The reason I am in Britain right now is for a family birthday party yesterday, in Trellech. The Saturday headliner at the Green Man at Glanusk Park was Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation. Now, you may find this odd for someone who writes about Led Zeppelin as often as I do, but I haven’t followed the ex-members’ careers at all and had never heard of them. But a visit to the Green Man Festival featuring Robert Plant just a few miles away from the house was too good a coincidence to pass up.
The audience had been evaporating after each set (unlike the mud)and returning just a few minutes before each band. Therefore, before Vashti Bunyan came on, there were just a few die-hards clinging to the stage. (I think if the others had realized it wasn’t raining under the stage canopy, there would have been more of us.) Seizing my chance, I put a hand on the stage between a group of younger people and a group of people with cameras and then easily, gradually, slowly, throughout Vashti’s set, insinuated my entire body up my wrist like an octopus following its leading tentacle, until I was leaning on the stage without apparently changing position. Then I was in prime fangirling position, ready to do the fangirl at the drop of a hat.
I’m glad I was that close through Vashti’s set as I think I would have been disappointed if I’d still been on the hill, no matter how many nachos I ate. Although the sound technicians seemed to take some care before the set, the sound was very quiet and almost intimate, appropriately so for those of us up close as it was more like a small folk club. (There were vast speaker towers to the side of the stage, where we couldn’t hear them, but Vashti Bunyan is not U2, so that can’t have sounded right either.) Her voice is frail and delicate and I certainly appreciated being so close.
The stage was cleared in record time and a small army of road crew brought out a mid-size everything-must-go warehouse o' rugs for Strange Sensation to stand on. I was directly in front of Skin’s guitar set up and got to see how all that was put together and tested. The group of younger people next to me kept me entertained throughout by making up chants to the intermission music. I’ve never heard anything like it from white kids; they could hear a riff or a melody, think of something to sing along to it, standardize and all get on the same page together and then chant it with the beat. They had me charmed. I tried to strike up a conversation with the girl of the group, but that tapered off when she said she ‘wasn’t born then’ in reply to me telling her when I’d last seen Robert Plant.
When the band came on, the first thing I noticed was that Robert Plant has the biggest feet I’ve ever seen. You know what they say about men with big feet.  It’s probably not surprising; he’s a big man, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested and significantly more robust than the Robert Plant I’d seen on stage in 1975 and 1979, way back more years than the girl next to me’s entire lifetime. The band started with something I didn’t recognize and went into Love’s 7+7 is . . . a song I never thought I’d hear played live, to be honest. I certainly never thought I’d hear it played by what turned out to be a killer rock band fronted by Robert Plant – from 8 feet away. The band alternated classics like that, their own songs and Led Zeppelin songs all the way through the set. The Led Zeppelin numbers were not done as covers – of which I’d been terribly afraid – but changed and developed the way songs do when their owners remodel them, which is entirely appropriate, Plant being the owner. Black Dog, in particular, was rousing indeed. Close enough to the original to sing along with (I did, at the top of my voice) and yet different enough to be almost a new song. The best of both worlds! The folk numbers blew me away. It was great to see this folk music (Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Gallows Pole, Going to California and a couple of others) done the right way, which is to say done by a bunch of rockers with really, really loud electric instruments and sung by Robert Plant. Cheered me right up.
And then Robert did drop a hat, signaling the start of fangirling. For some reason I let the girl on my left who wasn’t born then take it rather than fighting for it. You can see how older members of herds can just end up elbowed out and dying off if we can’t even remember how to fight for rockstars’ clothing when it rolls offstage . . . I should take up crochet instead of this rock&roll lark.
The band was very good, easily getting the crowd into the mood and providing solid rock&roll. I was expecting either a famous-person's-second-band (dreary and defensive) or a cover band. Instead they were a fighting-condition top-notch rock band. Guitarist Skin particularly drew my attention, partly because he was six feet away and had very loud amplifiers, and partly because he was very pretty, but largely because he can really play – and the band keeps tight around him. They play Whole Lotta Love in a good half-hour less time than Led Zeppelin, all that punch in a bite-sized package. Lovely.
Robert seemed happy and was funny a couple of times. They did Whole Lotta Love for an encore and after 'Woman, you need - ' he sang, 'Daddy needs it too', which sent the 17 year old girl leaning on the stage next to me into paroxysms of attempting to give it to him. This is, I suppose, the definition of rock music.
And compare the lyric to the ones I parodied yesterday.
Way, way down inside honey, you need it,
I'm gonna give you my love...
Unarguable, definitive statement. Use of concrete noun. Expressions of personal intent. That’s better.
Small things make my day dept.:
Skin tuned his low E at one point and instead of looking into mid-air as one would expect him to do when tuning he looked at his box of tricks by his pedals. There, in a unit with all the other meters was a little LED display saying "E". He turned away and as he touched his A string, the display changed to show he was playing the note "A". So that's how they do it . . . I might be just a little slow with new technology but I had no idea the guitar tuners were integrated into everything else like that. It's the little things that make a gig memorable for me.
 They have big shoes.