Thursday, September 10, 2009

Trying to predict the unpredictable

After one of my pen pals asked me what songs I thought Robert Plant would perform at the O2 arena charity gig on Friday, I gave it some thought and came up with some guesses.

For one thing, I bet there is tremendous pressure for Robert Plant to perform Led Zeppelin songs. I can imagine the other performers wanting to sing them as duets with him, particularly with this recent trend of talent show sex symbols Leona Lewis and Adam Lambert remaking "Whole Lotta Love." It's time for Plant to reclaim the song -- and perhaps lend a little of it to elder sex symbol Tom Jones.

Plant has a history of granting people's wishes when it comes to dueting on Zeppelin material. The precedent was set on Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album when he shared vocal duties with Sandy Denny. While they didn't know it at the time, the song was tailor-made for Plant's future vocal collaboration with Alison Krauss, and Plant's also kept the song in the Fairport Convention family by performing it at last year's Cropredy Festival with another young talent, Kristina Donahue.

We could look also to Plant's studio remake of "Down by the Seaside" with Tori Amos, or his onstage run-through of "Fool in the Rain" with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, or those live versions of songs like "Hey Hey What Can I Do," "Black Country Woman" and "When the Levee Breaks" also with Krauss. Perhaps an arrangement of "Fool in the Rain" with Plant sharing the vocal duties with Joss Stone wouldn't be entirely out of question.

There are plenty of examples of Plant sharing the spotlight with the likes of vocalists Ian Hunter, Kevin Scott MacMichael, Buddy Miller, Juldeh Camara and Scott Matthews. But with all of those cases, it wasn't on Zeppelin material. We shouldn't overlook the possibility of Plant dipping into his own catalog of solo material -- like "In the Mood," "29 Palms" and "Win My Train Fare Home," all solo tunes he attempted on the road as duets in recent months. But substantial evidence suggests Plant would try out some cover songs; he's certainly done that once or twice before.

So, instead of "Whole Lotta Love," Plant's sharing of the stage with Tom Jones could well result in a duet version of "Kiss" by Prince, for instance. I could also see him helping Lulu tackle "Morning Dew," a Bonnie Dobson song both singers have released as a single.

Consider that Plant is one who has often nodded to his lyrical influences by reverting to the original in concert. With Led Zeppelin, he sang "How Many More Times," whereas with the Honeydrippers he sang "How Many More Years" by Howlin' Wolf; with Led Zeppelin, he sang "Communication Breakdown," whereas last year saw Plant crooning Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown."

So, Plant's about due to acknowledge "Never," the bluesy number by Moby Grape with some lyrical sentiments he ended up echoing in "Since I've Been Loving You" on Led Zeppelin III. He has long expressed his reverence for Moby Grape's music, and he's covered a lot of their songs live and in the studio, but never "Never." Will he someday? Never say never! Watch for Plant and Joss Stone might to settle in on a soulful rendition of it tomorrow.

But, that all being said, these "Leducated" guesses are based on what's characteristic about Plant. As we know, he's also often an unpredictable guy. This is, after all, the dude who turned up on harmonica on Primal Scream's studio take of "The Lord is My Shotgun" only because he offhandedly told one band member, while they were out having a drink, that he would show up and do it the next day. Not to be disingenuous, but who would have taken Plant at his word?

So, my final answer is Plant will sing "Let's Have a Party" with the Hot Rats and "Stairway to Heaven" with Razorlight.


  1. Now that the show's underway, I can report that Lulu is onstage with Dan Gillespie of The Feeling, making a duet out of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World."

  2. So far, fluid transitions onstage. Lulu started out the show, then Dan Gillespie Sells joined her. Lulu left, and Dan's bandmates in The Feeling continued with. Now Beverley Knight has joined that band for "You're All I Need to Get By," originally by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

  3. Intermission at O2 Rockwell! Robert Plant to appear soon, along with Tom Jones, Joss Stone, David Gray, Ronan Keating, Razorlight, the Hot Rats and Gabriella Cilmi.

  4. Following the very brief intermission, the Supergrass side project known as the Hot Rats took the stage. With guest Johnny Borrell, they just covered Elvis Costello.


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