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London Wembley Arena

22 May 2008 2,716 views No Comment

Rich Woman, Leave My Woman Alone, Black Dog, Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us, Through The Morning, Through The Night, Goodbye So Long, Fortune Teller, In The Mood, Black Country Woman, Shut It Tight, Bon Temps Rouler, Trampled Rose, Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson, Green Pastures, Down to the River To Pray, Killing the Blues, Nothin’, The Battle of Evermore, Please Read The Letter, Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)
Encores: You Don’t Knock, One Woman Man, When The Levee Breaks, Your Long Journey.

I arrive at Wembley’s Arena with some trepidation, I’ve never like Wembley Arena, getting there is a pain and getting out is worst, the nearest pub is a mile and half away, it’s always cold and the general vibe around the place is unfriendly. Weather because it’s London or the fact that most gigs I’ve seen there are the last of the tour just adds to a depressing edge to the whole set up, I don’t know. Both ’98 and ’95 Page & Plant shows were shadows of gigs I’d already seen on the respective tours, Plant in 1985 was bad, with that terrible wedge of cheese stage set up and please don’t get me started on Jimmy and the Firm, in an half empty Arena again in 1985.
And tonight things start off bad, when getting to the Arena I find they’ve moved the front door. Having gone through a revamp the Arena has now been turned around and the front is know the back and the revamp is indeed a pleasant surprise, gone is the depressing blue walls, the smell of flat beer, the smell of those putrid hotdogs all mixed with the delightful smell of overflowing urinals! It’s now all very clean, with easy access and friendly staff, perhaps tonight going to be good after all! But then I get to my seat!
Getting tickets for tonight’s show was marred with mix-ups and confusion, resulting in me leaving my wife to organise my tickets for me. And with the best intentions, bless her, she choose the “best view” option on those dammed automated booking systems. I indeed had an excellent view, actually an excellent view of everyone in the Arena, well you would, sitting high up at the back, to tell the truth it wasn’t the back row because that was the row behind me, but as that was empty I like to think that I was indeed in the back row. So he I am, perched in the rafters like a grumpy old git, waiting for a show that I wasn’t too sure about from the outset. You see, Raising Sand, I just don’t get! Well crafted and recorded it is but I just can’t get to grips with it, whether it’s because it came smack bang in the middle of the O2 whirlwind or the fact that I honestly loved the Strange Sensations, I don’t know, but I have rarely played Sands and I can’t see me returning to it much either.
Having said that I was pleasantly surprised by tonight’s performance in general, Robert and Alison have surrounded themselves with an excellent band and they steam along to numbers like Rich Woman, Leave My Woman, You Don’t Knock and personal favourite Fortune Teller. T-Bone three number set was also surprisingly good with the opener Shut It Tight fantastic. In The Mood was interesting but disappointing, like the Zeppelin numbers in general, Black Dog, despite what you read doesn’t work with banjo lead, Black Country Woman offered dynamics and indeed lifted the set but again disappointing. Levee Breaks started off good with dark vibes offered up from Alison on the fiddle but it kind of fades out just when you want it to lift off ala Zepp 4. Only Battle Of Evermore got close with its familiar mandolin opener and some fine inter-play from Robert and Alison.
Ultimate Alison is the problem, please don’t get me wrong, she’s an excellent singer, indeed Down To The River was one of the evenings highlights, it’s just she can’t carry it, Robert, in all our eyes, is huge, a staggering presence that fills the stage and commands your attention, but Alison just smiles now and again, looking demure and beautiful, like the southern belle she is. I know many of you enjoyed it, indeed it was a good mixture in the audience tonight, Alison fans, Robert fans, I’ve never seen so many husbands and wives at the same show as tonight, but lets be serious here, Raising Sands is a fine project and its great to see Robert push himself into new territory but it’s not what we really want is it? Give me The Enchanter, Freedom Fries, Darkness Darkness or indeed For Your Life. But Raising Sand, like The Honeydrippers, was a great one off project but no more.
The evening ended with Your Long Journey and with Robert’s parting comments of “don’t go changing”, ringing in my ears, I began my journey home on the train, a journey that took me past the O2 arena, and my mind went back to December 10th, seems so long ago now, will it return? I don’t know but I’m off, Down To The River To Pray…………..
Wolfie Smith

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