Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta 5.29.98
"It's been along
time since I rock and rolled," goes the line in the Zeppelin song, and
it was true enough May 29th, when Robert Plant and Jimmy Page brought
their Walking Into Everywhere
tour to the Lakewood Amphitheater. In my case, it was twenty years ago,
when I, as a wee lad, stood in the rain outside Rich's department store
hoping to get a ticket to a Led Zeppelin concert. I didn't, and ended
up paying $50.00 for a scalper's seat, way up in the top of the Omni. I
So two decades later, I found myself sitting in a shed on a rainy night
in a seat that listed for $55.00, to see a concert by people whose
music I hadn't listened to in years. I didn't pay for the tickets this
time, and I wasn't expecting much out of the show. After being
subjected to tours by the likes of the Rolling Stones and others from
that era, whose attempts at masking boredom and wrinkles with fireworks
and inflatable dolls left me cold, I expected a pair of plodding,
weak-voiced has-beens playing for the money. What I got was an
exciting, dynamic, musically tight show that highlighted all the
strengths the pair had to offer.
Opening with "The Wanton Song" and going into "Bring it on Home"
without a pause, the band thundered in the muggy night. Robert Plant
looked far younger than his 50+ years, and was in vintage Zeppelin
voice, still able to screech like an alley cat when needed. Jimmy Page,
while not looking particularly well (okay, to be honest, we thought he
was gonna keel over at any moment) was alternately delicate or raging
on guitar, proving why he's still considered one of the masters of the
genre. Mixing seasoned Zeppelin favorites such as "No Quarter,"
"Tangerine," and an incredible "Gallows Pole" with material from their
new album, Walking into Clarksdale,
they sounded confident, energetic, and like they were having a blast.
While I'm sure there are moments when Plant and Page look behind the
drums and feel the loss of Zeppelin drummer John Bonham (whose death
brought about the end of the group), they didn't show it.
Remarks from Plant onstage mentioned that it seemed to him that this
show was the largest crowd of the tour, and from fan reaction on the
internet, the general feeling is that this was the best show as well.
The new material, while not receiving the same strong crowd response as
the older songs, seemed to fit in well, with "Most High" being a
standout. Its pre-recorded Middle-Eastern drum track was primo '90s
funky in a hip-hop way, and Page's snaky guitar lines weaving in and
out of the mix almost make me want to get the new record just to hear
it again. And from a guy who hasn't bought a "rock and roll" record in
about a decade, that's saying something about the talent these men
What separates Plant and Page from other hacks of the hard rock sixties
and seventies is that their vision has never wavered. You would be hard
pressed to call the Stones that made Exile on Main Street the same band as the one who forced out Bridges to Babylon
last year, and most others of that era have suffered the same fate. Why
is it that jazz musicians seem to improve as they age, while rockers
get more and more ridiculous? Plant and Page, since Zeppelin broke up,
have kept their music alive by building on their foundation, instead of
tossing it off at the first chance for a bigger paycheck. Of course,
Jimmy Page is on the Godzilla soundtrack with Puff Daddy, so maybe my theory needs some work. But on a hot night in Georgia, I didn't see no dinosaurs.
Note: This was the first piece I had published in Ink 19 magazine.
© James Mann 1999