By Dale Anderson
Led Zeppelin doesn't give concerts; they perform physical transformation. They kneaded the full-house crowd in Memorial Auditorium into silly putty Sunday night with 2 hours and 50 minutes of massive sensory massage.
The sheer enormity of the sound did it (though the full moon may have helped), an enormity that resonates into your paleolithic pith, the cry of the dinosaur summoning out that primitive quickening in the face of monstrosity.
Whatever isn't touched by the earthquake rumble of John Paul Jones' bass, John Bonham's gunshot cracks on the drums or Robert Plant's echoey heart-of darkness voice is left quivering by the swooping electronic slices of guitarist Jimmy Page, especially his solo on the theremin.
Never mind that their newest album carries a variety of dynamics, the quiet sections hardly diminish the over-all sonic assault.
Their relatively simple brooding themes are blown larger than life, like sky scraping office buildings, and they lay on thick embellishments and b r o a d dramatic resolutions that mean more en mass than as individual items.
The four of them approached it all with unexpected good humor. Jones and Bonham laid back blithely amongst the folding backdrop of mirrors the run the length of the stage.
Page in black with a rhinestone-studded rose on his open jacket, prancing like a cocky midlands soccer player in a pub, Plant in tight jeans and a shirt jacket with rhinestones and, puffed sleeves strutting and grinding and shaking back his curly blond mane.
Plant avoided some of the astringent high notes he puts on records, singing for instance a low harmony line for "Over the Hills and Far Away." And for all his gyrations, he was hardly as compelling as Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart.
Page laughed off his first-number hassles with a slipping guitar strap as a stagehand buttoned it back together. Kept playing too. Plant was almost as cordial as a music hall host and chastised the firecracker tossers, of whom there were a lot more than usual.
The band took no breaks, despite the heat. Applause followed a few Page guitar solos but the youngish crowd didn't really erupt until the start of "Stairway to Heaven" and again when the spinning mirrored ball went on as it closed.
The heavy drumbeat into "Moby Dick" brought a rush on the stage and most of the hall stayed on its feet for that last hour, including along Bonham drum solo with special synthesizer effects.
An eight-minute ovation brought them back for an encore after their boogieing final number. "Thank you, Buffalo," Plant said when they finished. "Take care until we see you again."
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