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Page and Plant keep rambling on


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Author: Mark Guarino Daily Herald Music Critic

Wind machines blew, pot smoke flew and a sea of fists pumped the sky. The teenage boys in faded black, Led Zeppelin shirts were there, so were the middle-aged hippies knocking out air guitar licks. The cult Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have unwittingly built will always include the expected baggage, but as they proved Monday night at the United Center, they were fully capable of rising above it.

The music, once described as the hammer of the gods, did indeed thunder, but everyone knew that already. To shock the devoted, this time, Page and Plant would have to show some new-found soul, which they did like a blast of fresh air.

While most Woodstock Generation reunions have attracted cynicism for their flagrant greed mongering, Page's and Plant's recent match-up has the feel of two musicians pretending to start from scratch, but ending up sounding that way anyway. Monday's show - the second of two - flaunted mettle like the old days but was loose and jubilant.

Long gone was the stage mayhem younger bands have since adapted and made cliche. Instead, Plant emerged a bright soul singer and Page a reserved, clean and deeply felt guitarist. If noodling was to be had, it was only by the guys in the cheap seats attacking the air.

While Led Zeppelin kept classics like "Heartbreaker," "Ramble On," "Whole Lotta Love" and a long, elegant "Misty Mountain" grooved like they were new, it was their newest material in 19 years that was the real surprise. From the blues-based songs "Walking into Clarksdale," and "Heart in Your Hand" to the soaring "Shining in the Light," their collaboration sounded utterly heartfelt.

Both players refused to own up to their rock icon status when they provided several woody-sounding acoustic numbers, from the dreamy and beautiful "Going to California" (the rambling band's first travelogue, Plant said) to the 200-year-old blues work song "Gallow's Pull," which bellowed, sounding fiercely relevant in any time.

All those who expected "Stairway to Heaven" all night were luckier for it.

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