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Home » Robert Plant

Playhouse, Cleveland, OH

2 September 2002 2,607 views One Comment

Set-List: 7 And 7 Is, Four Sticks, Morning Dew, Hey Joe, Going to California, Hey Hey What Can I Do, In the Mood, Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ to Die), Calling to You, Tall Cool One, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.
Encores: Song to the Siren, You Need Love/Whole Lotta Love

This from Christopher Gust:
Robert’s first headlining show after his 2nd tour of duty as The Who’s opening act was at the State Theatre in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, a lovely 2,000-3,000 seat venue. We strolled down to the venue at around 3 pm to see if there was any sign of the band. Sure enough, we could hear the boys running through their soundcheck. As we went around to the opposite side of
the building, into a small alleyway marked “not a theatre entrance, no trespassing” an employee of the theatre asked the six of us if we were with the show. Of course we said, yes, so the gentleman took out his set of keys and opened the locked side stage door for us(!). In we went, where we all took a seat in the 25th row and proceeded to watch Strange Sensation, sans Robert, go through an hour-plus long sound check. They spent around 45 minutes practicing In the Mood. This was the Principle of Moments version, not the bluesy John Lee Hooker version from last year. They repeated the main riff and then worked on a slower, change-of-pace middle section, which I didnt recognize, before returning to the main riff. Based on his body language, directions, and suggestions to his fellow band members, it seemed to us that Charlie Jones has assumed the role of the
musical director of Roberts band. Its a bit startling to realize that Charlie has been Plants bass player (15 years) longer than a certain other Mr. Jones. After setting In the Mood aside, the band worked through partial versions of Celebration Day and Calling to You before gradually scattering from the stage. We left, too, slightly disappointed that Robert didn’t make an appearance with his mates, but still, we were completely stoked to be able to witness the soundcheck as the boys rehearsed
in front of a crowd of six.

Turn the clock ahead to 7:30 pm, and after a brief encounter with drummer Clive Deamer as he hurried anonymously down Euclid Ave., the opening band, Moe, takes the stage. They are essentially a jam band, in the spirit of Phish, with long instrumental middle sections during most of the songs of their 45 minute set. Finally, at 8:49 pm, bright lights suddenly illuminated the darkened stage, but not to Justin Adams’s hypnotic If I Ever Get Lucky guitar chords, but rather the crashing guitar and keyboard
chords of Loves 7 And 7 Is. The Golden God stood at center stage looking fit and trim in a white button shirt and light blue jeans. The boys positively ripped through the opening number and earned a strong ovation after the song ended, despite the relative unfamiliarity of the song to most of the packed house. This is a good choice for an opening number and told
us that Robert and Strange Sensation meant business. The band seemed to be refreshed after completing the mentally tiring task of opening for The Who in front of half-filled amphitheatres with half-interested punters. The much more intimate setting of 2-3,000 seat theatres seems to suit Robert much better at this point of his solo career.

Robert welcomed the Cleveland audience and stated that this is where we are and this is how we like it. A standard Four Sticks followed. Then a half-dazed woman managed to climb onto the stage to present Robert with a bouquet of red roses. She was intercepted by security and Clive Binky Brinkworth, the guitar technician. Binky took the flowers and set them
aside, as Robert stood and watched, amused. “Binky never gives me flowers”, he deadpanned. Morning Dew was the next track, again keyboard-driven and played up-tempo, similar to the version I saw in Hershey, PA in late July. It featured an upbeat keyboard solo from John Baggott. Hey Joe, absent in Hershey, returned and was a very hard version. You can see the influence
of Skin on guitar, as his style is more straight-ahead rock, compared to his predecessor, the more ethereal Porl Thompson. Justin was also really into the song as he spun himself into a whirling dervish frenzy as his plucked his gimbri. Plant then told the crowd that they were next going to turn things down and noted that weve been playing to the Atlantic Ocean for the past month. Going to California followed, a rather slow and relaxed version. Of course, it was a crowd pleaser, but personally I wish that Robert would retire this song and replace it with something like Ship of Fools. After all, hes performed GTC in 1971, 72, 75, 77, 88, 90,
91, 93, 95, 96, 98 and 2001. On the other hand, perhaps the Californian theme is a compliment to the late 1960s West Coast scene that Robert is so fond of, which, of course, formed the foundation of his Dreamland CD.

A pleasant surprise followed; a terrific full-band version of Hey Hey What Can I Do, which served as another crowd sing-along. The familiar bass line of Roberts In the Mood came next with a revamped version of Plants solo classic. The rehearsals during the soundcheck proved fruitful, as Clive and Charlie steered the band through the song without error. After a fine Funny In My Mind (Fixin to Die), the band hesitantly began 1993s Calling to You. Things came quickly together and the Strange Sensation
delivered a very powerful version, with Skin and Justin trading thunderous guitar licks and Robert, who was in great voice throughout, wailing away. Wow!! A tight Tall Cool One, which was dedicated to Elvis, came next. A very nice Babe Im Gonna Leave You (dedicated to Joan Baez and featuring a nice acoustic solo by Skin) closed the main set.

After a quick break, Robert and the boys strolled back on stage. Robert took a few pulls on the Sam Adams beer that he held and asked the adoring crowd to listen to this, then well go fast. We cant go fast all of the time. A little wink and a nod made some of the ladies in the crowd cheer. From our fourth row, center seats, we could clearly see Robert making eye contact, smiling, and nodding to various ladies throughout the show. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. Song To the Siren came next; a very
nice version, and the crowd seemed to actually listen and appreciate the beauty of the Tim Buckley composition. I didnt hear any moronic shouts for Stairway from the crowd. It is wise for Robert to play this song as the first encore song, when he has the crowds attention, instead of as a show-closer, as he did last year, which usually left the audience a little flat. The slow, Delta-blues intro of You Need Love followed (Justin is excellent here), which then shifted to a crowd-jumping version of the old
Zep warhorse, Whole Lotta Love. During the middle section, Justin played bongo (or is it a darbuka?) while Skin coaxed all manner of sounds from his guitar as Robert patiently watched. The you need. sing-along by the crowd at the end was met with so-so approval from Plant. At 10:18 pm, the band took their last bow with many smiles and left the stage. After a
minute, the house lights came on, signaling the end of the terrific, but too-short 89 minute show. During this headlining show, Robert only played three more songs and only about 20 minutes longer than for his opening act set in Hershey. (I do realize that the man is 54 years old now. Perhaps two hour-long shows are a bit much.)

The theatre quickly emptied and soon, a crowd of (only) about three dozen fans waited outside of the theatre for Robert and the band to emerge, with the hopes of acquiring an autograph from their hero or perhaps a picture. However, security directed the fans off the grounds of the theatre complex to the public sidewalk and after over an hour, Robert apparently was ushered
into a waiting vehicle and, zoooooooom, he was gone.

On a private note, I wore to the show a black t-shirt that was given to me by a thoughtful friend of mine. On the front of the shirt were the words “Who died and made you Robert Plant?” I noticed many people throughout the day looking, pointing, and laughing at the shirt, which I thought was fun. As I was loitering outside of the bands tour bus with my partner in crime,
Paul G., after the show, a few of the roadies, including Binky and Roy Williams, the sound engineer, also noticed my shirt and, finding it rather unique and amusing (I guess) came over to ask me where I got it from. Then, they went aboard the bus and came back with digital cameras to take pictures of the shirt, much to my surprise. Perhaps one of the images will eventually be shown to Robert hopefully to his amusement.

For those interested, a new tour program was on sale at the theatre, along with black and yellow Dreamland t-shirts and bandannas. Also, a new medium grey t-shirt, featuring an image of Robert with dove in-hand at the 1973 Kezar Stadium show, was on sale. Interestingly enough, the inside of the front cover of the program notes the Robert Plant Strange Sensation tour crossing Britian, Europe, USA, South America, Australasia, Cymru. Roy Williams mentioned that the band plans to play in Moscow- it’ll be interesting to see what roads the Strange Sensation will travel next.
This from Wyatt Brake:
I missed Robert’s gigs with the Who partially because I was broke most of the summer, but mostly because I’m not a big Who fan and was disappointed with Robert being merely an opening act to a band who hasn’t put anything new out in years. Bill Curbishley may be making out famously on the pairing, but to me it’s a mistake for Plant.
Anyway, so being in the southwestern portion of New York State and about 9 hours away from New York City, Cleveland was my big chance to see Robert and company this year. Last year, I was able to catch three of the seven SS shows (Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto) in North America and certainly didn’t want to miss out this time around. I saw several people who looked familiar to me from Zepfest 2000 in Cleveland.
I bought tickets online, but was able to upgrade from mezzanine seats to seats on the floor about 20 rows back from a guy outside the theater (who was actually not scalping and sold them at face value!).
First of all, opening act was moe., who I’d seen on two previous occasions playing on their own. moe. is a “jam-band” in the tradition of perhaps The Grateful Dead, Phish, and even more recently, Widespread Panic. I’m sure there are other good examples. moe. typically play 3-4 hour shows (no exaggeration there) with a short intermission. They play their own material and occasionally covers of older bands (Led Zeppelin among those ranks – “Ramble On” for sure, as well as Aerosmith – “Sweet Emotion”). Long songs with few words and lots of instrumental prowess displayed. In Cleveland, they played maybe 4-5 songs with no covers that I was aware of. Good sound, good band. moe. will be with Plant for the rest of his US tour.
There was a break of 30-35 minutes between moe.’s set and then no quiet intro in the dark as had been the case with the other SS gigs I saw – they blasted straight into Love’s “7+7 Is”. I like this song, and Plant must have warmed up well in the soundcheck and had some tea, because his voice was right on from the start. The crowd, which had mostly been sitting but applauding appreciatively for moe. (with the exception of a few quite odd dancers scattered throughout the venue), was standing in anticipation when the lights went down and then exploded when the band appeared and then went up a notch when the first note was played. A great welcome for Plant. Robert wore a white button-down, short-sleeved shirt and stone-washed jeans. His beverages ranged from water to something in a mug (tea, presumably), to bottled beer for the encores. The next song was “Four Sticks” and the crowd was even more into it for this song. Plant was pleased with the reaction and greeted us with a “Good Evening, Ohio!” He introduced the next song, “Morning Dew” as being off his new album, and some people did sit down, but I would say the majority of those on the floor remained standing. “Morning Dew” was sort of halfway between last year’s Strange Sensation version and the Dreamland version as far as tempo goes. Fair applause for this, while “Hey Joe” was more appreciated. The mix was not what I would call great, and the sound was muddled at various times – notably in the frenzied portions of “Hey Joe”, “Tall Cool One”, and I think “Calling To You” as well. People sat down for “Going To California” through tremendous applause and singing along with Plant. The crowd’s accompaniment was not as dramatic as the Liverpool show that I recently heard.
Plantations through the evening included continued references to Kylie, as well as mentions of “the girl from Australia with the nice ass” and various other females. I didn’t catch all the names, but Kylie seemed to be brought up 4 or 5 times. I guess I’m out of the loop, but I don’t know who Kylie is…(TBL Webman Comment: Your Loss Pal!!)
“Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” was kind of a surprise and pretty well done with Justin Adams on mandolin and Skin on acoustic guitar (same set-up as GTC). The next song, however, was a bit of a shock. It was “In The Mood” off Plant’s Principle of Moments. I had purposely not read the more recent setlists from TBL in hopes of catching a few surprises at the show. As you know, Plant didn’t perform any solo tunes at the SS shows in 2001, and their addition to the set makes the whole show stronger in my opinion. Now, I could be very mistaken here, but after the first part of “In The Mood” when Plant’s bands in the early 80’s went into an extended instrumental improvisation, on Monday night it seemed to me that there was a deliberate break into a melody that seemed very familiar to me, but it took my mind a few songs to place it. I kept going through Zeppelin albums song by song and saying, “no, that’s not it” until I realized that “Baby, Come On Home” off the “Whole Lotta Love” single released in 1997 or so was what I was thinking of. I am not certain that BCOH was what I heard. Robert didn’t sing any lyrics and just went with various “mama, mama”s and “oh yeah”s through this portion until the basic melody from “In The Mood” resumed and the next verse was sung. Perhaps someone can either back me up or correct me on this. “Calling To You” was introduced as “a Grammy nomination from 1993. I really like the Strange Sensation take on this song. Obviously, the song had Arabic/Middle-Eastern leanings originally, but the addition of Justin Adams on guitar has only furthered the composition’s reach in that direction.
“Tall Cool One” was dedicated to Elvis with a little background about his job driving a truck in Tennessee in 1953. Very upbeat and the crowd loved it. A lot of singing along for this song. “Fixin’ To Die” was good, and I like Plant’s take on this song, but it seemed like his heart wasn’t quite into the song tonight. A bit lackluster. I would say the rest of the band, especially Charlie Jones made up for Plant’s apparent lack of enthusiasm on the number.
I’ll limit my “I miss Jimmy Page” pleading for “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, where his acoustic solo was sorely missed. Skin fills in for Porl Thompson quite well for the most part, but I would say his playing on this song could be improved upon. During this song, the security guards had a tough time with a couple people and notably one woman who was protesting vigorously both physically and verbally about being brought from her spot near the stage up the aisle. She was held down and restrained after the second time she ventured back down the stage. This was the closing song before the encores. Plant came back out less than five minutes of sustained applause later to another thunderous ovation. Plant warned the crowd that the next song was a bit slow, but that after that, we could go fast again. He said it was a bit like “makin’ it”, where of course you can’t go fast ALL of the time. A fantastic version of “Song To The Siren” followed, with Robert holding one note for quite a while to the delight of the audience.
Finally, it was “back to the Delta” for “Whole Lotta Love”. Robert let us sing the “Woman, waaaaaay down inside” portion before him, which served to mimic the original album version where you can hear him in the background before the vocals are echoed in the foreground. A complete version of the song, unlike on VH1’s Storytellers, where the song was cut short after the spacey midsection. No “every inch of my love” or “backdoor man” lyrics, though.
Overall a stunning show. Despite the problems with the mix, I would say that Plant may have had a better voice Monday than last year’s SS shows, at least consistently throughout the night. Robert seemed to be in high spirits and glad to be back in the headlining slot with enough time to present a complete show. The entire Strange Sensation crew took three bows with Plant at the end of the concert and were subjected to a great ovation. Great show!

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One Comment »

  • Wyatt said:

    This tour date was a Robert Plant-headlining gig – this was not a support slot for The Who.

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