Straight.com Vancouver has an, erm, interesting take on Robert Plant’s current tour…

Somewhere overlooking Loch Ness, a candle is burning in a room once occupied by the self-styled “Great Beast”, Aleister Crowley, and as it burns, a wizened figure cackles with glee. The gnomish creature looks up and is revealed as the jowly and diminutive Jimmy Page. Studying the papers that lie before him on a fine rosewood desk, he rubs his soft, white hands together and laughs again: the tour reports are in from North America, where his old friend Robert Plant is once again kicking at the corpse of their late band, Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation

By alexander varty

Publish Date: 29-Sep-2005

At the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday, September 22

Somewhere overlooking Loch Ness, a candle is burning in a room once occupied by the self-styled “Great Beast”, Aleister Crowley, and as it burns, a wizened figure cackles with glee. The gnomish creature looks up and is revealed as the jowly and diminutive Jimmy Page. Studying the papers that lie before him on a fine rosewood desk, he rubs his soft, white hands together and laughs again: the tour reports are in from North America, where his old friend Robert Plant is once again kicking at the corpse of their late band, Led Zeppelin.

When he and Plant last worked together, backed by an Egyptian orchestra and hurdy-gurdy virtuoso Nigel Eaton, they were oddly, undeniably, and shockingly brilliant. In contrast, Plant’s current outing is meeting a mixed response, but that is not what amuses the six-string magus. Instead, it’s the notion that the leonine singer has had to hire not one but two guitarists to fill Page’s tiny, pointy boots.

That, he thinks, says it all.

Yet Plant is well aware that his Strange Sensation band is not Led Zeppelin—and he’s also savvy enough to know that most of the fans who crowded the Orpheum last week wish that it were. With that in mind, he opened Thursday’s show with a sinuous version of “No Quarter”, the best song from what is arguably Led Zeppelin’s finest recording, Houses of the Holy. But this remake omitted Page’s buzzing guitars in favour of multiple frame drums in a visionary attempt to link Plant’s past to his current love of all things North African.

If only the rest of the evening had been so radically rethought. Instead, Plant was content to assemble a grab-bag of greatest hits and favourite influences, shambling from an Avalon Ballroom–worthy version of “Hey Joe” to the new, trip-hop–flavoured “Tin Pan Valley”.

If it took Plant a few minutes before he could hit the high notes with any degree of conviction, the aforementioned guitarists acquitted themselves well, with Justin Adams hammering home the riffs and Skin Tyson in charge of sonic texture. Introducing the band, the singer credited Tyson with “contact with the other world”, and, indeed, his washes of feedback, waves of distortion, and occasional ventures into loop-driven Frippery were both sublime and strange.

The set never really gelled, though, perhaps because the band was too loud for the room—a common mistake in the Orpheum, which has to be treated gently if the sound isn’t to degenerate into an undifferentiated blare. Then again, perhaps the effort of trying to please everyone is too much for an artist who, by his own admission, has spent the past decade pleasing no one but himself. Plant, who still has charisma to spare, might do well to drop the chestnuts and delve deeper into his Afro-Arabian fantasies.