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2 old rock pros create a new heyday


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Was it Led Zeppelin or just an amazing simulation?

That question became moot with the thundering three-song salvo of "Thank You," "Bring It On Home" and "Ramble On" that opened the first of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant 's two sold-out weekend shows at the Rosemont Horizon.

His long blonde locks flowing and his well-buffed physique showing through a sleeveless shirt, Plant wailed his way through the three vintage Zeppelin tunes Friday while twirling his microphone stand around as if it were a baton. As for Plant's former Zeppelin partner Page, the guitarist played as if his life depended on it, surprising anyone who had written him off as just another rock 'n' roll casualty. No, without drummer John Bonham - who literally drank himself to death - or bassist John Paul Jones - who wasn't asked to take part - the Page-Plant tour isn't quite the second coming of one of rock 'n' roll's all-time great bands. Taken on its own terms, though, the two-hour show was a triumph for the two 50ish veterans whose energy onstage seemed to peel back the years.

To put it another way, Page and Plant's concert was better than anyone had a right to expect.

After Bonham's death in 1980, the two vowed they'd never again play Led Zeppelin songs together in concert. Thus it was with skepticism that some greeted the duo's recent "No Quarter" album and the "MTV Unplugged" special, which primarily featured acoustic versions of Led Zeppelin material. When their current tour was announced, some cynics assumed they must be doing it solely for the money.

But for anyone watching the thin, healthy-looking, animated and, most importantly, musically inspired figure of Jimmy Page on Friday, it was clear that for him this tour is more about musical salvation than money.

Following a somewhat desultory solo career in which his playing sounded bankrupt of both ideas and passion, Page's performance at the Horizon was revelation. Ripping off blistering blues riffs on "Since I've Been Loving You," bashing out power chords on an incendiary "The Song Remains the Same," providing some exotic acoustic guitar work on a Middle Eastern-flavored makeover of "Four Sticks," and playing to the worshipping crowd throughout, Page seemed like a man reborn.

As for Plant, the leather-lunged singer was in fine voice, whether doing some exotic-sounding scat singing on some new material that featured both an eight-piece Egyptian string and percussion group and a full symphony orchestra, or screaming like a banshee on an encore version of "Black Dog."

Drummer Michael Lee sledge-hammered the beat home all night like Bonham in his prime, while the addition of Cure guitarist Porl Thompson to the mix resulted in a surprise rendition of his band's own "Lullaby."

Ultimately, though, the Jimmy Page- Robert Plant concert wasn't as much about two old pros trying to reclaim past glories as it was about a pair of still vital musicians creating some new history.

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