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VH1 ‘StoryTellers’ Recording, Westway Studios, London

6 June 2002 2,394 views No Comment

List 1: Ship of fools, Fixin to die, If i ever get lucky, Whole Lotta Love, Tall Cool One.
Questions from the audience
List 2: Morning dew, Song to the siren, Darkness darkness, Going to california, Four Sticks
“Encore:” A house is not a Motel
Re-takes: Morning Dew,Whole Lotta Love
Duration. About 90 minutes including the Q&A session.

Scans of ticket and backstage pass plus this review from the TBL/Webman, Dave Linwood
A wait outside the venue begins the proceedings tonight, a small procession of cars and people slip throught the gates as we wait. We are handed pink forms onto which to write a question: the best will be used during the programme. (More on this later).

In we go. Ticked off the list, past the usual girls-with-clipboards-and-headphones and we’re in the studio. Decorated with Dreamland style backdrops, the odd cluster of antique candlearbra and “objects-das”, the stage is on the studio floor with a minimal setup. There are two seating areas, best described as “inside the camera rails (wooden banches)” and “outside the camera rails” (plastic seats).
The “TBL/Web 100” are initially led outside the tracks, but then begins a hilarious game of musical chairs as studio technicians place people in seats – and as soon as the technicians backs are turned the encumbents move to a better spot!
The studio director comes on the mic and reads out a list of question winners – bloody ‘ell, my mate Phil has won! As he is asked to sit in the *front row* I realise that he obviously needs a minder. Its an onerous task, and with great reluctance and solemnity I move across the rails into the inner sanctum, and plonk myself at the end of the front row. Sorted!
We are giving a description of the show and its format (5 songs, some questions and then 5 more songs) and then on come the band – and with minimal fuss we’re off and running.

With the house lights on, and being so close (probably about 10 feet away) there was plenty of eye contact between band and audience members. Slight mistakes that are dealt with by a nod and a wink are shared with those of us watching nearby.

Whilst the music played and introductions were made, scurrying cameramen and assistants looking for that next great shot whisked by. Attached to embylical chords were the “close up cams”. Three camera-trolleys on rails prowled along the back and sides. In this artifical live-on-stage environment, technical hitches and glitches play their part. Two songs had to be re-done because of problems (no complaints from the audience mind!) and gaps in songs were used to make running repairs to equipment.

Onto the performance itself. Different from February’s Albert Hall bash in many ways. Partly caused by the change in personnel:
A bearded Skin (Liam Tyson) dressed in baggy almost Happy Monday’s style getup does have a more direct playing style when compared to the more ethereal Porl Thompson.
Another big difference was the sound. Being a studio the sound was dead. No ambiance to help Plant when in “soaring-vocal” mode. Songs such as If I Ever Get Lucky which benefitted from the Albert Hall echo now sound more sparse – almost sterile. The playing is more precise. This must put pressure on the band.
There is no light show, only the odd change of lighting to reflect the mood of each song. The audience remain seated during the show although there was the odd leap to the feet in appreciation at the end of songs.
Of the songs themselves:
Some arrangement to songs have changed already! Morning Dew has lost some of the driving keyboards at the start. If I Ever Get Lucky still has a great tension about it.
Plant had his academic Plantations hat on tonight. Obviously for a programme called “Storytellers” Plant makes a big effort to trace the origins and influence of each song.
Onto Whole Lotta Love – a hybrid of old and new – with a cacophenous conclusion which caught the audience out the first time round. Starting as a blue-grass tribute to the growling bluesman of the 30’s and 40’s, the “Page” riff we all know was brought in by Skin after the first verse. The song ends halfway through the “Zeppelin arrangement” after the chaos of the “orgasmic section”.
The ending is certainly unique. From the front row we could see Plant crouched down on the stage drawing a circle of ever decreasing diameter with his fingers on the floor whilst the musicians attempting to hold onto whatever screech or humm their instrument was making.
On take one, Plant was able to bring the musicians and the audience to a point of complete silence – which lasted about 3 or 4 seconds – until someone’s from Plant’s ontorage started the applause. The only noise being the humming of PA equipment. A fantastic moment.
On take two, some of the band couldn’t quite work out if the song had finished leading to bemused smirks from Plant as sounds stopped – and then started again.
Going To California: One of my favourite live songs. Plants vocals still up to the mark. He is accompanied by a Jones, but it’s Charlie on upright bass, The Mandolin is played by Justin Adams who inevitably adds his own style to the piece.
Tall Cool One: This got the audience going. A nice bounce to the song.
Four Sticks: Another crowd pleaser, the dynamics were well handled. In my opinion, this song has grown since it’s 1994 re-modelling.

The Questions: Plant sat on a stool onstage whilst the winners (placed near the front) stood up, were handed a mic and asked Plant their question. Plant appeared not to know the content of the questions and his answers were surprisingly candid.
In response to the standard “Will there be a new live Zeppelin album? “Plant started by saying that Pagey was working on it (“within 1760 yards of here”). Plant added quotes about baking tapes and remixed to restore the quality. He then amazed the audience saying that Page was excited by a recent discovery of 2 more shows! He did not mention what these were, instead he listed the normal RAH-70 and Knebworth shows although he did say “71” at one point.

So in conclustion, a very interesting evening. Plant commented on its uniqueness and the politeness of the crowd.
From a personal point of view, being involved in getting the audience together for the programme was a major bonus. Hey! My name was on the press-pass list! It was great to see so many familiar faces in the audience. I hope you enjoyed the evening as much as I did. Some of the seating was tucked away in the corners making viewing difficult and I’d be interested to hear what people felt about the show from those viewing positions.
Back to normality – To the Astoria on Monday!

This from Freda Hyatt
Thanks TBL for promoting the competition – much appreciated!
I have to say that I can’t wait to see the finished programme: it was a good mix of solo stuff (Tall Cool One, Ship of Fools); new stuff (Darkness Darkness, Song to the Siren, Morning Dew, A House is not a Motel etc); and Zeppelin (Whole Lotta Love, Four Sticks, Going to California) and it was a million times better than when I saw him at the RAH in February. He had to do two of the songs twice because of technical problems (WLL and Morning Dew) so I think we got our money’s worth.
There was the opportunity for some people to ask questions and they were all pretty interesting, much better than the ones chosen on the Guardian Online thing this week. The first question was about the possibility of live albums and we were all delighted to hear him say that Jimmy is hard at work on getting them prepared, and that he (Robert) was planning to see him soon (next week or something like that) to do some work on them too. We shall see…!
For those of you seeing him this summer, I think you will enjoy the shows if this is the type of set that he is planning to perform; it seems much sharper and ‘professional’. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I was expecting the worst (not really having enjoyed previous POB and Strange Sensations outings) but this was a pretty good night!
Catch it when it’s aired later this year!

This from John Webster
Great night. Arrived at the VH1 studios at approximately 5.45 for a 6.15 gate opening. Found the studios fairly easily but surprised at how small and in the middle of nowhere they were. As only a dozen or so people outside decided to find the local hostelry with my fellow Zep mate Pete Frost who actually won the tickets. (Thanks Pete!). When we got back numbers increased to 40/50 but not too bad. Long wait: not open at 6.15 more like 6.45. Anyway got into studio and bit disappointed with seat was in the back row and behind huge camera but you get what you can! Noticed that VH1 staff moving people around to fit everybody in and guess what? Right before showtime, I must have smiled sweetly and was told that 3 seats available in front of camera and 4 rows back from front. Well you dont need to be asked twice!
SHOWTIME Robert and band come out looking relaxed. Sound is superb and set is very Eastern, candles chandeliers and drapes and incense smell. Nice mix of Zepp, solo and current Sensations material. Idea of storytellers is for Robert to give background to his influences etc so lots of spiel which he is good at. Started with Ship of Fools very nice and then Fixin to Die. Not sure about 2nd one and its not the Country Joe and the Fish song. Then if I ever get lucky followed by WLL which had nice but different guitar into but then got to famous riff. Tall Cool One followed which I thought was best song of night.Questions from audience next and well done to all those who stood up especially the question is there any likelihood of Zepp live chronology. Have to say Robert dealt with all questions in very relaxed manner and the answer came Yes in fact he will be seeing a certain JP later this week going thru tapes etc and 2 new concerts just come to light. So it looks as if they are in agreement with project so great news and thankyou Robert.2nd set started with lovely Morning Dew and Song to the Siren with reference to Tim and Jeff Buckley. Followed by Darkness Darkness and superb Going to California and a rocking 4 sticks. Closed with Arthur Lee song from Forever Changes A house is not a motel and then off. Fortunately stage manager said couple of technical probs so, “Oh dear!” had to do retakes of Morning Dew and WLL.

This from Tim Harrison
It’s great to win something for once ! My mate Steve came up from Wiltshire to see the show – a great birthday present for him. We started off sitting outside the rails, in the 3rd row, with a great view of a speaker stack. After a couple of moves we were in the front row and could see RP, Skin and a sideways view of Justin Adams (and a shoulder-cam man and his lovely assistant).

This was my first RP live show, so I had nothing to compare it with. I really liked the band, RP looked good, and sounded great. Liam Neeson (sic) really got into the guitar ghod poses, and impressed me with his playing. Great nodding-dog impression by Justin Adams later on! As I’d only heard This Mortal Coil’s version of Song to the Siren, it was a surprise to hear it in a male voice – good version. The old LZ/RP tracks came across really well, and I loved A House Is Not A Motel at the end. Can’t wait for the album now.

Hats-off to the guy who had to re-take his question right at the end – look out for the blooper tape !

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