Let me just start by saying that July 8, 1998 was probably one of the best nights I've known in my sixteen years.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page came here, to the Virginia Beach Amphitheater on July 8. It was the most fun I have ever had.
For impatient people who just want to see what was played, here's the setlist. I'll go into more detail, I promise. In fact, I can hardly wait.
The setlist was:
The Wanton Song
Bring it on Home
Walking into Clarksdale
Shining in the Light
Going to California
Heart in Your Hand
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
How Many More Times/That's the Way/How Many More Times
Whole Lotta Love
Rock and Roll
And now to go into detail...
I went to the concert with my entire family, but only my father and I had actual seats. My mom and brother had lawn seats that my mom won in a radio contest. I was in Section 203, Row W, Seat 9. Sure, I would have liked front row seats, but these were excellent. When we first got there, I made the ritual stop to get a tour shirt. After waiting for half an hour in line, we went to sit down. The show was supposed to begin at 8:00. At about five to eight, the opening band started to play; the Lili Haydn Band. They played about six songs, and I wasn't incredibly impressed. Impatient was more the word. The band consisted of the norm for a rock band -- guitars and drums, but this band had a violin and a cello. It was interesting, that's all I can say. After 15 minutes of it I got up and bought another shirt. In truth, I was more interested in helping knock the beach ball around the stadium than I was in watching the Lili Haydn Band. I just wanted Jimmy and Robert to start. At 15 to nine, the roadies started coming out to set up equipment, and of course everyone got excited. There was nothing to be excited about, though, except for a really lame Best Buy commercial.
At ten to nine, the lights went out, and everyone went wild, even though it was a couple of minutes before the show started. There was no announcement. Jimmy just came out with his Les Paul and the band tore into The Wanton Song. All I could hear was the guitar. We were all clapping and screaming so loudly that Robert's voice was totally drowned out. On screen, I could see his lips moving, but all I heard was screaming. Jimmy sounded great. After finishing The Wanton Song, they dove right into Bring it on Home, no pause or anything. By then the crowd had at least quieted enough that you could tell Robert was singing. The two songs just sort of ran together, and I really think I was too caught up in the excitement of everything that I didn't quite take in the first two songs. I remember them, but nothing in particular about them...how odd.
The third song was Heartbreaker, and the opening chords brought wild applause. Jimmy's solo was excellent. It was almost exactly like the one off of BBC Sessions -- the normal concert solo.
Everyone, of course, also cheered enthusiastically when the opening bars of Ramble On started. Every time they broke into the chorus, the lights would flare up and the stage got really bright. It was so fitting...it seemed so right. In the chorus, all Robert sang was "Ramble on", "Sing my song", "On my way", and then again "Ramble on". This was the first point at which you could tell there were a lot of people in the audience joining in the singing.
I never really cared for Walking into Clarksdale, and it was extremely obvious that I wasn't alone. I got really annoyed at the same ten or twelve people that would walk past to get more beer every time they played something off of the new album. They didn't care how annoying they were, though. No one knew the words to Clarksdale...there was a lot of applause when they were done, though. Whether it was out of politeness, sincerity, or relief, I don't know. It was a lot better than on the album. I liked it, and I think I was in a minority on that point.
I believe that I used the term "sacrilegious" when I found out that they were playing No Quarter without John Paul Jones, but my opinion changed quickly. They had a visiting pianist, whose name I can't remember and forgot to write down. Anyway, he was excellent. He did the solo perfectly. There was a cameo appearance by Jimmy's theramin to represent "the dogs of doom". It was odd about the pianist, though, because on the cameras, it would only show his hands. They never showed his face, and the lights were arranged in such a way that you couldn't see his face, even if you were in the front. They didn't say who it was until the song was done, and for some reason, I was expecting the anonymity of the guy to be because John Paul Jones was there as a surprise. To my disappointment, it wasn't him. He played the song so flawlessly that I thought it may have been him. It would have been cool.
Everybody fretted again when Robert said that they were playing another song from the new album, Shining in the Light. The song's one of my favorites (from the album), though, so I was happy. It sounded just like it did on the album, except that Jimmy had a long solo in the middle. Hey, the song may not be adrenaline like the later songs they played, but it was good. You gotta have a mix, right???
It's impossible to describe how wild the crowd went when they played the opening chords of Going to California. We were all singing every word, and I don't think that Robert realized it until he got to the last line. All he sang were the lines "tellin' myself it's not as hard", then he stopped, and we finished the line. His reaction was funny; his eyes got wide, then he threw his head down towards the ground and didn't lift it up for a minute. I can't think of a word to describe his reaction.
Tangerine...I never expected it to be in the setlist. It was, though. I liked it better than the album version because they ditched the slide guitar. Instead, a guy other than Page (Robert never said his name) was playing what I think was a mandolin. It was different, but I liked it. We were all singing the words again.
Although Gallows Pole has an almost lethargic (probably not a good word, but that describes my feelings accurately) feel to it, I like it on the album. When they played it, I expected Jimmy to be playing an acoustic, but instead he kept right on playing the electric. This version of Gallows Pole was a lot better than the one off of III. I could compare it to the one on No Quarter, only this one was even more electric and faster. I liked it.
The cheering was less than inspired when Robert announced that once again, this song was off the new album. No one liked Heart in Your Hand. For the third time, everybody went down to get more beer. Not much else can be said about this song.
There was a lot of cheering when Jimmy started into Babe I'm Gonna Leave You. The song had a guitar solo in the middle that lasted five or ten minutes, then they just jumped right back into it. I love the nonchalant attitude -- 'let's just go right back into the song like we didn't go off on a ten minute tangent.' I love everything about Jimmy...not least of all his style.
How Many More Times got the most cheering of anything yet. Everybody loved the song. In the middle of Jimmy's guitar solo, Robert started singing the opening lines of That's the Way. Of course, I assumed that the song had ended with the solo and now we were listening to That's the Way. Two lines later, the chords of How Many More Times are being played again. At least you don't know what exactly to expect. The guitar bow was, of course, included here. The product was, naturally, more wild cheering on our part. It sounded eerie, and a lot better in person than on any bootleg tapes I've ever heard.
I think Most High was the only song off of the new album that everybody liked. People were singing again, but mostly only "so high, most high, so high". The unknown pianist was playing again, and Robert said his name a couple times...I still don't remember what it was. Most High sounded exactly like it did on the album, only they repeated the first verse at the end.
Right before breaking into Whole Lotta Love, Robert said that they would be leaving after this. No one heard, though, I think, because there was no real reaction. Of course, though, once they started playing it, everybody again cheered like mad. The cheering was even more inspired when Jimmy broke out the theramin. Of course, it sounded nothing like the album cut...it was better. It rocked, I was cheering the whole time.
At this point, the band left the stage. For five minutes we all screamed for them to come back and clapped and held up lighters. It almost looked magical -- the lighters in particular. It makes me wonder what it looks like on stage. Finally, though, they came back out to immense cheering and a lot of ecstatic fans (myself included).
Black Dog didn't start out as Black Dog. Jimmy played the opening to Out on the Tiles. For a minute I thought maybe they were going to play it, but then Robert started singing the words to Black Dog. This was even better, though. By the time they started playing, we'd been up and screaming our lungs out for five minutes, so of course nobody sat down during the entire encore. We were already psyched, and Black Dog has relatively simple lyrics, so we were singing all the words and you could tell. Robert let us do two or three different parts of the song, and it rocked. A lot.
After a little hesitation, Robert and Jimmy decided to stay and play another song. Before the guitar even started, everyone recognized Rock and Roll, and it was probably the most cheered song all night. Appropriate, since it was the last. Again, we sang all the words, and Robert let us sing "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time", and he looked amazed every time he heard how clear it was. Jimmy's solo was more than perfect. I've never heard him so good as he was that night. Never.
They'd done one encore part, why not another? We cheered for five more minutes, and then the amphitheater people turned the lights back on. Damn. People started to leave, and it took about fifteen minutes to get out.
In case anyone is wondering about the non-musical details of the concert, I can fill in a little bit. It was really humid and the air didn't start to circulate until we were about twenty minutes into the concert. Robert and Jimmy were both wearing long sleeves and pants; I don't know how they did it, honestly. Robert was wearing a light blue shirt, loose but long-sleeved, and loose silver pants. Jimmy wore all black. Black pants and a black shirt that wasn't tight, but wasn't loose either. I know they were hot. I saw Jimmy mopping the sweat off of his forehead with a towel after How Many More Times. Robert's shirt was drenched with sweat by the end.
A few interesting things that I couldn't fit anywhere else...one was the pianist. I can't remember which song this was in, but I think it was Most High. Robert said, "here's our guest pianist" then the spotlight went over and there was a cardboard cutout of a kangaroo sitting in front of the keyboard. Robert got a really good kick out of it.
The other thing that was incredibly interesting to me was at the end of one of the songs. It was one of them in the middle. At the end of the song, Jimmy played the opening bars of Stairway to Heaven. I thought I was hearing things, but my dad and my brother said they both heard it too. My brother said that Robert mumbled, "She's buying a stairway to heaven", but I didn't hear that. I found that very strange.
In short (although I realize that this is nothing but short) I enjoyed myself more at the concert than I think I ever have anywhere. If Page and Plant come again, I'm definitely going. Even if I didn't like the music (which is anything but true), I would go because I had such a good time. I screamed my lungs out and clapped so hard my hands were sore for half an hour aftereward, but I enjoyed myself so much. It was so much fun!
Back to my Led Zeppelin page