin’s 1970 press conference in which he and Page talked about audience violence.

This from Tony
First a scene setter; the Hammerstein Ballroom is a small club, much smaller than Roseland, where Plant played last June. The floor area holds maybe 2500 people and the balcony seating maybe another 2000. Ironically it is diagonally across the street from Madison Square Garden, where he’ll play with the Who next week and where I saw Led Zeppelin 25 years ago on 06/07/77.The acoustics are decent and the sound was loud but not overwhelming. The crowd, surprising, was 50% in its twenties and the other 50% 30 and 40 year olds.
The warm-up band was the same who traveled with Plant last year. Robert came out about 9:10PM, looking like he did on Letterman with about 95% less hair mousse, and sounded outstanding!! His voice was really solid (on the way home I listen to the Dreamland CD in the car and there was no real discernible difference between what was coming out of my speakers and what I heard on stage). The band also sounded very good. For the most part the songs were tight, short and to the point; no long solos or songs dragged out 15 minutes.
Plant, as usual, was a comedian and complained all night (though not verbally) about the equipment and sound mix. After the first song he joked about how “Every time we come to New York we play a different venue,” then seeing how small the club was he said, “next time we are going to play down in the subway as the number six train passes by!”
The crowd did not seem very familiar with the new material but perked up anytime a Zep song came along and Four Sticks had the place rockin. During “Going to California” the entire place sang the song aloud to the delight of Plant and amazement of the band; Robert even had everyone sing the last two lines by themselves. Just prior to “House is not a Hotel” he joked around about his Letterman gig and how Dave’ s handshake was “very cold”.
The funniest had to come around Tall Cool One. People were throwing things on stage; flowers, roses, clothes when all of a sudden several bra’s and women’s thongs appeared to which Plant quipped, “several pieces of underwear just reached the stage but none of them fit me!”
Plant left and came back for the two encores. The show finished about 10:50, so just shy of 1 hour 45 minutes. I must say the new material really sounded good live, as did Going to California. Four Sticks was good, Celebration Day was a pleasant surprise and both prior solo tacks, Calling to You and Tall Cool One were outstanding. Song to the Sirens was okay, I did not get that ” The Rain Song” feeling I get when I hear it on the CD or even heard him sing in last year. Overall, this was the 20th post Zeppelin-Plant concert I saw and definitely one of the best! The man, at almost 54 years old, still rocks!!

Corey Rossman chips in with…
A great show all around, but then I think that all RP / Zep-related shows are great. Just a couple of notes that I remember… He came on about 9:10 and was done at 10:45. For you fashionistas, he wore a white, patterned, short sleeve dress shirt and jeans. After “..Lucky”, he flashed the peace sign, said “What’s up?”, and then laughed at himself and said “How cheesy!”.
Before “Fixin'” he remarked “Feels pretty good up here.” He introduced “Four Sticks” with something along the lines of “This comes from the mountains of the moon.” Justin Adams danced like a loon during the B section of Hey Joe. His dancing reminded me of the midget in the “Safety Dance” video – take that all you 80’s naysayers. Before “House”, Robert
said “Played on Letterman. Letterman…chilly handshake. This is dedicated to that COLD room.” For “Calling To You”, he said “Here’s a little one from the Honeydrippers, oh, that’s a few years off.” After “Celebration Day”, someone threw a rose onto the stage, and Robert remarked with a smirk, “What’s this?” Then a couple pairs of underwear were tossed up as well. He
said “What’s this?!?! It’s underwear! It would never fit me.” After “WLL”, they took a brief 5 minute intermission, and then came back for the last two numbers. My wife (who’s not a huge fan like myself, and had never been to an RP concert before) kept remarking that Robert seemed so comfortable up on stage, made a lot of eye contact with many members of the
crowd, and really seemed to be enjoying himself. Amen to that!

From Andre Marc:
Excellent interplay between the muscians, with long exploraltory solos taken by both guitarists and the keyboards. The mix was pretty good, but Roberts vocals were a little too wet, which made them float in and of the mix. The music this band is making is very adventurous, testing the boundries of song form.

This from Kris Bulakowski
Wow – I just got back from the show, and despite having heard the album, watched the Storytellers and seen Plant in action at a similar venue (with similar lineup) a year ago, I was still sufficiently blown away.
“If I Ever Get Lucky” is a great opener, and I love how it allows Plant to float to center stage from the shadows, rather than charge on in full rock bombast – fitting. This year’s entry was sans leather pants and silk shirt in favor of jeans and a loose white button-down with reddish-pink flowers.”7 & 7 is” ripped, and I was psyched to hear it, though I may have been one of only a few. The crowd had seemingly LESS of an idea what Plant was up to than those who caught his last visit to New York (6/01). In the summer of CD-NOW banner ads and VH-1, I expected more people to be hip to the new stuff, but generated interest and sustained attention are two different things I suppose!
“Hey Joe” was my unquestionable highlight – I love the arrangement, and the techs made the most out of a simple but very effective lighting rig on this tune as well. The live energy is unmatched.”A House is Not a Motel” was another welcome old friend which was extended to feature solos from both guitarists. However the tune felt slurred at times, whereas I think it flourished in the pseudo-choppiness of the Priory-Sensations transition.
“Calling to You” was a great success with the Sensations, the vibe really fit the band well, and it was a great surprise as I had purposely not checked any recent setlists 🙂
“Song to the Siren” was very beautiful and textural, and aside from the stray whistle, was easily heard over a very subdued New York audience. The crowd seemed very tame at times, never during the Zep numbers of course, but there was surprisingly little crowding or pushing for a general admission show. There was also very respectful quiet during most songs, and the balcony dwellers were even seated for most of the show.
The performance was not flawless however, though I’m sure most of my criticism is fairly particular. For instance, I can not stand to watch the verses of “Four Sticks” be played between ride cymbal and snare drum… I don’t need four drum sticks, I don’t need Egyptians, but I need some thunder. “Darkness Darkness” was another casualty, as it was very hurried.
Of course the new less intimate and dynamic (intonation) version is not helping things much. It’s still a great tune, and I was happy to hear it after missing out at Roseland last year.
Ironically enough, “Celebration Day” was the biggest debacle of the evening – which saddened me as it’s one of my favorites. I was really excited when I finally discerned the hardly audible intro, but the guitar/bass interplay and rolicking riff were lost in a cloud of distortion. Robert seriously held things together on this tune, because even the normally pronounced drum beat
was being swallowed, and everything was a garbled mess (a la “In My Time of Dying”, Page & Crowes). The bottom line is that “Celebration Day” is a thumping, rhythmic rocker not so suited for such a textural band, no matter who’s singing!
I was also a little disappointed with the absence of “Morning Dew”, though I must say I favor the harder edged Porl/Adams rendition of last summer, despite my love for the E-Bow. Also, if its absence signifies fairly unique setlists each night, I consider the loss minimal…
Then of course there are a few odds and ends…
Robert was very talkative, constantly interacting with the crowd, and often responding to the several items that were hurled on stage…”I see a pair of underwear up here that definitely won’t fit!””A lemon, for me? Surely there’s been some sort of mistake!”
He was very gracious and warm, and seemed to be truly touched and simultaneously really enjoying himself!
Before “Going to California” Robert was introducing the band. As Clive had already left the stage, he was introduced as, “On drums, percussion, er… blow jobs… Clive Dreamer!”
On the equipment front, Clive was sporting a shinny new Ludwig in natural maple finish that largely resembled Bonham’s ’69 kit, only with a smaller bass drum (22″) and power sized (13″) rack tom, though the latter was still mounted on a tall snare stand. I assume the floor toms were 16″ & 18″, but couldn’t see them. The snare, which seemed to be a Ludwig 6.5″ deep steel
model, sounded wonderful 🙂
The sound mix was excellent, so I hope the recording came out well. The hardest thing to hear PA-wise was when Robert was speaking.
Overall I’m very impressed with what Plant is doing and the caliber of the band. They are really tight, though not in such a way that it constricts the ambient/free-form nature of some of the arrangements. Justin Adams has a fantastic stage presence, with an assortment of “working hard” faces. Mix that with the atmosphere and texture that Skin and John serve up, and the sonic interaction is pretty significant. I do wonder (worry) how this show will translate into a shorter opening set in large arenas, and I do consider it a gift that I was able to see the band headline an intimate venue. However, I’ll maintain that if you can afford to see Percy, I wouldn’t hesitate!

From Paul Lukasik
The band started at approx. 9:15 pm and ended about 10:50. Plant seemed to be wearing the same exact clothes as his Letterman appearance.(white buttondown shirt w/flowers, jeans,and tan boots). There was thankfully much less hair gel on his part than in recent weeks also! If you saw the VH1 Storytellers that was nothing- this show completely blew that away. This new band is heavy, LOUD, and very polished. It is a vast improvement from last year. Vocally, I have never heard Plant sound better. His voice was strong,powerful,and did not crack. (and I’ve seen him about 10 different times through the years).His voice was comparable to any strong ’77 performance. This show completely exceeded my expectations going into it. He was in a great mood, there was much talking and interaction with the audience, he was clearly having a great time and seemed genuinely touched by the crazy responses of the NY crowd(so much so that he commented on how he loves coming to NY).

In the middle of the show, a few people in the front gave him some roses, and for some reason this led to a free-for-all where people were throwing bras,underwear,t-shirts,more flowers,etc. onto the stage !!! He seemed to have a good laugh over it. Musically, I still think that “If I ever get lucky” is a strage choice for an opener,Four Sticks was the first Zep tune and had the crowd dancing; Darkness.. was received very well; Going to Ca. included alot of audience sing along which was very emotional; Hey Joe was accompanied by a great light show(Plant is using alot of light effects this tour along with a “Dreamland” backdrop); the intro on Celebration Day was slightly changed and was not recognizable till the rest of the band came in; he did make one mistake on a verse in Tall Cool One where the band had to keep playing until he remembered the verse;and WLL completley tore the roof off the place.(I honestly had a hard time hearing after this show-they were that loud!)
As for encores; Song to Siren was beautiful as usual and Babe.. was a fitting ending. My only complaint would be the length of the show(about 1 hr.35 min). I cant wait until next week at the Garden with the Who because if Plant is half as good as this show he’s going to blow Daltrey off the stage.

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