Originally appeared on thisislondon.co.uk
By John Aizlewood
If anything, the extraordinary acclaim that greeted Led Zeppelin’s one-show comeback in 2007 served only to turn singer Robert Plant away from the mothership as he resisted the entreaties of Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones to dilute the reunion with more shows. Last night, at a benefit which raised more than £200,000 for Cancer Research and coincidentally celebrated Abbey Road’s elevation to listed building status in the wake of sell-off speculation, Plant pushed both boundaries and buttons.
He was backed by the London Oriana Choir, whose thrilling vocal pyrotechnics transcended both a patchy sound and a disastrous start where Plant’s band mistakenly struck up Stairway To Heaven, much to their leader’s displeasure.
Declaring Scott Walker’s challenging 1995 album Tilt “a sensational moment in pop history”, Plant covered its half-sung, half-spoken opener, Farmer In The City, assuredly snuggling into its unsettling strangeness. Whole Lotta Love it wasn’t; rather brilliant it was.
The avant-garde beckoned. Instead, Plant wrapped his still mighty vocals around the gorgeous South Seas lullaby I Bid You Goodnight. Even so, he was in chippy mood, describing himself as “old and bitter” after grumpily anointing the Oriana Choir as “the future of rock’n’roll because it looks like there’s not much else going on”.
A third and final song meant a third and final curveball. On what would have been Abbey Road stalwart George Harrison’s 67th birthday, Plant was joined by support acts including David Gray (chippy himself earlier when introducing Fugitive to the noisy glass-clinking crowd with an acid “this one goes very well with champagne”), on a chaotic but inspired My Sweet Lord.
A strange evening, but these days that’s how Robert Plant prefers it.
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