"PAGE & PLANT Back In The USA"

The 2nd Leg Of The US Tour: A chronicle by those who were there

(Selected excerpts from Proximity #20, January 1996 - Note: some of the images, below, are not in the printed version of Prox)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico

Palacio de los Deportes, September 23 & 24
September 23:
Wanton Song • Bring It on Home • Ramble On • Thank You • No Quarter • Battle of Evermore • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going To California • Friends • Four Sticks • Whole Lotta Love/theremin s olo/Light My Fire/Break on Through/Dazed & Confused
Encore: Black Dog • Kashmir
Second encore: Heartbreaker
total time: 125 min.

Mexico City. . . Oh Shit !! No warning, no notice, just pack the bags, catch a plane, and we're off. My wife & I checked into the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel (where Jimmy & Robert were staying), and then it was off to catch the dress rehearsal.
We arrived at the Palacio de los Deportes (Palace of the Sports) and found a back entrance where local security was stationed. We pulled out our ‘Zoso’ laminates which I had made and walked right past the security, straight into Jimmy! "Ahhh. . . hi Jimmy. . .how’s it going?" as I am trying to shove my laminate back under my shirt!
We had some small talk and then he politely excused himself to go do the dress rehearsal. We politely (and quickly) excused ourselves as well. Back outside, I then found another entrance into the building and heard the thunder of Michael Lee’s drums followed by the tuning of Jimmy’s guitar.
I walked a circle around the arena until the sound got louder, finally finding a small locked room that was backstage, in which they were shaking the boards off the walls. I quickly ran upstairs where I found an open window and a view down to the band about 15 feet below. I heard about 10 minutes of a killer instrumental jam which I didn’t recognize, before the local security grabbed me and booted me out.
Then the show: Out of a packed house of about 18,000, I think we were the only non-locals in the building! Page and Plant came on at 8pm with no opening act. They played a strong opening set from their last leg, and then introduced Najma for "Battle of Evermore," a pleasant surprise! Other highlights included "Going to Califonia" with the Mexican Symphony Orchestra, and a rockin’ "Whole Lotta Love" medley.
The response from the Mexican audience was the strongest I had seen anywhere. When the band broke into "Whole Lotta Love," I thought there was going to be a riot! It was out of control. These vibes definitely reflected back on stage to two boys having a wonderful time.
They closed with their standard encores and said their goodbyes. It was then that this show left the realm of being a standard show. While we were outside the venue comparing notes, the crowd was still in an uproar. Fifteen minutes after the house lights came up nobody had left. Then we heard one giant roar—they had done it! Mexico brought Page and Plant out for a second encore. So as we heard Jimmy break into "Heartbreaker" we fought our way back into the building to see the most amazing lead of any song to date. Clean, crisp, fast & furious. Sounded like 1969!
Robert had come out wearing one of the many bootleg shirts that were available outside the venue. This one said "The Song Remains The Same: Led Zeppelin World Tour Mexico 1995." Everything down there referred to the ‘Led Zep world tour.’ The selection & quality of bootleg merchandise was out-standing, and cheap. Even the official Mexico tour shirts sold inside the venue were only $10.
- Terry Stephenson

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico

Tingly Coliseum, September 29
Wanton Song • Bring It on Home • What Is & What Should Never Be • Thank You • No Quarter • Hey Hey What Can I Do • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going To California • Babe I’m Gonna Leave You • Friends • Four Sticks • Whole Lotta Love/ theremin solo/guitar solos/Light My Fire/Break on Through/ Dazed & Confused
Encores: Black Dog • Kashmir
Total time: 120 minutes

I attended the show with my brother, who had seen Led Zeppelin twice in Albuquerque, in 1970 and 1973
Jimmy’s playing was passionate and he was very animated throughout the show. Robert said that northern New Mexico has always been dear to his heart and he introduced the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra as "the civic orchestra of Espanola, New Mexico." This is a small town north of Albuquerque that is made fun of, much the same way that New Yorkers make fun of New Jersey. Everyone got the joke. Plant obviously knows his way around the region.
All in all, a surprising and fantastic show. My brother said it was like seeing Led Zep, only with better sound and visuals. A great time!
- Rob Martinez

SACRAMENTO, California

Cal. Expo, October 6
Wanton Song • Bring It on Home • Ramble On • Thank You • No Quarter • That’s The Way • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going To California/Babe I’m Gonna Leave You • Friends • Four Sticks • The Ocean (spoken intro)/Whole Lotta Love/theremin solo/guitar solos/In My Time of Dying/Break on Through/Dazed & Confused
Encores: Out On the Tiles (intro with vocals)/Black Dog • Kashmir
Total time: 127 minutes

The night began with an instrumental section of "Al Thlathya—Al Mokadasa." [Used as a recorded introduction to all the shows on this leg. - ed.] My tutor in such matters informs me that this is a highly spiritual piece of music made quite famous by the extraordinary Egyptian vocalist, Ms. Om Kolthom.
  When Robert sang that the "autumn moon lights my way," it was incredibly perfect. The silver moon was high and bright, two days away from being completely ripe. It was, in our estimation, one of the best sounding shows ever. Jimmy was perfect and Robert was in excellent voice.
Jimmy did a new intro to "No Quarter," very different texture, tone and modality. One of my favorite parts of the night was when Nigel did his hurdy gurdy solo, and got that thing buzzing at a frequency that got the air vibrating and you could feel the sensation inside your body.
The obligatory Wardrobe and Hair Reviews: The wardrobe theme was black. Robert chose black pants and a black vest with a large silver concho-type clasp, and he accessorized the outfit with a bright red necklace. Jimmy, the master of the black wardrobe, appeared in a wonderful stylish knee-length black jacket. The Egyptians were all in black,  as was Ed (whose hair, I would like to add, is still magnificent!). Charlie added a bit of wardrobe color, as did Michael, but you hardly notice what he’s wearing with all the reflection off his drum kit. I believe he kept his clothes on throughout the show, but can’t be certain about that.
After the third song or so, Jimmy's jacket came off, revealing a lovely jade colored satin shirt atop the same textured fabric black slacks of the previous leg of the tour. We were once again charmed that he continues to wear his Hush Puppies, while Robert again was sporting those buckskin boots. At Shoreline I noticed that Jimmy is wearing a silver figa around his neck—it’s a Brazilian good luck charm.
- Penny Hill

BOISE, Idaho

BSU Pavilion, October 9
Wanton Song • Bring It on Home • Ramble On • Thank You • No Quarter • Tangerine • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going To California • Babe I’m Gonna Leave You • Friends • Four Sticks • Whole Lotta Love/theremin solo/guitar solos/Light My Fire/For What It’s Worth/Break on Through/Dazed & Confused
Encore: In The Evening • Kashmir
Total time: 132 minutes

Boise is not precisely the venue one would expect to find the P-Boys. As Robert commented at the front end of the show, "We’d like to say we’re glad to be back, but Jimmy and I were talking backstage just now, and neither of us can remember ever having been here!" However, in an arena holding some 10,000, 9,032 were counted and a more enthusiastic crowd is improbably to find.
Anyone, anyone at all, can talk to me about the deterioration of Page’s playing, or that he is a "sloppy" player, and my modest rejoinder based on the Boise show, is "BULLSHIT." Page was absolutely right on, his fretting was nigh on to perfection, his whammy bar work was something out of the ‘60s; he was even warping and doing palm harmonics out the proverbial. . . He also did some stage antics that were worthy of Chuck Berry, once even trying to get Porl to join him in "get-ting down" while playing.
- Basil Hedrick

MONTREAL, Canada

October 18
Wanton Song • Bring it on Home • Ramble On • Thank You • No Quarter • That’s the Way • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains the Same • Going to California • Four Sticks • Whole Lotta Love/theremin solo/guitar solos/Down By the Seaside/Break on Through/Dazed and Confused • In the Evening
Encore: Black Dog • Kashmir

Every time Jimmy would either launch into or finish off a solo, the crowd exploded to the point of deafness, and the same thing happened when Robert would get into a reachy or high vocal, the crowd would positively lose it. Both Robert and Jimmy loved it.

Before the encores Jimmy and Robert were hugging and they walked off the stage together with their arms around each other with the most tremendously huge grins on their faces. At the end of the show Robert lingered on stage for a few moments by himself to take a bow and again the crowd was hugely responsive.
- Tracy Hutcheson (photo by Alan Blais)

BOSTON, Massachusetts

Fleet Center, October 23
Wanton Song • Heartbreaker • What Is and What Should Never Be • Thank You • No Quarter • Tangerine • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going To California • Babe I’m Gonna Leave You • Whole Lotta Love/theremin solo/guitar solos/Break On Through •Dazed & Confused • Dancing Days • In the Evening
Encore: Black Dog • Kashmir

When the Page/Plant show in Toronto last spring ended, I said that it was the best concert I had ever seen, bar none. After a disappointing show at the Meadowlands, and two amazing nights in Boston, I still felt that way.
No longer. Not only was Monday night’s show in Boston the best I’ve ever seen, it may be the best I will ever see.
The essential difference this time was freedom. The growing tightness of the band, the building confidence in their ability to lay waste to an arena, the probably overwhelming audience response. . . all this has given them the freedom to expand, grow, and develop. One got the sense, unlike on the previous leg, that everything they wanted to do was within their reach.
The crowd, obviously, can take a small part of the credit. Before Monday’s show, the people filing into the brand new Fleet Center were screaming in unison even before they got to the turnstiles. I have never heard this kind of pre-event excitement at a concert. Think pre-Stanley Cup, pre-Superbowl, pre-World Series The acknowledgement of the crowd, the truly grateful smiles, Page’s pre-show study of the masses (who could clearly see him outlined against the backstage area), the thunderous cheers for every solo, all seem to work their symbiotic magic with Page and Plant—who do, after all, live and die on the stage.
"Babe I’m Gonna Leave You," was a full-band masterpiece—the kind of treatment the song has deserved since its stunning debut on the first album. The orchestral arrangement was flawless (Michael Kamen, retire now), the orchestra itself was a sea of energy and joy, Page’s guitar was crushing throughout, and Plant made it up as he went along. . . with tear-inducing results. I actually cried the second time they crashed into the chorus, because I couldn’t believe how powerful, how amazing, how beautiful their music was.
The encores are a bit too rote in selection, but the performances are so good that one forgives them. A bit of "Out On The Custard Pie Tiles," and then into the Riff That Robert Said He Wouldn’t Sing. [that would be "Black Dog" - ed.] In a way, this has become the "Stairway" of the current tour—the audience sings along to the whole song, and much of it is with the encouragement of Robert.
Of course, no amount of crowd-pandering can explain Jimmy’s solo—after an ultra-extended blaze through the most intricate picking yet, he seemed to be ready to head back into the riff, then he glanced up at Lee and leapt into another solo based on one of the hardest licks from the original album version. He simply could not be playing any better—not in this lifetime.
As they neared the end of "Kashmir," it seemed that no one wanted to actually stop playing. They jammed. They teased "Black Dog" again. They went into thrash mode under Robert’s "medication!" screams. Robert and Jimmy danced. And when they finally ended it, Jimmy raised his guitar behind his head, faced Lee, and shared a last communion as they brought the final chord crashing down.
Amen.
- Thor Iverson

NEW YORK CITY, New York

Madison Square Garden, October 27
Wanton Song • Bring It On Home • Heartbreaker • Ramble On • No Quarter • Tangerine • Hurdy Gurdy Solo • Gallows Pole • Since I’ve Been Loving You • The Song Remains The Same • Going to California • Babe I’m Gonna Leave You • Whole Lotta Love/theremin solo/ guitar solos/Break On Through/Dazed & Confused • Four Sticks • In the Evening
Encore: Black Dog • Egyptian jam with belly dancers/Kashmir • Rock and Roll
Having just seen the Philadelphia show three days back, I kind of knew what to expect but was hoping for more since it was the last show of the tour. Robert kept announcing that this was the last show and the crowd kept roaring with delight. Overall, the crowd in NYC were louder than Philadelphia and no one, absolutely no one was sitting down.
At one point, Robert announced that this was the 95th and last show of the tour. In Philadelphia, he had announced that it was the 97th show. At the end of the show, Robert said this was the 94th show!
There was a huge ‘party’ for Porl because Robert announced that this would be Porl’s last concert and he would not tour with them to the far east. He also said that Michael Lee would not be joining them in South America—he must have been kidding. He didn’t say anything about Charlie Jones leaving the band.
Porl played the lead on "Tangerine" and he also played the lead on "Ramble On" and as usual, "The Song Remains The Same" (he was right on, on this day).
It certainly was a strange sight to see belly dancers at a Rock Concert. After "Black Dog," four or five of the Egyptians came to the front of the stage and Robert said, "this is some-thing that we haven't tried before. . ." and the Egyptians started to play while Robert prodded the audience to clap their hands to the beat of the music. With the audience clapping to the beat, two belly dancers, one in red and the other in either blue or green harem outfits came on stage and started dancing. Both of the dancers were very—how shall I say it?—Nice. The camera kept focusing exclusively on them and we all could see it on the big screen.
After "Kashmir," the band appeared to be finished and Jimmy made a move to leave the stage amidst a huge wave of applause. I was convinced that there would be a second encore after a short break. There was a distinct pause of a few moments, but the band never left the stage, and then Jimmy put on another guitar and came back to center stage to play a brilliant "Rock & Roll" which had the crowd going berserk. Michael Lee was spectacular in his short solo at the end.

- Ned Gubbi

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