© Jimmy Little Junior
Photos by Jimmy Little Junior
Live Gig Review by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine and Karen Hetherington
The Ulster Hall in Belfast has a particular place in the history of iconic rock band Led Zeppelin. Many fans will be able to state that in March 1971 it marked the live debut of the rock classic and anthemic tune Stairway to Heaven. However as myths and legends about that performance have spread throughout the intervening years the reality has actually been overshadowed by the rumours. That show which was actually attended by my uncle while at University in Belfast was not actually the roaring success that many believed it to be. Other new songs from the fourth Zeppelin album also debuted that evening. Songs which later became legendary, Rock n Roll, Black Dog and Going To California all also debuted live at that Belfast show. The mellower and new Zeppelin songs were received with a generally nonplussed and disinterested response from the Ulster Hall punters during that apparently “iconic performance”
However one thing that the years haven’t tainted is the iconic and mystical lure of the individual four components of the Zeppelin mothership. Despite apparently refusing to enter reformation discussions and verbally stating his preference to move forward with his new sounds and musical style the magical mystery of the enigma that is Robert Plant still remains. The UK tour was a complete sell-out . While it wasn’t his first show in the city since 1971, as he had played another Belfast venue a few years previously-. Levels of hype and excitement still prevailed. Robert and his new band were on tour to promote”Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar “New album , a new band and thus no familiar faces that had come over with Roberts band of Joy musical project last time he visited. One thing that is consistent about a Plant tour is that his supports generally mirror both the light and the dark sound-wise.
While we unfortunately missed the opening act Nugent and Belle-a folk duo I was relishing seeing the Last Internationale. Having chatted to the duo pre show I was intrigued as to how they would deliver their political messages through their music. Believing themselves to be a “movement”rather than just another band I was curious with how their political ideology would be welcomed. Lets be honest N. Ireland has seen its fair share of political ideologies being expounded over the years to what has resulted in an apathetic response by the majority.
A three piece who attacked the Ulster Hall stage with a strong belief and passion for their particular cause they were instantly welcomed by a generous audience. Generally we don’t tend to give support acts the time of day, preferring instead to quaff ales and not enter the venue until it is time for the headliner. The audience embraced The Last Internationale with their musical kaleidoscope of blue/folk and garage rock elements. Singer Delila Paz possesses a voice which sounds both serene and powerful with some elements of Janis Joplin and Joan Baez influences. The band usually also consist of high profile Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave pedigree. However after extolling his abilities in the pre show interview I was informed that he would not be representing them on the current tour due to previous commitments despite playing on the album. However the drummer that had replaced Brad in the band did a solid and competent job. Playing tracks from their debut album “We will Reign” particular personal highlights were the beautiful “Wanted Man “and the powerfully energy-driven album title track. Despite being a three piece the vocalist and guitarist managed to cover every stage board. The Last Internationale even had the audacity to slip in a cover of Neil Youngs “My My, Hey Hey”-with a nod to another legend that they had toured with. A very engaging set which won over a large proportion of new fans-I predict a bright musical future for the Last Internationale which picked up a lot of new apostles tonight in Belfast for their particular social”movement”.
As Robert Plant emerged into the packed to capacity buzzing with energy and anticipation crowd at the Ulster Hall for Sunday nights gig, it was evident that although both his appearance and his vocals have changed considerably in the past two decades, it is very apparent that his appeal hasn’t waned in the slightest.
Opening the show with “No Quarter” set the pace of things to come and the and it was heavy with Zeppelin tracks throughout. Going to California was the highlight of the show for me missing only Plants deep inhale as featured on the Zeppelin studio album, it was a perfect rendition though and is still very suited to Plants voice which is notably nowhere near as highly pitched as it once was. There was not a lot of new material on the set list which surprised me as Plant is continuously striving for the recognition he deserves, beyond Zeppelin. He still has plenty of energy and enthusiasm and is never afraid to experiment musically, sometimes this works better than others, there were definitely a few unusual changes made to some of the Zeppelin songs. Fixin to Die, best known by Bob Dylan but written by Bukka White, featured fantastically into the set.
Plant has still got the moves, albeit different ones, the voice, albeit mellower but definitely the same charismatic stage presence and sense of ease with his audience. As for the audience though, did they come to sample Roberts musical diversity, or are they just a bunch of diehard Zeppelin fans? As Rock N Roll raised the roof at the end, I presumed the latter. Anyone on a nostalgic trip would definitely have been saddened, as I was by the lack of Stairway. The show was a fantastic eclectic mix of music drawn from all over the globe mixed with classic Zeppelin throughout. Mr Plant definitely brought the house down. And with this new line up, may really be onto something…Belfast wants more..but the question, much like the song, remains the same. In a phrase famously reserved for the late Manager, Peter Grant, can Robert Plant ever escape being known as the man who “Led” Zeppelin?
Video and audio links Marta Janiszewska