Page can still play; Plant can't sing like he used to, is the conclusion I had after seeing Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on March 23 (my golden birthday) at the U.S. Air Arena in DC. The first part of the set was done in with standard rock versions of their songs. For a moment I wondered what happened to all the innovativeness present on No Quarter, but I needn't have feared---it was just late in coming.
They opened with some sort of a poem---I think it was recited by someone who didn't have a English or American accent. Then the introduction to Immigrant Song followed by the Wanton song was played. They followed it up with Celebration Day, Thank You, and Dancin' Days. The first surprise of the show came when they played Shake my Tree which was originally done by the Coverdale/Page duo. Plant has made fun of Coverdale in various interviews, but I preferred Coverdale's singing to Plant's attempt at it. However, they could've picked other songs from C/P that would've gone over a lot better. Page was on the Theremin for this one.
Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile, I think I see my sister coming, riding a many mile, mile, mile. Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand, take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man. ---Led Zeppelin, Gallows Pole
Yet another surprise followed when they played Lullaby (originally performed by the Cure) accompanied by guitarist Porl Thompson who played a few more songs with them. Then it was No Quarter and Gallows Pole. Things really started to liven up when they introduced Nigel Eaton on the Hurdy Gurdy. It was interesting to hear my first Hurdy Gurdy live solo ever. They then went on to Nobody's Fault but Mine, The Song Remains the same, Since I've been Loving You (which was when the strings orchestra joined in), and Friends (introducing the Egyptian orchestra). This was then followed by a medley of Calling to You, Light my Fire (by the Doors---which surprised me a bit), and a bit of Dazed and Confused. The last two songs before the encore were Four Sticks and In the Evening. Page's guitar working on Black Dog during the encore was excellent, particularly the solo part. They toppped the whole set with Kashmir.
The set list choice was indeed excellent. The guitar playing was somewhat, rather typically, sloppy but still excellent. Plant's vocals were never upto mark. This was most evident in their encore when they did Black Dog. But this shouldn't be a surprise since Plant doesn't do the high notes on The Battle of Evermore (which was a notable absence in this set list along with Stairway to Heaven. I don't think Plant could've sung the high (and my favourite) part anyway). It's not to say that Plant is a bad singer, but that he can't do the vocal gymnastics he used to do before. In terms of a show however, it was quite well done---there was a lot of psychedelic projection to keep the audience engaged.
Rusted Root opened. I like this band a lot, especially the popular tune Send me on My Way, which I missed because we arrived late at the show. But I thought they performed the two songs I saw rather well, even though it wasn't as polished and tight as the studio versions---there was some spontaneity that resulted because of this and I thought this was good. They remind me a lot of Jethro Tull, and I figure opening for Page and Plant, they should've gained some notoriety.
Plant asked "Can you feel it?" The DJ at DC101 didn't seem to have a clue as to what he was talking about, but I have a suspicion it was about haze of pot that hung over the audience. Maybe my experience would've been better if I had smoked a joint, but I think of all the dinosaurs that are crawling out of the woodwork (oxymoron), Page and Plant are definitely on the bottom half of my list as far as playing live is concerned, but definitely on the upper end in terms of album release. I do think all the versions of songs on No Quarter are extremely well done and fresh-sounding, but they do not hold up well when played live, especially at a big arena.
Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, she warmed my blood from cold, brought my blood to boiling hot to keep you from the gallows pole. Your brother brought me silver, your sister warmed my soul, but now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the gallows pole. ---Led Zeppelin, Gallows Pole