Rock ‘n’ Roll is all about fantasy, mostly about sexual
fantasy (e.g. AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”), but sometimes it is just
about Rock ‘n’ Roll fantasy. Such as, what if Jimmy Page found himself at a
lose end and wanted to go out on tour? So who could he pick as a backing band?
Perhaps his long time admirers and possibly America’s tightest jamming band
The Black Crowes? And what could they pick as a set list? A selection of Led
Zeppelin’s finest and just for good measure some of the finest standards laid
Well, for once it was not fantasy, but reality. Rehearsals
took place and dates were set and this amazing combination hit the road,
playing to packed arenas the length and breadth of America, with astounding
results. Fortunately, plans were made to record the event for all time and here
are the results. At first only released on the Internet, but sense was seen and
the whole Shishkerbang was let loose on the eagerly awaiting Rock Public.
For those amongst you who may feel that it is sacrilegious
for anyone else to perform these songs, especially for old Robert (Percy) Plant
not to be singing, hollering, and cajoling every nuance out of these
classic’s: Fear not. Chris Robinson, the Crowes’ vocalist, does not even
attempt to imitate the great man, singing everything in his own style, giving
each song a new slant.
The rest of the Crowes play with such abandon, I have never
heard them play with such verve and panache, and this is somebody who has been
a huge fan of the band for over ten years. The rhythm section of Pipien and
Gorman keep a rock solid groove going whilst losing nothing of the looseness
that keeps the music spontaneous and alive.
Probably the biggest sound difference on the Zeppelin
classics is that although John Paul Jones used to double up on bass and
keyboards (an exemplary job he did, too) in that band his use of piano was very
sparing, whereas Ed Harsch is not frightened to push the piano right to the
front of the sounds cape, soloing when any opportunity arises.
But it is the three pronged guitar attack that floors you,
combining to give the raunchiest guitar sound that has ever been heard on this
little planet. (Lynyrd Skynyrd are stunning, make no mistake, this is just one
step beyond.) Obviously it’s Jimmy Page that steals the show. I doubt he has
ever played better. However, the playing of Chris’s brother Rich Robinson,
and new at the time Crowes guitarist, is of outstanding class, pushing their
guest player to the outer limits of his ability.
The song selection is spot on. The guitar duel in “You
Shook Me” is nothing short of jaw dropping, especially as it follows a
version of that old Elmore James classic “Shake Your Money Maker”, which
rattles the rooftops and would bring a smile to even the most stern of anorak
Rock ‘n’ Roll connoisseurs. Chris Robinson turns in a truly saucy version
of “The Lemon Song”, and the choice of Jimmy Page’s contemporary
guitarist/songwriter Peter Green’s finest song written whilst in Fleetwood
Mac, “Oh Well” is a pure delight.
There has never been a better version of “Heartbreaker”
with Jimmy Page really stepping out on this one. So topped and tailed with
“Celebration day” and “Whole Lotta Love” across two hours of music
spread over two CDs. You get six cover versions and fourteen classic Zeppelin
tracks (all with credit due to Willie Dixon and C. Burnett), played by a bunch
of guys who are having the time of their lives. This is certainly one of the
top three Rock ‘n’ Roll Live albums of all time.
As an extra - if you have a computer you can watch the band
performing snippets of the songs live from your disc drive plus some very good
stills taken from the Greek, where it becomes even more apparent how well they
all gelled as a unit and what a good time they were having.
After this tour the Black Crowes went back into the studios
to record their next album, the very heavily Zeppelin influenced “Lions”,
since when, it’s been rumored, they have disbanded, probably feeling it would
be hard to top the Jimmy Page tour. One is also left to reflect what a shame it
was that Led Zeppelin never recorded a decent live album. “The Song Remains
The Same” is not a bad album, but hardly a killer. “Live at the Greek”
leaves it for dead.