“This is one of the most stimulating times in my life,” says Robert Plant, the Led Zeppelin front man who will turn 65 next month.
The singer is on the road with his Sensational Space Shifters. Last night in suburban Washington, D.C., he speaks to fans from the stage, offering hope to those who want his old band to reunite.
The amount of Led Zeppelin material satisfies many in the sweaty crowd salivating for the thunder of the 1970s U.K. act that sold as many as 300 million records. Led Zep is the biggest-selling group in the U.S. after the Beatles.
Plant knows that a reunion tour would be one of rock’s most lucrative, easily outselling last night’s gig at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
He starts with the romance of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and signs off with a climactic “Rock and Roll.”
In between, Plant adds his personal signatures: his passion for foreign cultures and American music from the Delta, and a few numbers from his solo career, like 1983’s “In the Mood.”
“Black Dog” features Juldeh Camara, an African musician who intensifies the Zeppelin standard with his performance on the ritti, an exotic stringed instrument. “Whole Lotta Love” is blended with Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”
The crowd, a curious blend of teenagers and retirees, doesn’t seem to mind the new takes on the familiar tracks. They still sing along word for word, hands waving above their heads, on “Going to California” and “Friends.”
Gone are the chest-baring vest and low-slung jeans of the 1970s. Plant sports a nondescript button-down shirt, tosses his mane and swings the microphone like a dance partner.
Plant has been dogged with questions about a reunion since performing with surviving members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones in London’s 02 Arena in 2007. The release of a DVD of the concert late last year fueled the fever.
Page is set to release another album and embark on a tour late this year, while Jones has been working with Seasick Steve and has solo projects. Both have made optimistic noises about a tour while waiting for Plant to come back to the songs. The singer will headline the Bluesfest 2013 in London’s Royal Albert Hall in October.
Yesterday evening, he leaves the faithful with a hint of hope as he exits the stage.
“Remember, it’s never over,” he says. “See you soon.”
(Stephanie Green is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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