Robert Plant

Cornbury Music Festival 2006 review

published: Wed 12th Jul 2006

Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th July 2006
Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3EH, England MAP
£80 for w/e with camping, £70 without, days £40, under-16s half price
last updated: Tue 20th Jun 2006

There’s an air of anticipation as we wait for the Granddad of Rock to take to the stage. The numbers in the crowd is increasing hugely by the minute and the red lit stage has nothing happening on it for some time while the crowd cheer. Then as the music builds even the fun fair stops it seems everyone is here to watch Bob’s performance. Once the band are in place and random music tumbles from the speakers and a bearded ringlet haired Robert looking healthy and relaxed steps up to the microphone.

‘Win My Train Fare Home’ is mixed and twisted into a new feeling tune as The Strange Sensation flex their musical muscles. It’s certainly a great band he’s assembled and the drummer is particularly noticeable playing with one stick under the wrist and creating a beat not dissimilar to John Bonham’s original drumming style but further developed with this Southpaw style.

‘Tin Pan Valley’ could be written about Cornbury and this moment. It’s wonderfully delivered and the pleading to move on with his life and escape the legend of being in the greatest band ever is delivered with passion, even the guitar is heavy and wanting for escape. Clearly it’s moving the long term fans who are only too willing to accept Robert’s desire for higher ground.

And then as if to say escape is clearly impossible ‘Black Dog’ is wrenched into existence barely recognisable but still totally familiar, the wacca-wacca guitar re-phrasing the whole song. The final reference to ‘Eddie, Ibrahim and Shylock’ is lost on me, but I presume possibly Shylock is a reference to exacting the pound of Led Zeppelin tunes perhaps.

Or possibly it’s a reference to career pitfalls as Robert talks of how different this festival feels to his appearance at V Festival last year. But despite what Plant is singing to us, there’s a contradiction at work as he exudes peace and appears to be enjoying tonight. ‘Mighty Rearranger’ is a cracker of a song and a huge performance on the night, any of the crowd who were partisan are won over with the title track from the album.

There’s a bit of discussion amongst the band as though they’re possibly changing the set list before Robert says, “Here’s a song I wrote way back in 1972.” There’s applause even before the first notes of ‘Going to California’ and the song hits personal chords for me as I remember family members now gone singing me to sleep with these words.

The personal emotion welling up inside me isn’t stemmed with ‘29 Palms’ and certainly, “It comes kinda hard when I hear your voice on the radio” and I’m trying hard to not let this become a personal journey. Fortunately there’s spots of water spilling onto us, and the fear of a torrential downpour to spur me from my reverie. The band are in full flow and there’s a mix of musical styles from Africa to India, Delta Blues to English folk all merged into one sound it turns into a jam as Robert beats a bodhran and the rhythms mix and he’s chanting in what might be Hebrew.

‘Freedom Fries’ has an interesting story it concerns the tense times leading up to the 2003 war in Iraq, when American legislators protested France's opposition to the conflict by insisting that french fries be changed to ‘freedom fries’ in cafes and restaurants. I’m expecting a few words of explanation or a tirade against America from Mr Plant but he doesn’t give it, so I thought I would, hope he doesn’t mind.

‘Four Sticks’ follows instead and it’s a monumentally powerful tune anyway but tonight with the elements swirling around, it may even be raining but I can’t be sure, the song sparks the crowd to life as old and new Zeppelin fans get into full flow, there’s no playing with the tune here, it’s presented pretty much as it always has been.

However ‘Gallow’s Pole’ starts off with a traditional arrangement before spiralling into a keyboard, accordian sounding frenzy which again has the band mixing every musical style into a hybrid jam that’s from the core of world music. Stunning musicianship, not surprisingly Robert acknowledges the band he’s assembled and I’m left, as they leave the stage, wondering just what could follow their last opus Mighty Rearranger it could be an album that’ll pour out all this melting pot into a classic.

The encore of the 129th performance by Strange Sensation starts just as the fat drizzle (frizzle?) ceases and it’s waterproofs off for ‘The Enchanter’ which demonstrates just how good a voice and songsmith Robert is and if that wasn’t the icing on the cake, then ‘Whole Lotta Love’ is, despite some youngster wondering why he’s playing the old Top Of The Pops’ theme tune!!!

But it starts as ‘Hootchie Cootchie Man’ before that riff kicks in, and bubbles out into Indian music, with chanting and dervish whirling beats before returning full pelt to the chorus! It’s an amazing live mix of styles. Everyone’s moving to the song and as the band say cheerio we know we’ve all experienced a worthy headliner and the crowd’s still buzzing as we amble through the valley home.

Gloriously executed Robert Plant is still at the top of the rock tree, long may he reign, like Solomon over us! He’s prepared to re-arrange old classics and indeed they are mighty. Until this performance I didn’t like acts that changed their material much. I like it to be the familiar, but I’ve changed my opinion, it can and does work, if done well. The band he’s built around him Strange Sensation are musicians of much note. Can’t wait to hear what they create for us next.
review by: Scott Williams

Saturday 8th to Sunday 9th July 2006
Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3EH, England MAP
£80 for w/e with camping, £70 without, days £40, under-16s half price
last updated: Tue 20th Jun 2006

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