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Pleasant Nostalgia - Page, Plant Charisma Carry `Zep' Reunion


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The songs have changed, but the band retains the name.

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have avoided calling their current tour a reunion. But there was no doubt among fans at Friday and Saturday's sold-out shows at the Rosemont Horizon. Led Zeppelin was back.

Yes, John Bonham and John Paul Jones were missed. But for two hours, the most famous faces behind the most influential band of the '70s delivered energetic and often imaginative readings of classic-rock staples. During their 15 years apart, it was easy to forget that Page's and Plant's personal charisma was a big part of Zep's power. But at 51 and 46 respectively, they've still got magnetism to spare.

Plant took the stage shirtless in a denim vest, tossed his long golden locks, and launched into his whirling dervish dance. Wearing a purple satin shirt, Page arched his back and fired off fluid, melodic solos on his famous sunburst Les Paul. Suddenly, it was 1975 again.

The band opened strong with the beautiful ballad "Thank you," the raging "Bring It On Home," and the J.R.R. Tolkien-inspired "Ramble On."

Plant can't hit the highest high notes anymore, and it was a bit disappointing that after 27 years, Page hasn't discovered a new guitar trick besides the swooping, theremin solo of "Dazed and Confused" (employed at the Horizon in the middle of a new, bluesy number, "Shake My Tree").

On the other hand, "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was retooled as a twisted folk number with the addition of Nigel Eaton's hurdy gurdy, and the climactic set-ender "In the Evening" became a Middle Eastern drone a la "Kashmir."

The group was accompanied by an ensemble of Egyptian musicians as well as a contingent of local orchestral players. In the '70s, anti-Zep critics charged that the band pillaged the blues. An argument could be made that Page and Plant are doing the same today with world beat.

But there was a more significant question poised at the Horizon, and that was: Are Page and Plant still a significant creative force?

They're definitely more potent as a team than as solo artists. But none of their new songs approached the power of the old Zep numbers, or even a tune like "29 Palms" from Plant's last solo outting.

It's been a long time since they rock 'n' rolled, and it was nice to have them back. But Page and Plant have yet to prove that this reunion is anything but pleasant nostalgia.

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