That’s certainly what the audience was feeling for Robert Plant and to be fair the rest of his fabulous Band of Joy on Monday night at Dublin’s intimate Olympia Theatre. Janet Harkin and I were there too – diehard Led Zep fans both – and we had a truly momentous evening – even though we had to run from the theatre via the back door on the stroke of 10.30pm like a couple of latter day hard rock Cinderellas (last bus back to Derry was leaving Busaras at 11pm and we needed to be on it – even though it did appear to have a bullet hole in the front windscreen). We did stop briefly on the pavement outside just to jump up and down on the spot for a minute with excitement and remark to each other how buzzing we each were from the gig.
Last time I saw Robert Plant was in Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, California. He was next to me in the audience, jigging about & singing along to Wanda Jackson’s version of “I Saw the Light” – and shouting out “Worcester” when Wanda asked “Where y’all from tonight?” Just a normal guy enjoying a night out at a local music venue admiring the legend that’s Wanda. I chatted to him of course & listened to him talk to the musicians in the band after the gig, which he did at length.
There’s no doubt he’s a force to be reckoned with and a legend in his own lifetime. When I think about all the bands and performers I’ve seen in the last three or five years (and believe me there have been a few) Robert Plant and Leonard Cohen are the two that for me have ridden the waves of time most successfully…Cohen because there is such substance to him as a poet and Plant because he keeps going on to do new & interesting projects. The Band of Joy’s certainly one of those. The gig was like being at a party where a few friends pick up some string instruments, start jamming and find out they’re actually quite good together – so they keep going and it gets better and better. It was like peeking in at a gang of good friends having a great night together or it was like dying & waking up in Hillbilly Heaven. Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin were as good as we hoped they would be and Plant didn’t hog centre stage all night – when it was someone else’s turn he was happy to blend into the background, sing backing vocals & play his harmonica. He also told stories, entered into a bit of banter with the audience and even answered a few of the comments that were shouted over to him. I liked his story about how he and his friends at school in the West Midlands in the 60s used to listen to Howlin’ Wolf and the Reverend Gary Davis – it was all Motown and northern soul by the time I went to school.
So – the big question – did they play any Zeppelin songs. They did – but not in a way you would straight away recognise – they Nashville-ised them and played Tangerine, House of the Holy, Misty Mountain Hop and Gallow’s Pole – Plant parodying his 1970s on-stage persona a little – curling his still impressive mane into ringlets with his finger. Everyone in the audience sang with him – it was like being part of a religious experience – and you really could feel the love – you could almost reach out and touch it.
Robert Plant – thank you and long may you reign. Nothing else is getting a look in this week in the Fig – Band of Joy is all I need.