Performer: Robert Plant
Songwriters: Robert Plant, Phil Johnstone, Chris Blackwell
Original Release: Manic Nirvana
Definitive Version: None
As I mentioned, I got into Now and Zen just before I moved to Flint, so when Manic Nirvana came out in 1990, it was perfect timing. I was ready for something new, and I played that CD and a tape of the CD all the time.
So when Dave suggested going to see Plant in concert that fall, the only answer was, of course. Heck, even if I hadn’t been totally into his solo music, I would have been keen to go, because, as Dave pointed out, this was as close as I seemingly would ever get to seeing an actual member of Led Zeppelin on stage.
The concert was in Saginaw at the Civic Center downtown, and the notable thing about that was that I had never been to Saginaw, which I thought was interesting considering I had known of the existence of Saginaw as far back as I could remember.
Saginaw was one of what I called the tri-cities that we passed on the way to Torch Lake. The route heading north, of course, went Flint, Saginaw and Bay City, all in rapid succession. The cities were islands in an otherwise sea of farmland. But the route, first on US-23 and later on I-75 when it was complete, never took us through the cities proper. The first time I ever truly saw Flint was when I interviewed for the job at The Journal in 1989. I’d never seen Saginaw. (And I still have never been to Bay City.)
Anyway, Dave drove, and we got to the Civic Center fairly early, well before the warm-up act—Faith No More, which was very hip for a very brief time. Our tickets were General Admission, and we wanted to get decent seats. (I didn’t want to stand on the floor, so we sat in the roughly 5,000-seat barn.
I remember a lot about the show, but the thing that stood out the most was that it might have been the shortest performance I ever saw. I think Plant did 11, maybe 12 songs—not quite an hour and a half—before calling it a night. And he did only one solo song that predated Now and Zen, so no Big Log, no Little By Little, no Burning Down One Side.
That was disappointing, considering I was so into his solo stuff. Instead, he did four Zeppelin songs, which, of course, was what everyone wanted to hear anyway.
And he played a lot of Manic Nirvana, including this one. If you’re not familiar with the song (and you should be), it has a real driving drum pulse underneath. And that was played up live. It was the leadoff song, and the keyboard player and bass player were pounding away at drums in addition to the drummer. This went on for at least a minute (it seemed longer) before Plant stepped on stage to much approval.
Like I said, it was an incredibly short show, which he finished with an encore of Rock and Roll. Before he left, he said that he had never been to Saginaw before (the show was tacked on to the end of his tour), and it seemed like a good town.
As far as I know, he’s never been back. Neither have I.