Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes: A Tale of Two Scotts

Man, I haven't done one of these ticket things in a long done stole my concept! (kidding, kidding...)

Ok, that having been said, welcome, boys and girls!

When I think back on all the dinosaur rock acts I've seen over the years, it seems a bit odd that I'd never seen any of the guys from Led Zeppelin live when I was a teenager.

Plant cranked out a bunch of decent-to-middling solo albums over the years. Must've toured behind all of them, but I don't think I even once considered seeing him in concert.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Page had a litany of collaborative efforts with likes of David Coverdale, Plant (...go figure), and perpetual also-ran, Paul Rogers. None of it held any interest for me.

John Paul Jones was probably always working, but I didn't yet know that he would be the only one making interesting rock into his 60's.

I'm sure if there had been a Led Zeppelin reunion in the 80's, that - just like with the Who and the Stones - I would have been totally into it. Hell, on a nearly weekly basis my friend, Scott, and I traded various reunion rumors we'd heard about (usually through the proverbial "friend of a friend", or on 98 Rock), frequently leading us to debate whether "Rock and Roll" or "Misty Mountain Hop" would make a better opener, and always agreeing that "Battle of Evermore" would have to be on the set list.

But for whatever reason - perhaps because of the uniquely mystical kind of legend that followed Zeppelin around after they broke up -- I always accepted that a Led Zep reunion would not be in the cards, and that seeing any of them solo would be a diminishment of that legend.

That, and I should probably say that I never "got" Jimmy Page the way that other kids did. Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix always sort of spoke for themselves by being so over the top. Keith Richards did it by totally nailing his way around the rhythm section. Slash did it with a tone that was just about perfect.

But Page is a guitar-player's musician, and I don't play guitar (not really, at least. Perhaps not at all). Alternate tunings were kind of lost on me for a long time. Ditto for insanely layered parts.

I totally accepted that he was the man, basically because the right people told me so. But frankly, he never quite turned me on the way that some of the other legendary axe men did.

This show did help convert me.

And it was through, coincidentally, a different friend named Scott.

A bit about Scott # 2:

Scott plays guitar, and he’s excellent company. In fact, this one time he hosted a Superbowl party where we decided that we’d jam on Freebird together as the halftime entertainment for his guests. The results were somewhat disappointing. (And by “somewhat disappointing” I mean that everyone got the hell out of the room before we even got the guitars plugged in).

Scott is about 6’2”, and his physical build clearly indicates that he spent a whole lot of his younger years swimming and playing defensive end. And drinking beer – more beer, in fact, than you can drink. (This is a fact).

And despite having what one might describe as a foreboding physical presence, Scott is as good-natured as they come. Calm, friendly and accommodating, Scott isn't really one to seek out adventure; adventure just seems to follow him around.

In fact, the one thing I've learned over the years is that an evening with Scott is always a good time, and quite often a legendary time. Because literally anything could happen:

Someone just might throw a falafel at you.

You could end up in a fist fight with strangers in the middle of Connecticut Ave.

You may end up spending St. Patrick's Day in the the Arlington Courthouse, awaiting a friends release upon self recognizance.

Heck, you just might save a kid from alcohol poisoning. (Hey, Frenchie: if you're still out there somewhere, you totally need some new friends).

So, if Scott wanted to go see Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes, who was I to pass on it? (Plus, Scott had this cute new girlfriend that he was really excited about and he wanted me to meet her).

So off we went to the Nissan Pavillion. I had my hang-ups about whether or not this show would be any good, but there we went nonetheless. After all, I'd seen the Crowes at least twice before (maybe more), and despite what seemed to be a total disability to get their songs on the radio after about 1993, they had actually built an excellent reputation for themselves as a touring band.

And, plus, you know....Jimmy Page.

Honest to God, the night was fairly awesome. Despite an unfortunately sparse crowd (the promoter actually opened up the pavilion seats to us lawn stragglers because the sales were so poor), it was a really nicely-performed set made up nearly entirely of deeper Zeppelin cuts. And I have to give the Crowes credit: they rose to the occasion. Never once did they sound like a cover band, or like they were aping Bonzo or Plant. They sounded like the Black Crowes playing Led Zeppelin songs.

Two specific memories worth pointing out:

1. The Robinson brothers nailed the creepy into harmonies on "In The Light", in a way that I never would have thought would be possible live.

2. Page absolutely shredded two or three times during the show. And that's noteworthy primarily because my only gripe with the early Zeppelin albums is how *sloppy* some of the soloing sounds. (The easiest target for this would have to be "Heartbreaker", a fantastic track that I can't help but believe Page totally could have - and perhaps even did - cut cleaner at some point during those sessions).

It's kind of a petty quibble to unleash on a guitar god, but my point is that it was great to see the 50-or-60-something Page performing with a totally different type of precision, sacrificing no degree whatsoever of his trademark recklessness, blusiness or hardscrabble style, yet clearly in greater mastery over his parts.

So, all in all, it was a good night out with Scott. No flying ethnic food. No arrests. No fights or 911 calls.

But a total awakening for me, regarding what all the kids had been telling me about Page since I was in grade school.

(Oh, and I should probably mention: Scott totally married that girl a few year later.)