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Royal Albert Hall at 150: 'It's the Holy Grail for Musicians' (Page / Plant Comments)


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Interviews by Michael Segalov
29 Mar 2021

It’s hosted opera greats, suffragette rallies, Hitchcock films, sports events, sci-fi conventions – and, of course, the Proms and countless rock gigs. Artists from Led Zeppelin to Abba recall their moments on the hallowed stage

The Royal Albert Hall is 150 years old today (and the Guardian was there to see it opened by Queen Victoria). With a design based on a Roman amphitheatre, stacked balconies pack the audience close to the action – and at a capacity touching 6,000, the number of visitors entertained at the London venue runs to many millions. But what is it like to play as a performer? We asked artists and sportspeople for their memories of being centre stage at the iconic venue.

Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin

Growing up, I only saw the hall in its glory from the outside; it was never a place one imagined would transport the music of untamed youth on to its golden boards. Creeping up on it as a member of Led Zeppelin was nerve-racking: this was the place of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten.

We were only months into our daring and ridiculous journey – barely having released our first record - when we were due to play. What on Earth would we do? I was overwhelmed by the place’s dignified presence and all it represented. It was a ridiculous triumph for a 20-year-old, cocking a snook to time and tradition as the music on both sides of the Atlantic boarded the revolution train, slowly but surely breaking down preconceptions.

In 1970 we returned, in between the releases of Led Zeppelin II and III. The dressing rooms were directly beneath the stage; sitting there this time, my anticipation was heightened by the horror of losing my voice. I’d barely been able to speak all afternoon, let alone sing. I was a shuddering wreck.

Something was shot into my arm, and I changed colour. I slipped down the wall in a stream of sweat, stood up, and went straight on to the stage. We opened with We’re Gonna Groove, and thankfully we did – it was incredible. For two hours we took the building to another place, there was an implosion of energy and joy: a full throttle and complete communion.

Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin

I first stepped foot inside the hall in May 1965 to see Bob Dylan. It was an acoustic set, and I’d never experienced anything like it. A month or so later I was back to see the International Poetry Incarnation: Adrian Mitchell, Michael Horovitz and Allen Ginsberg performed. Both of those shows made a huge difference to my development.

And then in January 1970, just years after my first visit, Led Zeppelin were playing our own records. It was beyond my young dreams. Then musicians were asked to get together for the ARMS (Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis) concerts in 1983. Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and I all said yes: the only time the three of us – who had all been in the Yardbirds – played on stage together. The following night was a charity gig for The Prince’s Trust: we were introduced to Charles and Diana. I just have so many memories.

It’s an iconic place to perform, Madison Square Garden’s its closest equivalent. But the Albert Hall is in a league of its own, it’s the Holy Grail for musicians.

 

Full Article:  https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/mar/29/the-royal-albert-hall-at-150-its-the-holy-grail-for-musicians

 

 

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The RoyalAlbertHall.com site has an article about Zep's show there:

https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/news/2017/january/9-january-1970-led-zeppelin-delivers-one-of-the-greatest-shows-of-their-career-at-the-royal-albert-hall/

And these quotes from Germaine Greer to me summarize how extraordinary the band's performance was that night:

"The sound came up to me with a force that pummeled me breathless. No other band ever managed to make a sound like that. It was certainly loud, but it was also driving, pushing along with incredible energy....For 10 years, rock and roll had been working towards something that would combine the extraordinary capacities of electronic instruments with the anarchic energy of youth, and there in the Albert Hall on January 9, 1970, I found it." 

Here's a link to her full review of the show:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandjazzmusic/3669830/Germaine-Greer-The-night-Led-Zeppelin-blew-my-mind.html

Edited by SteveZ98
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1 hour ago, SteveZ98 said:

The RoyalAlbertHall.com site has an article about Zep's show there:

good article, and interesting they included the Long Tall Sally video which is unofficial.

Question is, why did they use a 1975 photo at the top of the story?  Laziness?  Ignorance?

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On 3/29/2021 at 11:11 AM, sam_webmaster said:

In 1970 we returned, in between the releases of Led Zeppelin II and III. The dressing rooms were directly beneath the stage; sitting there this time, my anticipation was heightened by the horror of losing my voice. I’d barely been able to speak all afternoon, let alone sing. I was a shuddering wreck.

 

Going onstage knowing that your voice is shagged, and playing for over 2 hours.

And obviously doing the same thing repeatedly until his vocal cords were so damaged that he needed surgery.  And then still continuing before his voice was properly healed - to the point of starting a tour in 1975 with a cold, knowing the previous damage that had been done by doing the same thing!  It sounds insane.

it’s a wonder Plant can speak nowadays, let alone sing. 

Edited by woz70
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