Worlds collide: The end of a 21-year chase

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, our nation experienced devastation the likes of which we’ve never seen, destroying thousands of homes, taking thousands of lives, and virtually wiping out the rich cultural heritage that is New Orleans.  In this time of crisis, the world’s musical community has come together like no other time in our history, staging numerous benefit concerts that have raised tens of millions of dollars.  As a result, numerous moments that fans could have never anticipated have unfolded before our eyes. 


For me, the most memorable moment occurred October 5 in Chicago, when Robert Plant joined Pearl Jam for a show at the House of Blues.  Plant and the Strange Sensations opened the evening before Pearl Jam performed on the most intimate stage the band had graced in years.  While anticipation in the crowd was high, little did anyone know just how magical this night would be by evening’s end.


Plant returned to the stage for the final five songs of Pearl Jam's set, starting with “Going to California,” “Little Sister,” and “Money.”  He and Eddie Vedder harmonized beautifully, trading vocal leads as smoothly as Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks swap guitar licks.  After digging down to the roots of their youth, performing Elvis, then the Beatles, the two reached even deeper, into the Led Zeppelin catalogue, pulling out a song that had never been performed live – “Fool in the Rain.”


This is the song that literally changed my path in life when I first heard it in 1984.  At that very moment, I left behind years of pop fandom (the previous year, I had traveled 250 miles to see the Jackson Five) and discovered the wild world of rock-n-roll.  I’d searched for a live version of “Fool in the Rain” for years, only to learn that no member of Zeppelin has ever performed the song live. 


I never dreamed that one day Plant would sing this one, let alone sing it with Pearl Jam, a band whose music was introduced to me by Dave Schools just after their debut CD.  Dave said the band reminded him of Led Zeppelin (our mutual favorite band).  He loaned me his copy of Ten and I’ve loved it ever since, so much so that I would rate the CD as one of my ten (non-Zeppelin) favorite discs of all time.


Listening to the show close with a dead-on version of “Thank You,” I was taken back in time.  When I realized it was in fact 2005, I felt a circle has just been completed.  Zeppelin brought me to rock-n-roll, then I found a band I affectionately call Panic.  Hanging at Dave’s house, talking about our Zeppelin bootleg collections, telling tales of standing in front of the mirror doing his best Jimmy Page impersonation, I found Pearl Jam.  I always trusted Dave’s musical advice and, as usual, his comments that Pearl Jam was “the closest thing to Zeppelin” he’d ever heard, I found a new outlet for my wild rock-n-roll side.  And now, 21 years after my search for a live “Fool in the Rain” began, Vedder convinces Plant to finally perform the song live. 


In the span of five and a half minutes, my 21 year search was no more.  In the end, I was left with one thought – there’s nothing better than an honest tune live.