San Diego 1990 Mike Millard Master Cassettes (Wardour-423)
Sports Arena, San Diego, CA, USA – August 9, 1990
Disc 1 (43:51) Intro, Watching You, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Billy’s Revenge, Tie Dye On The Highway, In The Mood, No Quarter
Disc 2 (59:34) Liar’s Dance, Going To California, Little By Little, Nirvana, Immigrant Song, Hurting Kind, Ship Of Fools, Wearing And Tearing, Living Loving Maid, Band Introductions, Tall Cool One
Of Robert Plant’s two solo albums with Douglas Boyle as a guitarist, I have always preferred 1990’s Manic Nirvana. It was Plant’s fifth album as a solo artist and while it did not have the success of his previous effort, Now And Zen, it seemed to go a little deeper towards the direction of his more recent solo endeavors with songs like Liar’s Dance, Anniversary, and Watching You being very eclectically mood driven. The record did have a big hit single, Hurting Kind, which seemed to continue the vibe of the Now And Zen record and his continued playing of Zeppelin material kept the fans coming back for more.
Millard’s recording of Robert Plant’s concert at the San Diego Sports Arena during the Manic Nirvana tour is classic Millard. Thankfully this comes directly from Mike’s master cassettes and the quality is superb. All instruments and vocals are perfectly balanced and it has that nice in your face sound so certainly Mike was close to the action. Of course there is just enough audience in the mix to provide the much needed atmosphere, JEMS transfer and gentle mastering style allows the tape to be itself and Millard’s knack for location and attention to detail coupled with his trusty Nakamichi 550 Cassette Recorder and AKG Microphones giving the warm analog sound make for a magical listening experience. Mike’s buddy Jim R was not along for this concert so there are no first hand recollections but we have the JEMS torrents notes that provide the back story:
Robert Plant, Sports Arena, San Diego, CA, August 9, 1990
Our weekly dip into the Millard archive carries on with Mike’s master cassettes of the San Diego stop on the Manic Nirvana tour in support of the album of the same name. As we know, Led Zeppelin topped the list of Mike’s favorite artists and he documented many solo shows post 1980 by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Speaking of Zep, Plant’s choice of songs to include in the set from his former band include two great picks that Zeppelin never performed live. The first is the LZII ditty “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman),” which I’ve always found delightful. It is performed with straightforward charm.
The second is the brilliant In Through The Out Door outtake “Wearing and Tearing,” which legend has it was briefly considered for a single release around the time of Knebworth ’79. It’s a high-energy stormer that rides a great riff and, in my opinion, would have been a welcome addition to ITTOD, instead of being released after Bonham’s death on Coda. While I’m on the subject, “Wearing and Tearing” and “Ozone Baby” are both highly underrated and “Darlene” (the third outtake of the ’79 trio) isn’t too shabby either. I genuinely love all three.
The rest of the set smartly mixes Manic Nirvana songs with the best of Plant’s solo career and a few extra Zeppelin nuggets. I particularly like RP’s vocals on “In The Mood” and “Ship of Fools.” As we’ve previously discussed, the Sports Arena in San Diego is not the Sydney Opera House in terms of acoustics, but Millard’s taping location seems to be ideal on this night and he gets a very fine, close capture without a lot of the hall muddying things up.
First off, put the disc in the player and turn it up nice and loud…now we’re ready. The recording begins with a long instrumental introduction to Watching You, the audience sound amped already, awaiting the Golden God. Watching You in an interesting choice for an opener, very Zeppelinish yet total Plant mysticism at its best, he sounds to be in good voice as well. There is an interesting prelude to Nobody’s Fault But Mine that sounds like a cross between In The Light and an UnLedded version of Friends, as soon a Robert breaks into the scat vocals the audience responds. Doug Boyle plays the main riff with just a bit of funk and the audience loves to sing the choruses with Robert. Billy’s Revenge is old school Rock n Roll with a bit of Doo Wop thrown in, Doug lays down a great solo over fat Charlie Jones bass lines.
Wavy Gravy gets to “introduce” Tie Dye On The Highway, the clarity of this recording allows you to really listen to Plant’s band, Doug Boyle on guitars, Charlie Jones on bass, Phil Johnstone on Keys, and Chris Blackwell on drums. A great selection of musicians who do a phenomenal job recreating and augmenting this music, the middle section of this song is a pleasure for one’s ears. A favorite of mine from this record, a super cool homage to Woodstock and Robert certainly being a fan of late 60’s Rock music. Robert finally greats the crowd proper and introduces In The Mood, love to hear the songs from his earlier studio solo records, In The Mood never gets old. The song gets into nostalgia as Plant breaks into a bit of That’s The Way lyrics as the band get into a long middle section stretching the song over the 10 minute mark.
Love that Plant broke out No Quarter during this tour, spruced it up and really keeps it simple but fresh, a set highlight. Chris Blackwell’s playing is almost reminiscent of Nick Mason, lots of cool fills and sparse timed drumming, nice and laid back. A song about, in Robert’s words, “Greed” comes the incredible Liar’s Dance. A wonderful acoustic song with a wonderful melancholy melody, it catches the audience off guard, they’re here to Rock dammit and all this acoustic music is getting in the way, they seem impatient at the beginning but Doug hammers the song out and wins them over, great song. Robert teases Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco during the beginning of Going To California, all the loud mouths get to sing along, a fitting tribute to the home state.
The set gets into an interesting sequence with Little By Little, the last major tour that this song would be a regular. Like many, not a big fan of Shaken and Stirred but this is a good song, his band heavies it up a bit, Robert throws a bit of For Your Life lyrics in for good measure. Nirvana has a cool throbbing bass line giving it a bit of Funk and the song is well sequenced, certainly a bit of backing tape in the vocals. Immigrant Song with keyboards?…blasphemy. Just kidding, great version of the III classic. I heard them play this song on the last leg of the Now And Zen tour and was glad to hear it, Doug plays a cool solo and the keys give it a cool feel. It’s hit single time with Hurting Kind to finish the main set. Mike hits the pause and the audience grunts for more…”I still don’t understand that…but whatever it means…a sign of endearment”. Ship Of Fools is the first encore, one of Robert’s really good hits, lyrically deep with a wonderful feel.
One of the revelations of this recording is it features the Zeppelin CODA classic Wearing and Tearing, pure Rock and Roll fury. The version from June 1990 is a classic and is awesome to have another live version of the song, one of the greatest Zeppelin deep tracks. The band plays a crowd pleasing version of Living Loving Maid, it’s actually pretty good with a 50’s Rock vibe to it. Of course the last song of the set is the Led Zeppelin front man singer homage, Tall Cool One. All the Zeppelin teases has the audience in a frenzy.
The packaging is nice, live and posed shots of Robert and his band, several live shots of Robert features him wearing a Jimmy Page shirt, certainly their appearance together just over a month earlier at Knebworth 90 still fresh in his mind. Again, props to Jim R and JEMS for getting us these recordings, Eye Thank You. Excellent recording and performance, this is a phenomenal release.