Theres 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 Bobs 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. Its certainly a great band hes assembled and the drummer is particularly noticeable playing with one stick under the wrist and creating a beat not dissimilar to John Bonhams original drumming style but further developed with this Southpaw style.
Tin Pan Valley could be written about Cornbury and this moment. Its 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 its moving the long term fans who are only too willing to accept Roberts 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 its 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, theres 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.
Theres a bit of discussion amongst the band as though theyre possibly changing the set list before Robert says, Heres a song I wrote way back in 1972. Theres 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 isnt stemmed with 29 Palms and certainly, It comes kinda hard when I hear your voice on the radio and Im trying hard to not let this become a personal journey. Fortunately theres 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 theres 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 hes 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. Im expecting a few words of explanation or a tirade against America from Mr Plant but he doesnt give it, so I thought I would, hope he doesnt mind.
Four Sticks follows instead and its a monumentally powerful tune anyway but tonight with the elements swirling around, it may even be raining but I cant be sure, the song sparks the crowd to life as old and new Zeppelin fans get into full flow, theres no playing with the tune here, its presented pretty much as it always has been.
However Gallows 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 thats from the core of world music. Stunning musicianship, not surprisingly Robert acknowledges the band hes assembled and Im left, as they leave the stage, wondering just what could follow their last opus Mighty Rearranger it could be an album thatll 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 its waterproofs off for The Enchanter which demonstrates just how good a voice and songsmith Robert is and if that wasnt the icing on the cake, then Whole Lotta Love is, despite some youngster wondering why hes 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! Its an amazing live mix of styles. Everyones moving to the song and as the band say cheerio we know weve all experienced a worthy headliner and the crowds 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! Hes prepared to re-arrange old classics and indeed they are mighty. Until this performance I didnt like acts that changed their material much. I like it to be the familiar, but Ive changed my opinion, it can and does work, if done well. The band hes built around him Strange Sensation are musicians of much note. Cant wait to hear what they create for us next.
review by: Scott Williams
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