Tuesday, March 25, 2008

John Paul Jones returns to London stage for R.E.M. concert

Uncut reports today that John Paul Jones performed onstage at the Royal Albert Hall in London last night, along with Robyn Hitchcock.

The concert, billed as R.E.M. and Friends, saw the premier London performance of tracks from R.E.M.'s new album, Accelerate.

Onstage, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted the presence of Jones, who provided string arrangements for several songs on the group's successful 1994 album, Automatic for the People.

Uncut reports that Buck said he had been debating with Jones backstage over what year Led Zeppelin performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Buck said 1969, whereas Jones said 1970. Buck claimed to have a bootleg of the show, so he said he was sure.

Actually, they're both right.

  • A June/July 1969 concert series at the Royal Albert Hall billed as the Pop Proms included a June 29 performance from Led Zeppelin.
  • But the group's more famous and widely bootlegged Royal Albert Hall performance took place on Jan. 9, 1970; much of that set was officially released on DVD in 2003, with edited versions of two live cuts from the show having been officially released back in 1982 on Coda.

Jones and Hitchcock are scheduled to perform together again at Bergenfest in Norway on April 30.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Reform Led Zeppelin? Put yourself in Robert Plant's shoes

If the world is crying out for a Led Zeppelin tour, it could in fact turn out that the only person opposed to it is that band's singer.

We assume at least three-quarters of the group would are amenable to giving it another go in the 21st century, never mind the ages slipping further into the 60s.

If that is the case, Robert Plant could very well emerge as the lone holdout, effectively telling the rest of the world there would be no Led Zeppelin.

Since 1980, there has been an unequivocal rally cry demanding more Led Zeppelin activity despite the death of one equal part of four. The loss of John Bonham ended the band, and it was never to resurface without that essential element being present.

For longer than a quarter of a century, the only times all three surviving members made music together on live stages were marred by incongruities and unpreparedness. It made some question whether those individuals were capable at all of recapturing any of their former glory.

A series of secret rehearsals in 2007, leading up to the one-off live performance at year's end, showed that life could continue for Led Zeppelin. With Jason Bonham filling his late father's place, and with Page, Plant and Jones all exceeding expectations, it seemed possible once more that the airship could fly again.

And the strategy for fans was to wait and see. Decisions have yet to be made, we were told, and would not be made until September.

If the story published in London this weekend is true -- that Robert Plant has nixed an offer for a Led Zeppelin tour -- fans may have already received their answer. No Led Zeppelin tour, even with an offer equivalent to $200 million.

For one thing, the story may not be true at all. It's based on an unnamed source. There's been no official indication over the past few days as to whether or not this is accurate.

For another thing, it is possible that Plant would turn down an offer today knowing that another offer is just around the corner. Now is not the time to be making decisions. Let the decisions be made later. Offers have been around for decades. They can wait another half a year. With this assurance, I could see Plant turning down offers left and right and considering better offers later.

After his current touring commitments with Alison Krauss lapse, say around September, perhaps he will be in a better position to plan his next move. And of course the offer would be re-extended to him at that time to reunite Led Zeppelin.

But on the other hand, what if Robert Plant has turned down the offer because it's not something he would ever consider doing again? This seems to be what many folks believe has happened. But many of those people are bitter and angry at Plant for, assumedly, making this decision.

They can't put themselves into the singer's shoes and figure out why he would have come to such a conclusion, if he did.

Without egregiously rehashing remarks I made last September, months before Led Zeppelin's one-off concert, I would like to call attention to some of the circumstances that may prevent Robert Plant from agreeing to invoke the Led Zeppelin name yet again and take it on the road.

Plant has had a long and enduring musical career since Led Zeppelin's era. He has released more albums and performed more concerts under his name than his Led Zeppelin counterparts have done under their names. More than that, his own music has appealed to many different audiences, expanding his impact as he continues to branch out stylistically.

Not every one of Plant's career moves aims to please the same audience that was spinning "The Rain Song" back in 1973. Not every career move is made with the intention of having it applauded unanimously by the fans of his '70s rock outfit.

Plant's albums of the early '80s carried a sound that had nothing to do with Led Zeppelin, and his concerts at the time reflected that. He has made and remade "No Quarter" and other Zep songs a handful of times over the years, sometimes performing with Jimmy Page and other times with various lineups.

Plant often alienates many of his established fans, but he just as often wins them back -- and gains others -- when he introduces another career move or musical style.

He likes to believe his appeal spans far wider than Led Zeppelin's. And who's to say he's wrong? As we saw a few months ago, one Zeppelin concert means hundreds of millions of people all at once would be clamoring to be part of it. But a lifetime of continually expanding draws in many others who otherwise would never have cared to listen to Robert Plant. He opened new eyes with "Burning Down One Side," more new eyes with "Sea of Love," more new eyes with "Tall Cool One," more new eyes with "29 Palms," more new eyes with "Most High," more new eyes with "Shine It All Around," more new eyes with "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)." And if in continuing to progress he tries something new tomorrow, he may open new eyes then too.

Why should we spend our days desiring more of the rehashed Led Zeppelin when Plant is content and comfortable trying new things? We needn't like every note he sings. In fact, we needn't ever pay attention to him ever again! He'll still be out there entertaining folks as he always has.

As for Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, I hope they would be able to move on and continue their own careers in a dignified manner if this tour thing doesn't come to fruition. My hope is that they could carry on in whatever capacities makes them happy.

If all this is speculation and there still remains a chance of these guys working with Plant someday but that someday is merely on a necessary hold, then that is fine with me. I am a fan of Plant's work both within and separate from Led Zeppelin; I suspect I will continue to be when his mind is made up and a decision is officially announced.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Plant turned down Zep tour offer, U.K. paper claims

Sean Hamilton, Showbiz editor for London's Sunday Mirror, reports the following in a Sunday Mirror exclusive on March 2:

Robert Plant says no to Led Zeppelin world tour and £100m

Robert Plant has turned down an extra £100 million fortune to take Led Zeppelin on a world tour.

The rock legend wants to concentrate on his new partnership with US country singer Alison Krauss... spelling the likely end of the famous band.

Led Zep fans had been longing for a tour announcement since last year - when the 1970s superstars reformed for a one-off show at London's O2 Arena.

Surviving members Plant, Robert Page and John Paul Jones were offered a guaranteed £100m each for a tour of North America and Europe after a million fans applied for O2 tickets.

But after extensive talks Led Zep - best known for the song Stairway To Heaven - decided against the moneymaking opportunity.

Guitarist Jimmy Page, 64, was keen to do the tour this year and was backed by bass player John Paul, 62.

But singer Plant, 59 - already worth an estimated £70 million - wants to concentrate on his new success with US country singer Krauss. The pair's duet album Raising Sand went to No 2 in America and Britain and they are starting their own tour in April.

A band source said: "Despite the enormous offer, the decision did not come down to money. They always said they would do the one-off show and then see how they felt.

"Jimmy had enjoyed the concert in December enough to want to tour. He argued they still had something to offer. He likes the idea of another chapter in the band - the grown-up tour.

"John sided with Jimmy. He loved making music with the others again.

"But Robert wanted to leave last year's concert as their legacy. They had proved they could still do it and that was enough.

"He has other commitments and is happier looking forward to those. Robert put the mockers on the tour."