Written on the 10th of August 2014
There are those who think that Led Zeppelin headlining Glastonbury would be the apogee of rock and roll. Sadly, with the demise of the force of nature that was John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, anything else would be a tribute band. Talk of a Led Zeppelin reunion after the once off O2 2007 gig was rife, but ultimately it amounted to nothing, mainly due to the fact that lead singer Robert Plant was busy touring with Alison Krauss after the release of their exceptional album, ‘Raising Sand’. Also, as far as Plant was concerned, Zeppelin was done and dusted. Page and Plant revisited some of the old hits and rebooted them in the 1990’s and so fans couldn’t complain too much about never hearing the voice and guitar that so many followed in the 1970’s.
What was so refreshing about Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at Glastonbury Abbey last night was that this was an artist who was still vibrant, who was coming up with new and exciting music while placating die hards with a few of the old hits, albeit with a new twist. And what’s best of all, the man does not appear to be jaded or faking it or going through the motions – he enjoys performing, he’s good at it and he still has something to say. Where poor Bonzo burned out, Plant is certainly not fading away – he’s having too much fun.
The set list was a wonderful mix of past and present. The Sensational Space Shifters are by no means space fillers – they were a tight, well-oiled machine with some great musicians and great new tunes. The song does not remain the same to Percy Plant – we moved from north Africa to the Mississsipi delta to the Black Country with ease last night. It was a short gig due to the location of the venue in the heart of the town, in the wonderfully evocative abbey.
No, I won’t see Zeppelin headline Worthy Farm Glastonbury, but I did have have the privilege to hear the voice and driving force of the band headline a smaller, more intimate and consequently enjoyable venue nearby. In the audio piece you will hear a tongue-in-cheek Plant finishing off the anthem ‘Rock and Roll’ with what would be sacrilege to anyone else as he repeats the word ‘lonely’ until he runs out of breath. I’ve seen McCartney headline Glastonbury and lose the crowd with his mock Jamaican accent banter, I’ve seen Suede go to the other side and not say so much as ‘thanks’ to a crowd, but with Plant, we had Goldilocks porridge – it was just right. ‘Plantations’, as his ad libs are called, abounded; from mocking the audience’s singing skills to telling us tales of Michael Eavis crashing a Zeppelin gig in the early 70s, this was a headline show that was low key, but immensely entertaining.
The Sex Pistols partly came about due to the likes of Led Zeppelin and what the Pistols felt was a jaded, formulaic offering to rock. Where the Pistols got back together for the money and Johnny Rotten is doing butter ads on TV, Plant, the supposed dinosaur, has had the last laugh. Passing on $200m for a Zeppelin reunion, he’s still going strong with something to say and as far as I’m concerned, rock’s finest icon headlined at Glastonbury last night, and I was lucky enough to be there with 10,000 others for one short, but sweet, musical extravaganza. No hype, no bombast, no passing of a sell by date; just some great rock and roll from a master and his band.