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Home » Robert Plant

Tweeter Center, Mansfield, Boston, MA

26 July 2002 2,493 views No Comment

Setlist: Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky) / Hey Joe/ Darkness Darkness/ Going to California/ Funny in My Mind (fixin’ to die)/ Four Sticks/ Tall Cool One/ Babe I’m Going to Leave You.
Encore: Song to the Siren.

Set-list and review from long-time TBL/Web contributor Stephen Humphries

Fifteenth Robert Plant show for me — and an excellent one. The band was even better than that memorable night at the Boston Orpheum last year when Plant debuted Strange Sensation in North America. Still, it’s a great disappointment that Plant’s stop through Boston on the tour should be as the support act of another band. And it’s An odd pairing this, Robert Plant and
THE WHO. Plant’s one of the few artists of his generation to continually look forward, (even when he’s interpreting old 60s songs!). He’s someone who is finally comfortable with the legacy of the past is happy to celebrate it and talk about it but doesn’t lean on it. THE WHO, on the other hand are lean entirely on their back catalogue — a shame because their
performance was extremely vigorous and Townsend’s guitar playing with double-blink astonishing all evening.

It’s a savvy move by their joint manager, Bill Curbishley: Inject a bit of impetus into ticket sales for yet another WHO summer tour by throwing in a support act by a “classic rock” artist (subtext: buy a ticket, WHO fans and you’ll get the added bonus of hearing a few Zeppelin tunes too). But, for Plant, this doesn’t seem like a great career move. This really isn’t the sort of audience Plant hopes to court, as they mostly seem more interested in nostalgia and straight ahead Maximum R&B rather than the adventurous forays into middle eastern and North African textures of Plant’s oeuvre. Though I spotted a few Plant, Zep, and Page/Plant T-Shirts at the 18,000 seat venue on Saturday, it was clear that the vast majority had little interest in anything other than Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend. So, when Plant took the stage at 7:40, the place wasn’t even one quarter full (no
quarter indeed!)

He opened with “Win My Train Fare Home” — one of my favorite Plant songs ever. The (g)olden god held a looooooooooong note in the very first phrase of the song. But, help, he was barely audible and the entire band sounded very faint. Someone had forgotten to turn on the sound at full power — moments later the sound was turned on and leaped out of the speaker. (It reminded me of Plant’s performance of “Innuendo” with Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert when someone forgot to turn on his microphone for a few seconds). Though the venue was hardly intimate, and night hadn’t fallen, the song was still captivatingly atmospheric. The lights were crimson red and blue and there was a huge backdrop of the “Dreamland” cover. Plant’s interest in experimenting with different vocal phrasings was delightful. His voice is in great form (quite a contrast to Robert’s wan performance on “VH-1” recently). From the start, we were treated to Plant’s familiar shimmies and hand movements. He even let out a big high kick in his blue jeans at one point and twirled the microphone stand.

Next up, “Hey Joe,” a song, we were told, that “concerns the eternal triangle.” More vocal improvisations. Plant was really going for it. And guitarist Justin Adams too. With a Gimri (a North African string instrument) slung over his shoulder, he started whirling around and around on stage. The other guitarist, “Skin” Tyson started vigorously shaking the neck of his
guitar from side to side – trying to wring every last vibration out of each note — a trademark move of his. With his beard, shaggy hair, and hippie shirt, I can’t help but think that he looks just like the guitarist played by Billy Crudup in “Almost Famous.” The song is dynamite live and Skin nodded to Hendrix at times in his solo even though this version is barely recognizable if you’ve only ever heard the version by Hendrix. It ended a little anticlimactically, but it was still powerful.

“Darkness, Darkness,” another new song, was similar to the single version played on the radio– shorter, and no guitar and vocal coda at the end. Few in the audience seemed to recognize it, though.

The crowd, which grown a bit, perked up for a song they did know. “Going to California” was dedicated to the children of the sun because “you are the children of the sun,” Plant said. Sheesh, it sure didn’t feel like it — it was an oddly chilly evening with a breeze, making many wish they’d not worn a T-Shirt. The song was superb as the band took to sitting on stools. Plant’s vocals don’t crack. The applause at the end was milked by Plant, sitting with his extraordinarily long, uncuffed sleeves draped over the
microphone stand. Then he adlibed “oh, you like the stool?”

Another quip followed, “this next song was written in 1939 — one of the first things I wrote.” Of “Fixin’ to Die” he said, ” this song is about a whore, and I’m whoring it, because I am a whore.” Strange Plantations, indeed. It was a very vibrant rendition with the Justin’s tablas high in the mix — even better than the album version, this. At the end, Plant looked stage left and said, “Binky, you don’t have a hat on?” Binky is Jimmy Page’s guitar tech — wait, he’s on tour with Robert? Eeek! I hope that doesn’t
mean that Jimmy is letting his guitar chops go to waste because his guitar tech isn’t around.

When the exotic intro of “Four Sticks” began, the audience didn’t recognize the tune. Then, when the guitar riff kicked in, people applauded. I love this arrangement — much superior to the Unledded one. The keyboards added a lovely, harmonium-type sound at times. “That came straight from the outskirts of Valhalla,” Plant told us afterward.

“Tall Cool One” sounded better than it ever has with a new arrangement. But Babe, I’m Going to Leave You was downright fantastic. He didn’t play this one in Boston last year, so I was glad to hear it. The intro was played on an acoustic, unlike the Page/Plant versions and it had the near-full audience very excited. This was a lovely rendition, with Plant going into a 1969 upper register for a brief moment. There’s a lovely moment in the middle of the song where the electric and acoustic guitar traded brief solos. I wish this part had been longer.

Plant exited and I’m sure it’s all over.

Then, light blue jeans and shiny purple shirt returned. And the crowd was very excited: They were expecting a Zeppelin number. So was I. So it was a surprise when he ended with “Song to the Siren.” The crowd let out a collective sigh, and there was a rush to the beer stands and people started talking among themselves. See what I meant about the audience? It’s a pity.
If they’d paid attention, they would have heard a stunning vocal performance. I wish that the keyboard had been higher in the mix though. Then he left, almost an hour after he first appeared on stage.

In all, it was a very strong performance. In an ideal world, I would have loved to have heard “Down the Sea,” “Come Into My Life,” “Calling to You” and “Ship of Fools.” Still, the new album rivals “Fate of Nations” as Plant’s best yet and the live versions from the new record were thrilling. Kudos to Plant for not playing a Zep heavy set — the Zeppelin tunes were were treated to were stellar. I hope that the band experiments with the setlist in future and dips into both Plant’s and Zep’s old material and
tries to refashion it anew. And may he come to Boston to play a proper show in the not too distant future.

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