Thursday, February 18, 2010

New official release of 1990 Knebworth set forthcoming

"Wearing and Tearing" is a song Led Zeppelin never played in concert. A really fast-paced stomper, it was something the band laid down during their final studio recording sessions but didn't even release on their album. It finally came out almost four years to the day it was recorded, issued on the posthumous outtakes album Coda.

What a bummer it was not part of the band's repertoire in 1979! Led Zeppelin played two shows in England that year, at the Knebworth Festival in front of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands. They were homecoming shows, the band's first in England in four years, and a lot had changed in that time. Members of the press were rife with suggestions that the band was overhyped and irrelevant in a culture that now favored punk music.

"Wearing and Tearing" was essentially Led Zeppelin's response to punk music. They just didn't issue that formal response at the time. We know there was at some point an intention to release "Wearing and Tearing" as a promotional single distributed exclusively at the Knebworth Festival. That never happened. For reasons never fully explained, the song was left off the album and excluded from their live set.

In 1980, and for reasons that were better explained, the band dissolved. And over the next 10 years, collaborations among the surviving members were sparse. One of those onstage moments, however, was a triumphant set performed by Robert Plant with an encore appearance by Jimmy Page. The date was June 30, 1990, and the setting was a familiar one: Knebworth. And, as if it were some inside joke, Page and Plant combined forces to perform a hard-rocking live version of "Wearing and Tearing" for the first time ever.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of this concert -- which also included Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Status Quo, Phil Collins, Cliff Richard with the Shadows, Genesis, Tears for Fears, Elton John, and Dire Straits -- the label Eagle Rock Entertainment is re-releasing moments from that Knebworth concert.

The double-CD set Live at Knebworth is slated to be released on March 23 (Update: There will also be an MP3 download version). Portions of this concert were originally available on the Polydor label in 1990. Proceeds from this 20th anniversary reissue, just like the 1990 concert itself, are to raise funds for the Brit School of Performing Arts and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. The latter cause is the same charity that benefited from the Rockwell concert held in London last September, which included a three-song set from Plant, performing along with Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.

Live at Knebworth includes two three songs from Plant's solo band, "Hurting Kind (I've Got My Eyes on You)," "Liars Dance" and "Tall Cool One," plus the encore rendition of "Wearing and Tearing" featuring Page. Images of both Page and Plant are pictured on the front cover of the album, although Page's name is curiously omitted in that place.

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