Last night I saw Robert Plant live!!!!!
Yes! I actually got a chance to see the lead singer of the greatest band of all time perform in the flesh. It was a secret gig to promote his forthcoming album and American / European tour with his newly-formed incarnation of the Band Of Joy. (For those of you that don’t know, the Band Of Joy was the name of Plant’s very first band, even before Zeppelin).
So my Uncle rings me up from his work, telling me he’s just had a call from Planet Rock. Apparently he entered a competition to win tickets to a secret Robert Plant concert in London. My Uncle lives in West Sussex, but being the massive Zeppelin fan that he is I know that if he’d have won he’d have booked a day off to come up to London and see the show (My Uncle’s the reason I like Led Zeppelin in the first place; by the time I was 4 I could name all the members of the band and what instruments they played, thanks to him).
Unfortunately, they rung my Uncle at Midday on the day of the concert to tell him that he had won. He was already at work in Chichester and did not finish until 5. The doors opened at 7 so there was no chance of him getting to London in time. So he rung me and asked if I’d like to go. Naturally I jumped at the chance.
There were two tickets, so my first problem was deciding who to take with me. My second problem was that I was skint. Never mind affording a beer or two during the concert, I had just about enough money to get there on the tube. So my first instinct was to announce on Facebook that I had a spare ticket and start a bidding war to determine who would donate the most pints to the Raven Garcia Anti-Sobriety Fund. However my uncle phoned back to say that he had emailed somebody at Planet Rock to ask if he could have the tickets put on the door in mine and a friend’s name, so I had to make a decision fast.
Using my brain’s built-in spreadsheet function, I quickly compiled a list in my head of all the people I knew who were into Zeppelin, then assigned them a score based on how passionate they were about the band, sorted them in descending order by this value, divided the list into percentile integers, and eliminated the lowest scoring 75%. This left me with six people. I decided I’d contact each of them as quickly as I could and the first one to give me a thumbs up got the ticket. Two of them happened to be online on MSN Messenger, so I sent them both a message while ringing the third person. There was no answer there, so I moved onto the next person on the list and phoned them whilst simultaneously setting up a facebook message with my other hand.
Jenna was the first to reply. She couldn’t make it as she was still in Cornwall. I knew this would probably be the case but I thought I’d ask her on the off chance she might have been in London and also she would have killed me if she’d found out I’d got Robert Plant tickets and not told her. Then Tom picked up his phone and after I explained the situation he told me he was up for it. Dean responded on MSN just as I put the phone down. I felt bad having to let him down but I’d already arranged to meet Tom. I didn’t even get the chance to send the Facebook message.
So I gave my uncle the details then went and met Tom at Bond Street tube station. He’d come straight from work, hence the unorthadox presentable image…
We walked to the venue – an old converted church which was named “One Mayfair” even though it was on North Audley Street. It looked really out of place among the modern style cafés and restaurants surrounding it. Quite a few people had started queueing up already.
Once we got inside, we were handed a couple of tokens each for some free drinks, which I thought was a nice touch. However when we got to the bar itself we discovered that this was because the venue did not yet have a license for handling cash. Still, it was free booze in one description or another so I was happy.
The venue itself was stunning! A proper old church with stained glass windows, and the stage set up at the back wall adorned with a huge banner. I tried to get a decent photo of it but my camera wasn’t having it. The best I could do was this…
I was holding myself together quite well but inside I was trembling with the same level of excitement as an 11-year-old girl standing in line at a Justin Bieber concert. We found a decent spot with a good vantage point, and stood in anticipation of Robert’s arrival. We got talking to a nice lady called Trish who had come down for the show all the way from Scotland (Or Stockport, one of the two. It was loud in there!) She very kindly offered to get a photo of Me and Tom as my previous attempts at doing that thing where you hold the camera at arms length had failed miserably. As you can see, one of us dressed for the occasion…
We waited for about half an hour before the band finally came onstage – all five members of the newly-formed Band Of Joy, and then finally the man himself. The crowd must have only been about 200 strong but the ovation he got was tremendous!
From the moment he came on stage, the atmosphere was electric. He has such a presence about him that from that moment on I was spellbound. They kicked things off with a song called “Tonight You’ll Be Mine”. Plant was joined on vocals by Patti Griffin, and the two worked through some nice harmonies. At 62, Plant showed no signs of age catching up with him. At one point during the first number, he actually kicked the microphone stand up with the back of his heel and caught it in his hand, then gestured toward the audience with a twinkle in his eye. It was magic.
I soon realised that all the songs were from his upcoming album. The second song was called “House Of Cards” and was a belter of a track.
Before the gig, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, Zeppelin pretty much invented heavy metal (Yes, they did) and Plant’s own musical influences prior to Zeppelin were heavily rooted in R&B back in the days when it actually did stand for Rhythm & Blues – artists such as Moby Grape among Plant’s early favourites. Since Zeppelin disbanded his solo stuff has included touches of folk, bluegrass, blues and country & western. So I didn’t know what to expect music-wise. One thing I did know though, was that I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I was right about that.
The acoustics of the venue were absolutely top notch. It sounded as clear as a bell and you could hear all of the lyrics really well. That’s one complaint I have with a lot of live bands I’ve seen, particularly with the heavier bands. More often than not they will either turn the amps up too loud so that the guitars drown out the lyrics to a series of incomprehensible screams, or the venue’s acoustics basically just suck. Whilst I love the sound of heavy metal, I also like to be able to hear and understand the lyrics. So that was another plus point.
They ploughed through about a 45-minute set and I was impressed with the quality of Robert’s voice. Although at his age many people would forgive him for being unable to hit the high notes he once could, he actually pulled off a few of his trademark wails and soulful moans and impressively, his voice showed little or no signs of age. For a few seconds I closed my eyes and could almost picture what it would have been like to be at a Zeppelin concert. Robert showed he still has the stamina, though I suppose whatever was in this cup probably helped somewhat…
About halfway through the show, Robert addressed the audience with the words “Welcome to church!” then went on to say a few words of praise for the venue. He said it was great being inside one of the “Houses Of The Holy”. As soon as he said that, every fibre of my being cried out for them to play that song…
…however Robert pulled out a cheese grater instead and played that.
The next song took a rather religious tone. It was called “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”. It was mellow yet profound, and one of the stronger moments in my opinion (although I realise by saying that I am implying that there were weaker ones, when the truth was that it was very hard to pick out any flaws at all with the show).
They wrapped up the set with an old blues number entitled “Sindy, I’m gonna marry you one time”, introduced by Robert as originating as far back as 1920, and another song which was originally done by Townes Van Zandt although I can’t remember the name of that one.
“The thing that struck me the most was just how much Robert enjoyed being on stage. You could tell just in his mannerisms, the ease at which he flowed about the stage, the sparkle in his eye whenever he turned to the audience, the resonating glow about him, that he felt like he was at home”.
- Raven Garcia, Audience Member, 1/9/2010
Although I was born in 1985 (Four years too late), I always dreamed of seeing Zeppelin live. Most people, if asked which period in history they would travel back to if they had a time machine, would answer such things as to see the dinosaurs, the birth of christ, or to travel back to ancient Egypt or medieval England. If you asked me, my answer would be very specific: The Forum in Inglewood, California, 21st of June 1977. I wasn’t fortunate enough to get tickets to the 02 show a few years back and have been slightly bitter about that ever since, but just being in the audience and watching one of my heroes on stage, seeing even one of the members of Led Zeppelin in the flesh softened the blow a hell of a lot. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
They wrapped the show up with an encore, the delightful a capella number “Goodnight”. The lights came on and I was still buzzing from being in the presence of a legend.
It’s amazing, London has a population in excess of 8 million people. Just 200 get invited to a secret show, and a considerable number of those (Trish included) have travelled in from outside London. Yet I still managed to run into somebody I know. Julian is a DJ and also writes for TheQuietus.com, and he recognised me in the audience although it took me a few minutes before I realised who he was.
I want to write for The Quietus.
The guy on the right of the picture is called Terry. He did tell me his surname but I forgot it. He said he also writes for a music website though I forget that as well. (Musicradar.com or something??) However he seems like a nice guy and I will get the name of his site off of Julian as he is DJing down the Mucky this Saturday.
Me and Tom went for a quick pint in the Hog In The Pound afterwards. There’s nothing like an overpriced pub to kill the buzz. Two drinks came to about £7.85. But as I got the tube back to Bethnal, I put my MP3 on and the first song that came on was “Custard Pie”. Brilliant end to an absolutely fucking brilliant night.