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Home » Robert Plant

House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC

21 March 2005 5,272 views One Comment

No Quarter /Shine It All Around/Black Dog/Freedom Fries/Let The Four Winds Blow/Heartbreaker/Morning Dew/That’s The Way/If I Were A Carpenter/Tall Cool One/Tin Pan Alley/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You/When The Levee Breaks
Encores: The Enchanter/Whole Lotta Love

This from Wyatt A. Brake
The Strange Sensation strode onto the stage at 8:30pm, picked up their instruments and broke into an ominous beat. Three of the band had various types of hand-drums, and Skin Tyson was on acoustic guitar. Robert Plant emerged from the shadowy stacks of amplifiers, his hands raised over his head, clapping with the rhythm of the drums. He picked up a drum as well and approached the microphone and told us to:
“Close the Door, Put Out the Light You Know They Won’t Be Home Tonight”
…and so the crowd was hooked, entranced, and Enchanted for the next two hours. “No Quarter” has been dramatically reworked once again to serve as the opening number. As another review mentioned, “They choose a path where no one goes” is now the dominant refrain. Instead of evoking images of medieval warriors, the new rendition paints a picture of a relentless quest over a dark desert landscape (lyrics pertaining to snow notwithstanding). “Shine It All Around” was next, carried by the soaring emphatic cries of “SHINE” and built on the earthquake-proof foundation of Fuller’s bass and Deamer’s drums.
“Black Dog” is another mightily-rearranged Zeppelin tune. Plant gave the crowd the chance to fill in some verses, holding the microphone out, but there was some confusion among many and Robert had to pick up the slack, throwing a smile and shrug back to Deamer before launching into the “ahhh-ahhh” portion of the song.
Two new songs followed. “Freedom Fries” was well received, although it is questionable whether a crowd in Republican-heavy South Carolina would have cheered as much had they been truly listening to the lyrics “…A little give and take to satisfy my needs/You can give me lots but I’ll take some more/I got my eyes on your treasure ‘neath the desert floor” and “the liberator goes too far.” Ah, well. “Let The Four Winds Blow” followed. This is a dynamic light and shade song in the Zeppelin tradition, with a somewhat mellow, tentative introduction leading into a raucous instrumental section.
Plant instructed us that the new album was a sort of commentary on the aging Baby-Boomer generation, the people who ask “how are you, where are the restrooms, and what’s a woody?”, which he followed with “Thankfully, some things are still working properly.”
“Heartbreaker” has also undergone significant change – the signature riff remains but has somehow been diminished. Despite hearing this version from the Tsunami Relief Concert webcast, I did not immediately recognize it at the show. This Page-less rendition has, predictably, no unaccompanied guitar workout in the middle, but Skin had a pretty nice solo nonetheless. Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew,” popularized by the Grateful Dead, may be the number that has been changed the most in the shortest span of time, from Plant’s subdued Priory of Brion performances in 1999 and 2000 to the early days of the Strange Sensation in 2001, the version on Dreamland, and now in its present incarnation as a more up-tempo rocker.
“That’s The Way” is beautifully done, and as another reviewer noted, it is a welcome replacement for the somewhat tired “Going To California,” although “Tangerine” would have been great too. I think Clive Deamer might be able to do “Poor Tom” some justice, but perhaps asking for anything off Coda is unrealistic.
I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion that Plant could and probably should substitute some of his own back catalogue for the Zeppelin songs in the set. While it is certainly a thrill to hear “the voice of Led Zeppelin” as he is often billed – on songs that the Hammer of the Gods produced, I am of the opinion that songs like Wreckless Love, Horizontal Departure, Little By Little, Ship of Fools, and many others would be great to hear. As it is, Robert seems to have abandoned his earliest work as a solo artist. Nothing from Pictures at Eleven appeared on last year’s Sixty-Six to Timbuktu retrospective. It would seem that Plant believes he’s no longer near that particular place as an artist and that his more recent output is more representative of how he’d like to be viewed. Alternatively, it may be merely a concession to the sheer fact that so many more people were wearing Zeppelin shirts than Plant shirts, and that disparity represents general expectation in the crowd that he will be churning out a Zep-heavy set. I was a year old when Pictures at Eleven was released and two when Plant started to tour with Phil Collins on drums, but it would have been very interesting to go to some of those early shows where no Zeppelin songs were performed and fans had to be satiated by a few vocal nods to the man’s previous band in the form of “Keep a coolin'” and “let me take you there…” It would be great to hear from people who attended those shows to see what the general crowd feeling was like after the show. Was it one of disappointment?
There is also the distinct possibility that Robert really likes doing the Zeppelin songs because he has more fun singing them – and doing them in his own way – than some of his solo work. It could even be that he would work with Page again if they could just play small clubs, although I genuinely believe the control factor may be the key reason that Robert’s guitarist happens to be named ‘Skin’ and not ‘Jimmy’ – the freedom to play whatever he wants in whatever arrangement he prefers on a given night, and knowing that his is the final word on the matter. In any event, personally I cannot shake the underlying feeling that something is missing when Plant does Zeppelin songs, even though I do unquestionably enjoy them. Unless two or three of the remaining members reunite, I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to top the feeling I got when I heard Plant sing live for the first time at the Orpheum in Boston 2001 – specifically on “In The Light” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Absolute chills, goosebumps, hair standing on end, tears in the eyes – the whole bit. But enough of my ranting…

“If I Were a Carpenter” would not have been my selection from Fate of Nations, but it was performed well, very close to the version on the album. I would have preferred “Great Spirit” or “The Greatest Gift.” Similarly, while “Tall Cool One” is a fun song (it has been arranged to rock more and be less silly than it ever was on the 1988 tour) and is always well-received, there are other songs on Now and Zen that might have been reworked to greater effect. Skin scraped four fingers of his right hand over the strings like a cat pawing at a feather and the band really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“Tin Pan Valley” is apparently Robert’s shot at his contemporaries, like The Who (or what’s left of them anyway), who are cashing in on former triumphs without producing anything new. I think it’s also a song that serves as a reminder to himself that he should only go forward. The song rocks, and everyone on stage knew it. It is another “tight but loose” number that had Plant screaming “like THIS” into the mic during the freak-out instrumental section.

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” should definitely be dropped from the set. After not playing it at all from 1970 to at least 1988 if not the 90s, this song has been overplayed from the Page/Plant outing in 1995 to the present, and the worst thing about that is that none of the post-Zeppelin versions even approach the glory achieved with the Jones/Bonham rhythm section. If it is a simple matter of Robert wanting to showcase his still-potent vocals, there are myriad other songs with which to accomplish that objective, and while Skin is indisputably a great axeman, he almost always disappoints me with the solo on this song.

In stark contrast, “When The Levee Breaks” is a welcome addition. Always one of my particular favorites, this was done with what one reviewer accurately described as a chain-gang style chorus on the last word of phrases like “Crying won’t help you, prayin won’t do you no GOOOOD.” Bonham’s drums are sampled for a backbeat and Justin Adams plays electric mandolin. This song was fantastic – although I think Jonesy’s instrumental version with steel guitar does come close, the vocals put Plant’s over the top.

For the encores, “The Enchanter” was up first, and provided another reason for optimism about the new Mighty Rearranger. Plant and company have managed to embrace some of the more modern directions of music, specifically ‘electronica,’ that Radiohead and others have enjoyed success with, and mixed it with elements of rock and Middle-Eastern vibes to create a unique and effective final product. Besides that, it gave the quirky and talented Mr. Justin Adams to dance around the stage with his guitar. This guy is quite the performer; I saw his antics produce a smile on Plant’s face many times during the evening. In general, the entire band seemed to have a tremendously good time. There were smiles all around.
Some of these may have also been produced by the very odd man to the front and right of me. He and his two moderately attractive female companions (one older and one younger) had been waiting in folding chairs outside the venue since 8:30 that morning, which put them three hours ahead of me. The rest of the early-arriving fanatics all had easy-going and smooth conversations, but this guy had remained apart from the crowd. His jet-black hair was set in a fashion that he doubtless believed to be the height of style, and he had three standard reactions to everything that went on during the show. First of all, I never saw him smile. He would instead emphatically point with all fingers extended (in virtually a ‘Sieg Hiel’ gesture) to whatever band member he thought was doing a particularly good job at any one moment, all the while fixedly staring at them. At other moments, such as after “Shine It All Around,” he would very stiffly hold up a small sign with a ’10’ on it, indicating his approval. Finally, he would also point vehemently at the elder female companion when Plant would look his way, perhaps indicating that he wanted Robert to take her backstage. I don’t know. At the end of the show, he was pointing emphatically once again, this time at Billy Fuller, who seemed both mystified and amused enough to approach the edge of the stage and shake the man’s hand while glancing with amusement and confusion to Justin Adams, who could only shrug.

“Whole Lotta Love” closed the show and featured a “Spoonful” introduction before the “Delta blues” slow beginning. The crowd erupted and Plant made them repeat the “wanna whole lotta love” refrain not just four times, but six or seven. The middle section now includes Theremin-like sounds produced not by Skin but by John Baggot, as well as an extensive bongo performance from Adams before returning to that incredible riff of all riffs. This song predictably got the greatest reaction of the night, and I must confess that I will probably never tire of it. All in all, a fantastic show – worth the 13-hour drive from southwestern New York.
This from Peter Aquino
One word: surreal.
The Myrtle Beach House of Blues holds approximately 2,000. The show lasted just under 2 hours. Robert’s voice was superb — very reminiscent of the first time I saw him in 1993 at the Paramount Theatre in NYC. His energy and enthusiasm were unmatched — constantly feeding off of the maniacal audience. Acoustics were near-perfect. If I was forced to pick out one highlight (not including the IDEALLY opening “No Quarter” or the FEROCIOUS “Whole Lotta Love”), it would have to be “When the Levee Breaks.” To say that it was phenomenal would be an understatement.

Looking at other reviews, it appears that “…Four Winds…” was played for the first time — excellently done. Of the new songs, the cake has to go to “Tin Pan Valley” simply for the repetitive screams of “Like This!” Simply awesome. Clearly, Robert has been inspired by his new endeavors. So have I.
Again, surreal…

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

One Comment »

  • lzzoso said:

    I recently played my cd of the “Mighty Re-Arranger” and I was amazed (again) by the whole cd. “Shine It All Around” is such a great Robert Plant song.

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