Watch & Listen (Cosmic Energy CE-020)
Irvine Meadows, Irvine, CA – October 3, 1995
Wanton Song, Bring It On Home, Ramble On, Thank You, No Quarter, That’s The Way, Hurdy Gurdy Solo, Gallows Pole, Since I’ve Been Loving You, The Song Remains The Same, Going To California, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Friends, Four Sticks, Whole Lotta Love, In The Evening, Kashmir
Page & Plant took their Unledded concept on the road and toured the US twice in 1995. These tours were marked by a very loose setlist and the orchestral, middle-eastern musical arrangement of classic Led Zeppelin songs. The played two shows in Irvine, California, on October 2nd and October 3rd.
The second Irvine show was professionally videotaped for possible release on home video but never was. Bootleg versions from low generation tapes have been in circulation. Watch & Listen is the first blu-ray edition of this show and it certainly benefits in this format.
Watch & Listen is a substantial upgrade over previous versions. The tape benefits from the enhanced resolution technology. The picture is crystal clear and looks like it was made from the master tape. The production is multi-camera, positioned in front of the stage, behind the stage, one in the back of the venue and one on the stage itself.
And although this is a straight concert video with no interviews, there are some post-production editing such as the four panel effect during the guitar solo in “Thank You,” shots of the landscape during “No Quarter,” and reverse negative shots on the boarders of the screen during Nigel Eaton’s hurdy gurdy solo.
Also notable about the filming is the interesting allotment of screen time given to the musicians. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are of course given a majority of the shots, but there are many closes ups of Michael Lee on drums, Charlie Jones on bass and even Porl Thompson playing second guitar and banjo. During the songs with the Egyptian Pharaoh’s, the orchestra is also given many close ups and reaction shots. This adds to the appreciation of the entire ensemble working together to create the music and is not just a star vehicle for the titular leaders of the band.
The video opens at the end of the orchestral introduction before the band come on stage. They start with the opening riff of “Immigrant Song” as a prelude to “The Wanton Song.” The Physical Graffiti tune is played complete, followed by a few bars of the fast midsection of “Bring It On Home” which segues into complete versions of “Ramble On” and “Thank You,” forming a Led Zeppelin II trilogy.
All the numbers have been up to this point have been faithful representations of the classics songs, with “Thank You” played in the live arrangement c.1970 rather than the studio recording. “No Quarter” is played as it was on the “Unledded” MTV program. The emphasis is upon the phased acoustic guitar rather than the moody organ, and serves as an effective companion to the other ballads played in succession “That’s The Way” and “Gallows Pole” with Nigel Eaton’s hurdy gurdy solo.
The middle of the set has thumping versions of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (with orchestral accompanying), “The Song Remains The Same” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (with the “Stairway To Heaven” quote at the end).
But the tour’s artistic triumphs are contained in the closing numbers, “Four Sticks” and “Friends.” These were the original two songs they attempted to translate into this new fusion of styles twenty-five years before, and now reaches its fulfillment. “Whole Lotta Love” reaches nineteen minutes and includes quotes from “What Is And What Should Never Be,” The Doors’ “Break On Through” and “Dazed And Confused.”
The latter day Zep epic “In The Evening” contains a two line quote from “Carouselambra” and the long arrangement of “Kashmir” closes the evening. This is one of the best visual documents of the Page & Plant era which ended way too soon. It was a unique period on their history that transcended any plans to be a nostalgic cash in on past glories, but is an exemplary example of the fusion between western rock and folk with middle eastern and northern African music remains unsurpassed. Watch & Listen on Cosmic Energy is one of the best blu-ray titles available and is essential.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)