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Zeppelin without Plant? Five ways to avert a disaster

October 28, 2008 |  3:10 pm


Led Zeppelin, apparently, is mulling a new album and a tour, but without its defining vocalist, Robert Plant. Giving some heft to longstanding rumors, bassist John Paul Jones was quoted on a BBC Radio report as revealing that the band has been auditioning lead singers. Maybe Leona Lewis is booked.

But despite the BBC's defining headline of "Zeppelin to go back on the road," nothing appears imminent.

"It's got to be right. There's no point in just finding another Robert," Jones said, adding, "You could get that out of a tribute band, but we don't want to be our own tribute band. ... There would be a record and a tour, but everyone has to be on board."

Wired's Listening Post beat Pop & Hiss to asking readers if it's Zeppelin without Plant, but no bother. The answer is no -- credit Jones for already acknowledging the dreaded "tribute band" tag. But because there's no new Plant-less Zeppelin music to discuss at the moment, here's five ways to help ensure that Led Zep 2.0 has a fighting chance at working.

1. Don't get anyone who sounds like Plant. Not only are the man's vocals instantly recognizable, but any singer who's even remotely similar is going to veer the project straight into tribute band territory. For the new project to work, it needs to be a complete band, not just the leftover Zep members recording music with someone who kinda-sorta sounds like Plant.

2. Don't call it Led Zeppelin. Let it stand on its own, and not have to live up to every piece of music in the Zeppelin back catalog. Calling it Led Zeppelin is also a disservice to the fans who have been waiting for a reunion tour. Let's be clear: In no way, shape or form is it Led Zeppelin. Its two original members + the drummer's son + someone who's not Robert Plant, and all of that = a band that's not Led Zeppelin.

3. Don't fast-track it. Reunion rumors have been circulating for nearly a year now, stretching back to when the band played a London benefit last December. Surely the pressure is on for the act to get on the road. But since this is not Led Zeppelin (see No. 2), it's going to take time for this new, as-yet-unnamed act to find its footing. Target 2011, which also gives Plant time to change his mind.

4. If this tour does happen, focus on the new album, not Zeppelin material. In fact, don't play any Zeppelin songs until the encore, or near it. Keep focused on the new material. If the band is going through the trouble of recording a new effort, don't pull a Rolling Stones and simply use the album as an excuse to tour and play old Zeppelin material. Sure, "Whole Lotta Love" will get a big rise out of the crowd, but that's taking the easy way out. Zeppelin built its fan-base by challenging it. Has the desire now for some sort of Zeppelin reunion run so deep that fans wouldn't even care who's voicing the songs?

5. Keep tickets under $50. It's one thing to gouge fans for a long-awaited reunion that may never happen again. Led Zeppelin fans would be all too happy to give the band a victory lap. But if Jones and Jimmy Page end up touring the world with a new band, price it as such. Selling high-priced tickets based on decades-old Zeppelin hits, and doing so with someone other than Plant, is essentially forcing fans to pay for a touring Las Vegas show. The millions of Zeppelin fans who couldn't see the act last December deserve more.

--Todd Martens

Photo credit: Associated Press