On my list of trials and tribulations endured in pursuit of rock and roll at the Tower Theatre over the years, I'd have to rank Wednesday night's Robert Plant / Band of Joy debacle right up there with the time I cut my head open on the ceiling at the bottom of the steps to the men's room at a screening of The Who's The Kids Are Alright, and the time I threw up in said men's room between sets at a Ramones / Debbie Harry / Tom Tom Club show. (And still filed my review on time, thank you very much.)
Not that I have any complaints about Plant's performance. As you can read here in Friday's Inquirer, it was a splendid 100 minutes, highlighted as much by old-time excavations like "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" and "Satisfied Mind" (with BOJ's Darrell Scott singing lead) as any of the five Led Zeppelin songs the five guys plus the fabulous Patty Griffin did, including "Rock and Roll."
(It has been pointed out to me by perspicacious reader Frank Signorello that Plant and Band of Joy actually did six Led Zep songs, if you include "Nobody's Fault But Mine." To which I say: Yeah, that's true, the original heavy metal hair farmers did do that song on Presence. But like so many Led Zep songs, it's not really a Led Zep song. It's a Blind Willie Johnson song, or at least that incomparable gospel-blues man did the first known recording of it in the 1920s. Plant and Page simply had the typically massive cojones to record it and put their own names down as writers. So I say, "Phooey!" That still makes five.)
But I digress. The debacle of which I speak had nothing to do with the music, and everything to do with the extremely miserable weather, which the goateed golden god, pictured above in a photo I snapped at the Tower, acknowledged when he thanked the crowd "for coming out on such a treacherous evening. BRRRR!"
BRRRR!, indeed. One of the things that was remarkable about the show was how many people showed up, despite the thunder snow that was falling at the rate of (at least) two inches an hour while the band was on stage. But while I'm sure there were some no-shows, they seemed mostly to be in the press row, where Phawker tough guy Jonathan Valania was the only other scribe I spied at the most high profile rock show of the year so far. Everywhere else, it appeared packed.
And treacherous, of course, was an understatement. I'm sure many other Plant-Zep fans had similar travails. My version: It took me 40 minutes to make the normally 15 minute drive to Upper Darby. Kind of a pain, but not too bad. But that was a picnic compared to the 2 and a half hour epic journey home, which involved lots of digging and spinning trying to get out of an unplowed parking lot, and relying on the kindness of a handful of good samaritan strangers to push me along with way, lest I turn into an ice sculpture. All in the name of "Rock and Roll"!
So thank you, guy named Bob, for giving me a shove. Hats off to you, Septa bus driver, for getting me out of harm's way even as you were stuck stranded in the land of the ice and snow, "Immigrant Song"-style, for the duration. And thanks, too, to the young gentleman in the SUV who took the time to tell me about the lack of traffic headed east on Market Street despite being busy with a business transaction that involved a massive wad of cash.
Below, three Band Of Joy performances recorded at varous tour stops last summer, to keep you warm.
Previously: The Dismemberment Plan