Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: 6/14/2008

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The Rolling Stones may be the greatest rock and roll band, but Led Zeppelin embodies the mythos of rock and Robert Plant is the archetype of the rock god. So when Robert Plant booked a show in lil ol’ Asheville with Alison Krauss, I had to grab a ticket, even though I had seen Plant multiple times before. The two had recently collaborated on an album, “Raising Sand.” Then I discovered that T Bone Burnett was also part of their band, and I was really psyched. I knew this was going to be a special show.

I went with my wife and we had decent seats about halfway back on the side. The Civic Center is far from acoustically perfect, but it really didn’t matter, they still sounded incredible.

Plant and Krauss each sang some songs separately and many together. I was really impressed by how well they harmonized. Many rock singers suffer from voice damage in later years, but Plant still sounded great. He performed three Zeppelin tunes: Black Dog, Black Country Woman, and Battle of Evermore. I can honestly say that the performance of “The Battle of Evermore” was one of my most memorable moments of live music performances ever. I managed to find a YouTube recording of the performance. The quality of the video is not the greatest, but it at least gives a sense of how magical the performance was.

The Battle of Evermore – Asheville Civic Center

Overall, it was a wonderful date night with my wife. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who loves live music as much as I do.

For those of you who are interested, here is the complete setlist from the concert.


Setlist:

  • Rich Woman
  • Leave My Woman Alone
  • Black Dog
  • Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
  • Through the Morning, Through the Night
  • It’s Goodbye and So Long to You
  • Fortune Teller
  • Black Country Woman
  • In the Mood
  • Bon Temps Rouler
  • Shut it Tight
  • Trampled Rose
  • Green Pastures
  • Down to the River to Pray
  • Killing the Blues
  • Nothin’
  • The Battle of Evermore
  • Please Read the Letter
  • Gone Gone Gone

Encore

  • Don’t Knock
  • (I’m a) One Woman Man
  • Your Long Journey
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Spirit: 3/31/1981

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Spirit was one of those bands that the first time I heard them, I was floored. I had a friend named Paul and he was excited one day because he had just bought the Best of Spirit. We listened to it and the next day I went to the record store and bought a copy of the album. It basically lived on my turntable for weeks afterwards.

The Agora Ballroom was a club in Hallandale, Florida, which is just north of Miami. The club later became the infamous Button South, but when I went to see Spirit there, it was still the Agora.

Although the band only featured two of the original members, Randy California and Ed Cassidy, they were amazing. Randy’s guitar work and vocals were stellar and the band ripped through almost everything I wanted to hear. The only song that they didn’t play which I would have loved to see them perform was “Mechanical World,” a very dark, apocalyptic anti-war song.

Spirit was one of those bands that never became as popular as they should have. I like to say that they are the best band you’ve never heard of, although you’ve probably heard their songs, like “I Got A Line On You,” “Nature’s Way,” and “Fresh Garbage.” Also, it has been asserted that Jimmy Page stole the main musical theme for “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s “Taurus.” (There is a lawsuit against Page seeking to give credit to Randy California for the song.)

If you’re not familiar with Spirit’s music, I strongly encourage you to check them out. “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” is one of my all-time favorite albums. They were so ahead of their time and their music sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did when I first heard them back in the late 70’s.

You have the world at your fingertips
No one can make it better than you
You have the world at your fingertips
But see what you’ve done to the rain and the sun
So many changes have all just begun, to reap
I know you’re asleep
Wake up

(“Prelude” from Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus)

Robert Plant: 7/14/88

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This is an example of a great concert where I did not have a really great time. I was originally planning to go to this show with my then girlfriend, Julie. But something came up and she could not go. Instead, she insisted that I take her mother instead. I knew this was not a good idea, but she was insistent and I decided to give it a go.

To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement. I was certain that this woman was scrutinizing and judging me. Still, I was going to try my best to enjoy myself and the concert.

Cheap Trick was the opening act, and I do love Cheap Trick. Our seats were toward the back of the arena, but we still had a decent view of the stage. As the band tore through their set, I got more and more excited. Finally, in a fit of rock and roll enthusiasm, I stood up and screamed “California Man!” wanting to hear my favorite Cheap Trick song. My girlfriend’s mom looked at me with what seemed a blend of pity and disdain, and then said, “Do you really think they can hear you?” I felt crushed, but only for a moment, because they immediately broke in to “California Man” and vindicated me. I looked back down at the mom with a smug smile on my face.

The rest of the show was less eventful, thankfully. Robert Plant was great, as always. His set was mostly solo material, but he did perform a few Led Zeppelin tunes, the best being “Trampled Under Foot.”

Anyway, I survived the ordeal, and vowed never to make that mistake again.

Jimmy Page: 9/8/1988

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Let me start by saying, as a guitarist, I have been inspired and awed by the great Jimmy Page. He has the mystique, the skill, and the style that earns him a spot as a guitar god. So, when I saw that he was performing at the James L. Knight Center in Miami (a small venue), there wasn’t even a question as to whether or not I was going. I was there!

I went with my good friend Craig. We got to the show early since it was general admission and we had decided to get as close as possible to the stage. And close we got. But alas, there was a problem. As Page and his band came on stage, it began to get crushing up front. After being up front for a nice part of the show (which included an awesome version of “Over the Hills and Far Away”), Craig and I decided we should move back so we could enjoy the rest of the show without being squashed.

Craig looked at the mass of people and yelled into my ear: “How the fuck are we going to get through that?”

I looked at the impenetrable sea of rockers and thought for a minute. Then I had an idea. “Follow me!” I yelled back at him.

I then put my hand over my mouth and pretended to wretch, acting like I was struggling to hold back projectile vomit. The sea of people parted before me like I was Moses at the Red Sea. It was beautiful! Never underestimate how quickly people will move out of your way when they think you are going to throw up on them. We cleared the crush and laughed heartily as we found a nice relaxing spot to sit and enjoy the rest of the concert.

A couple highlights about this show that are worth mentioning. Page played an amazing version of “In My Time of Dying” which featured some really eerie slide guitar playing. Then, for the encore, Page brought out the classic double-neck guitar and played an instrumental version of “Stairway to Heaven” to which everyone in the theater sang along. It was the perfect way to close a fantastic night of rock and roll.

This was not the first time I saw Page in concert, nor would it be the last, but it was a really cool show and one that stands out in my memory of concerts.