Swing And Sway (Wardour-077)
After Robert Plant’s first extensive tour as a solo artist of the US and UK in 1983, he opened 1984 with visits to Australia and New Zealand before closing the Principle Of Moments tour with eight shows in Japan and one in Hong Kong. This was his first visit to Japan in twelve years and first as a solo artists and was comprised of five shows in Tokyo, two in Osaka and one in Nagoya.
Swing And Sway is the first Robert Plant title on Wardour in several years and contains new tapes for the February 20th Osaka and February 22nd Nagoya shows. Both have excellent sound quality and are both interesting documents of Plant’s early solo tours.
Hearing the performances reveals an obvious influence of American rock and roll. Plant had never been bashful about his debt to that culture. In concert, some of the songs were expanded with solos and elaborations recalling Led Zeppelin’s stage prowess.
But the melancholia that pervades the arrangements is original and a hallmark of his early 80’s output. He’s able to hit very strange and inarticulable moods through this music. It is remarkable that, so early in the decade he’s able to take sounds and timbres that are deeply rooted in an 80’s happiness and is able to reinterpret it in another direction.
Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – February 20th, 1984
Disc 1 (57:54): Opening, In The Mood, Pledge Pin, Messin’ With The Mekon, Moonlight In Samosa, Thru’ With The Two Step, Other Arms, Horizontal Departure, Wreckless Love
Disc 2 (45:28): band introduction, Slow Dancer, Like I’ve Never Been Gone, Burning Down One Side, Big Log, Little Sister, Stranger Here…Than Over There
Plant’s February 20th show in Osaka is the first outside of Tokyo. A previous silver pressing of this show can be found on Never Been Gone (Masterport-232) which has an incomplete soundboard recording from the beginning “In The Mood” to “Big Log.” But the new audience recording is very clear but slightly distant from the stage. It captures the atmosphere perfectly and is complete with the final two encore numbers “Little Sister” and “Stranger Here…Than Over There.”
The set remains mostly unchanged with long versions of “In The Mood,” “Pledge Pin” and “Messin’ With The Mekon” opening the show. Before “Moonlight In Samosa” Plant mentions how the songs in the show will travel between different dramatic idioms and calls “Moonlight In Samosa” a song “from the heart.”
“Thru’ With The Two Step” turns into a long showcase for guitarist Robbie Blunt with an acknowledgement from Plant afterwards. “Okay, Oaska. Hai, hai…this is where it changes again…that time, right? This is a song that is very, you might say, Americanized. And it is only right that, when you’re trying to create new music form angles, sometimes you lean on some of the standards of American music” is his long-winded introduction to “Other Arms.”
Plant introduces the band and they continue with “Slow Dancer” and ends the set with a very long, drawn out version of “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” featuring his vocal histrionics. “Big Log” is the first encore, his biggest hit from the new album to date. “Little Sister” takes them back further, according to the singer. This Elvis tune was part of the Honydripper’s set three years before. Plant famously sang the song in 1979 with Rockpile at the Kampuchea concerts.
The final encore is “Stranger Here…Than Over There” with a middle section strongly resembling the chaos of “Whole Lotta Love” and Queen’s “Get Down Make Love.” It’s a wild way to end the evening for the first night in Osaka.
Nagoya-shi Kokaido, Aichi, Japan – February 22nd, 1984
Disc 1 (58:07): Opening, In The Mood, Pledge Pin, Messin’ With The Mekon, Moonlight In Samosa, Thru’ With The Two Step, Other Arms, Horizontal Departure, Wreckless Love
Disc 2 (48:44): band introduction, Slow Dancer, Like I’ve Never Been Gone, Burning Down One Side, Big Log, Little Sister
An older tape source for Nagoya exists and is very good, but it has many cuts between the songs and has never appeared on silver bootleg before. Wardour utilize a new tape source which is very clear and taped close to one of the speakers. All of the instruments are clear and well balanced, but there is a bit of “flatness” in the recording. The setlist is the same as Osaka except for the final encore “Stranger Here…Thank Over There” which was not played.
Like Osaka, the show start off slowly and melancholy. The first real highlight occurs with the long keyboard introduction to “Thru’ With The Two Step.” Blunt again takes center stage with improvisation and Plant again acknowledges his efforts afterwards, saying: “On guitar Mr. Robbie Blunt all the way from England England England, Mr. Robbie Blunt on guitar. There’s a picture of one of Mr. Blunt’s former LPs in the second row. 16 And Savaged by Mr. Robbie Blunt. Can you imagine it,” he says, referring to Blunt’s 1973 LP with Silverhead. “Okay this is something totally different, something that will please people who used to wear leather jackets…it’s called ‘Other Arms.'”
Afterwards Plant teaches Nagoya the old “eye thank yew” routine from Led Zeppelin’s final tour in 1980. “Everytime you see other musicians from now on, no clap. Only ‘eye thank yew.’ But tonight you can clap but after tonight only thank. Here’s a song about some ‘eye thank yews’ that didn’t quite work” in introducing “Horizontal Departure.”
“Wreckless Love” hits the audience hard with the middle eastern rhythms. It’s his earliest foray into that style of music in his solo career and the results, punctuated by that eighties synthesized drum sound, are interesting in a live setting.
Plant incorporates some lyrics from “Since I’ve Been Loving You” into “Slow Dancer” and an emotional rendition of “Like I’ve Never Been Gone” closes the show. Plant comes in a bit early in “Big Log” but recovers nicely. There is three and a half minutes of cheering before the band come back out and reiterates the “eye thank yew” hand gesture before they finish with “Little Sister,” the final encore. Since Robert Plant titles are a bit of a rarity now, Swing And Sway is a very welcomed release. With the great sounding tapes and interesting shows, it’s worth adding to the collection.
These excellent performances are a trip down memory lane for this collector. Wardour has always release outstanding quality material and this is no exception.
Highlights for me are Thru With The Two Step and Slow Dancer. The majority of this is from Plant’s first and second solo albums and these are my choices over the others and have always preferred Robbie Blunt’s style compared to his future choices. Highly recommended release for casual and hardcore collectors!!!