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Teenage Cancer Trust Benefit, Royal Albert Hall, London

4 April 2005 2,710 views No Comment

Rave Intro -Shine Mix
No Quarter/Shine It All Around/Black Dog/Freedom Fries/Morning Dew/Heartbreaker/Thats The Way/All The Kings Horses/Takambra/Tin Pan Valley/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You/Tall Cool One/When The Levee Breaks
Encores: The Enchanter/Whole Lotta Love

This from Dave Linwood TBL/Webman
Good…but not excellent.
Always a bit of a tricky one this. Plant was originally listed on the bill of a charity event which gave a clear impression that the performance was going to be part of something bigger. This role “morphs” into Plant having to play a full set (with new unfamiliar numbers) to a large crowd….in London – Plant’s least favourite gig-city!
Still, having had most of the other dates to get over the slight change of plan, Plant and the Sensation delivered a workmanlike set to a seated audience who whilst being attentive and polite were probably too much of a contrast to the recent standing sweaty halls the band have played. Hampered by a PA which seemed to drain the subtleties out of many of the songs, I’m sure Plant wasn’t particularly impressed with the huge video screen a la Knebworth 79 which lurched over his shoulder. Makes for some interesting photos..

So down go the lights and the rave version of Shine It All Around comes on..and goes on…and on…. Paul Timothy of the Priory – eat yer heart out mate! Its a good version – it just doesn’t work when you’re looking at an empty stage. Reminded me of the worst of the 1980’s heavy metal bands who used to play loud Wagnerian classical music for ever and ever before sauntering on…

I liked the revised version of No Quarter, the debate rages about the Eastern tones-and-rythym thing (more on this in other reviews below!) but I thought this one worked.
The new tracks have the same quality as the Dreamland opus, they start OK and get better as the band opens up. Shine is a classic example of this.
Black Dog? Yep, liked this one too – especially the transformation from new riff to old “Hey Baby” routine..and back.
Freedom Fries was a bit splodgy – the CIA had rigged the PA no doubt. Morning Dew – familiar..may this now needs a revamp.
The acoustic set was lovely – I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see John Paul Jones stroll out with a mandolin! (Hi Mr Lewis!). No Arabic overtones on this – delivered straight. All the Kings Horses is good too – I like the lyrics “poured myself a brand new start…” before Planty confesses to finding his way back to the old ways..
Takamra and Tin Pan Valley need more listening for me. Wasn’t that impressed.
BIGLY suits Plant’s voice, maybe one to swap out for another Zep gem sometime in the future.
Tall Cool One has lost that 50’s rock and roll feel it had on the 2002 tour which is a bit of a shame.
Levee is a true tribute to the 1970’s behemoth – I think it works really well. Great Plant vocals.
On the home straight of the encores, The Enchanter is already familiar to many and is a great work out. Something odd happened before Whole Lotta Love….the crowd stood up! A completely new gig! Scrambling down the aisles into the front row along with half the rest of the hall at last we had the sweaty hot workout we all wanted! For many it was too late.
As the gig ended we were reminded why we were here as Roger Daltrey led on a group of teenagers who are either fighting cancer or have beaten it. A genuinely uplifting and humbling experience. Parents in the audience will have felt the vibe. Plant gamely shook every person’s hand – many I think looked at him as if to say “Who Are You?” (Oops that’s a Who song …bzzzzzzzz). Plant and Daltrey left the stage arm in arm. No duet. Damn!

So all in all good – but not excellent. Plantations? Few.

The TBL/Crew were the last to leave the stalls at the Albert Hall. The place was deserted. Weird observation this – there was no litter on the floor! The polite crowd had come along, sat down, enjoyed a jolly good 90 minutes and had left – taking their picnics with them…
Can you feel it London? Can you feel it? You ready to rock?
Oh Gosh! Hang on Mr Plant, just got to check with the Nanny that Jemima and Archie are tucked up in bed…

Plant has a decision to make – play it safe or keep it interesting and challenging. Thankfully he has chosen the latter. This will lead to a fundamental problem; disappointment and bemusement from less-than-hardcore fans at the new interpretations. You pay for pushing the envelope. Less atmosphere.
Remember listening to the Physical Graffiti masterpiece for the first time – dancing round the room were you?


This from Thomas Birch
I have just returned from seeing Robert at the Royal Albert Hall. What a disappointment. Having seen him thrice before with the Strange Sensation when he was promoting “Dreamland” and twice with Page in 1998, this has to be by far the worst performance I’ve seen. And yet Robert was in finer voice than at any of these other gigs. The Strange Sensation sauntered onstage and “No Quarter” began in an arrangement that was, frankly, embarrassing. “Pom pom pom”, went the various “ethnic” percussives which various Sensationalists played. Skin Tyson played a watered down version of Jimmy’s arrangement of the song from “Unledded” while the percussion banged away, seemingly to a different song. No power, no mystery, nothing. And Robert singing away wonderfully on top of it. This combination of toe-curling arrangment married to brilliant singing happened again and again – notably on “Black Dog” and “Heartbreaker” – although even Robert seemed a bit lost on that one. Only “That’s the Way”, in a relatively unmolested form, really sounded good.

The new songs are not, as the press would have you believe, Plant’s best since “Physical Graffiti” – are you really telling us that “Shine it all Around” (twiddly techno keyboards, dull melody, squaggly guitar noise) is better than “Achilles Last Stand”?! Obviously, Robert doesn’t want to emulate Zep and more power to him for this – but lots of music sounds nothing like Led Zep but is still very good. This isn’t. The numbers strive through their keyboard textures, atonal and non-Western guitar figures and sampled beats to be up-to-date, as if this is impossible in a standard guitar/bass/drums format. But at least one of the songs has a good anti-US imperialism message. When Rob and the Stranges abandon their up-to-date approach, as on “All the King’s Horses”, all they manage to do is write new lyrics to the tune of “Song to the Siren”.

While not as common as it used to be, Robert still insists on crying out “yallah” at random moments during improvisations. This is not, whatever Robert may think, cool. It does not express a knowledge of a culture and thus make your music more sophisticated. It just means you know how to say ‘come on’ in Arabic. Both me and my fiancee (who is an Arab and a huge Zep fan) found his romanticisation of the word as if it were a magical desert cry rather than the most mundane of phrases really funny but also pretty patronising and offensive (not to mention tiresome!). Oh, and it doesn’t sound good. I mean, so you like Oum Kalthoum and think quartertones are the best thing ever. Fair enough. But Robert likes Edward Elgar, too – but he doesn’t burst into snatches of “Land of Hope and Glory” in the middle of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, does he? Like bacon and chocolate, they don’t go together!

After a ploddingly faithful delivery of “Whole Lotta Love” (amazing vocal from Robert, pathetic playing from the SS), the best thing of the whole night happened. Roger Daltrey came on! Wow! Now there’s a guy who knows where his forte lies! Sadly, there was to be no song from Roger, he was just bringing on some of the teenaged cancer sufferers for whose benefit the concert was held in order to say thank you. Seeing Daltrey and Plant walk off, arm in arm, was a great sight… but only one of them can still cut it live, and it ain’t Robert. But what a great cause Robert was supporting and at least for the few seconds during “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love” when the Sensation shut up and Robert just sang like the god he is, it was worthwhile.
This from Steve Way
….. in the words of the late great john bonham…… is a load of bollocks.
For the best part of a year I have spent a small fortune on watching overpaid men not able to string two passes together, not able to kick with both feet, not able to pass to some one in the same colour shirt, and even Manchester United with all their might not able to get a single shot on target with our team down to 10 men for 30 minutes.

However…..that last night was entertainment, and worth so much more than the 90 minutes I have been shelling out the same money to come away so disapointed over the previous 9 months.

Wasn’t even going till the morning of the gig, but am so glad i did….superb excellent etc etc….

Right wheres my calender….oh shit Everton away next!!!
This from Mick Bulow
So the show moved on from Warwick University to London and the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall for Plant & me! Two opportunities in as many days to witness this leg of the World Tour. Heaven.

Teenage Cancer Trust provides an opportunity to mix emerging with established and all for a good cause…So the opening night mixes a blinding opening set from Rooster, who are obviously very influenced by Zepp and do it well, The Bees who give it their best and a legend.

Lights dim, Shine It All Around remix echoes over the speakers, expectations arise and here we go……..Oh dear we’ve forgotten something at the Uni? Nah, not the band. Who forgot the atmosphere? Plant & The Strange Sensation were as tight as Warwick and magnificent.
Plant knows how to get the most from this line-up and there is an obvious cohesiveness that I haven’t seen on stage in a ‘solo’ guise – since Fate of Nations probably. It was the lack of atmosphere that affected this gig. The poor chap who had the stalls aisle to himself for most of the night and the other ‘rebel’ head-banging up in the circle were on their own, I’m afraid. It needed someone to wave the preverbial wand to get this place going…..The set is so varied it is an utter joy to experience. Sitting down in a hall that swallows the atmosphere doesn’t do the delivery of true musicianship any justice.

On the Mighty Rearranger tour, Robert & the Strange Sensation takes its audience from the Misty Mountains to Morocco to Memphis to Kidderminster(!) which is a testament in itself to any band. The new music sounds brilliant and I can’t wait till May to hear it on CD. This all culminates in a cracking delivery of Whole Lotta Love including theramin. Bliss! You get wonderful introductions from the great man including references to the time he played when there was a tunnel to the Albert Hall stage, John Bonham leaving Plant for a £40 weekly wage & dedications to the President……The great man knows how to work an audience.

Try all they might the intimacy of Warwick couldn’t unfortunately be replicated here. I know which venue I’ll be going for next time…which reminds me…

Dear Robert, please can you only play gigs in London that sell cheap beer and allow you to stand up! Now, where’s that Uni card gone?

This from Siarl Davies
All in all last night’s show was a suberb concert. It certainly was not what ye hoary olde worlde Zeppelin fans were expecting, but it wasn’t Led Zeppelin who were playing.
With the exception of the glorious ‘Way down inside…..Looooooooooooove’ Percy issued no high pitched wails or screams, and very little in the way of extreme vocal gymnastics at all. He did however sing beautifully, ranging from chilling whispers to puchy mid ranged powerfully delivered rock and roll.
The set started with a techno version of ‘Shine It all around’ , which sounds pretty good, but the time stretching of the vocal wasn’t brilliant.
The new version of No Quarter displayed some wonderfully accurate vocals, nice but simple percussion and little in the way of guitar virtuosity. It was, to my mind, pure yet to others somewhat boring.
During the concert there were moments of what I would describe as ‘Grace’…spiritually speaking.
I found it delightful, and was then truly impressed by RP’s delivery of the single Shine, although not ‘Achilles Last Stand’ (a song that features thin and off pitch vocals on the Presence album), it was great to hear.
The riff on the new version of Black Dog, is inane, dull and if that is the best they can come up with gawd help us. The rocking chorus worked fine though. It’s a shame that something a bit more exciting wasn’t inserted between the verses. Come on chaps you both know how to play !
Freedom Fries was an energetic 60’s psychedelic fun fest with the sort of lyrics that make the CIA want to lynch old Percy. Morning dew was pretty cool, combining the hushed tones of the Dreamland version with the more up soul rocking vibe of previous live excursions.
Of the new songs I most enjoyed Takamba, and think that it had some of Plant’s best singing in years. Shame that the chorus isn’t quite as exciting as I had hoped for. Tin Pan Valley was marred by having its vocal drowned out, but again shows how tangental and exciting the SS can be.
Throughout the show RP’s singing was really, really good, and given his reputation, that is some praise. however the more exciting and soul-stirring things that we know he can do, (witness the ‘hobo’ blues ad libs before WLL) are some thing he rarely touched on. Shame.
Heartbreaker simply did not work. it was a foul number when he did it with Led Zep, and although enjoyable as a jingly jangly interlude, remains a boring sexist piece of old pooh. Why not try something like Watching You or For your Life ?
The acoustic section was tellingly beautiful, and yet I have to agree ‘All the Kings Horses’ is a little too much like Siren for me.
The worst choice l was Tall Cool One. They say you can’t polish a turd, and this one has to go in the bin.
However BIGLY, though overplayed was fun and exciting, although Skin’s solo is poor and boring. Enchanter was alright though, as was Levee, indeed apart from Justin Adam’s solo, was excellent.
WLL showed with its aforementioned beautiful bluesy adlibs and mind blowing freak out a complete trip.
Last night was a thoroughly amazing concert in many ways, and yet in others a trifle too comfortable. I suppose it is because every time we hear RP’s voice we are transported back to his glory years, that we can end up disappointed, even though his singing was technically better than for many years. What would be nice, would be some more bluesy stuff and ad libbing, as well as a little more risk taking vocally speaking.

The new stuff seems exciting, yet RP could try at least to expoit the unfathomable possibilities of his marvellous and inimitable voice.
All things considered it wasn’t Osaka 1971 or whatever, but vocally a million times better than Knebworth 79.
This from Henry Nicholls
Well, we all want to see Robert play live, and we all really want to see him perform songs in the ‘old style’, pretending that Bonzo is behind the drums, Jonesy on bass and JP rattling around the stage banging out those wonderful and unique chords.
This is 2005. It wont happen because life moves on.

I for one, admire Robert. He has learnt to move with the times, not only performing cracking new songs, but conceiving a whole new attitude to the old Zeppelin numbers which brings about a fresh approach to music of a certain generation. Zeppelin songs to me are timeless, but my 17 year old son, who has been brought up with Zep was entranced with the way that the same songs can be re-invented. For that matter, so was I.

From Black Dog (what an amazing piece of architecture) to Tall Cool One, this guy continues to surpass his musical brilliance. The fact that Robert has been there, seen it, done it and bought the t-shirt hasnt dampened his spirit to create music, to enhance it and more importantly, to experiment and just enjoy himself without deafening what made him.

I for one, think that last nights show, (with the exception of the sound quality and the virgin radio compere), proves that Robert continues to be the most versatile and professional rock n roll singer in the business. Why people were disappointed that he didnt do a duet with Roger Daltry is beyond me? I went to see what HE had to offer in this latest chapter, and i wasnt disappointed with the way he and the band performed.

A fine performance from a rock legend and a rock legend to be.

This from Joes Leopold
I am surprised by the somewhat negative reviews above, I thought that it was much better than his last performance in London at the Hammersmith Apollo. Back then, I got the impression that the band didn’t really enjoy themselves and were acting like a support band that’s better at keeping time than letting it rock. This time around, the band performed their own material and it showed. I think the negative impression has more to do with the audience than with the performance.

Robert’s voice was better than anytime since Physical Graffiti, and I was particularly impressed with the new material. Although I love hearing some (actually all) of the old classics, the new stuff was very exciting. Finally coming full circle, with bluesy songs that rock.

On the set: I think as noted above, he should drop No Quarter as an opener. The world music percussion is a bit embarassing, and he used way too much harmonizer on his voice, which he later proved he didn’t need. If you want the crowd to rock, start with a bang. Heartbreaker was sloppy, but Black Dog, That’s The Way and especially BIGLY and WLL were excellent. Of the new songs, I particularly liked All The King’s Horses. I wish the album had been released earlier, I would have been able to appreciate it even more.

No one commented on the fact that Jimmy Page was in attendance. I spotted him sitting in his private box with a few friends, amongst others Ross Halfin, the photographer. For obvious reasons they left just before the end. I wonder what Jimmy thought of it, it must be hard for him. There was probably only one person in the Albert Hall who didn’t want him to join Robert on stage ……

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