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OC LIVE : POP MUSIC : Plant, Page: High Returns on a ‘Quarter’

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are pleasantly out of step with the times, having settled in their reunion for a run-of-the-mill big score when they easily could have gone for an inconceivably huge killing.

Having decided to reunite for their first album and tour together since Led Zeppelin days, Plant and Page could have invited along old crony John Paul Jones, hired a drummer in lieu of the gone-but-not-forgotten John Bonham and rumbled forth once more under the Led Zeppelin banner. As Led Zep Again, they could have played to packed stadiums until they couldn’t stomach another note, or until their bank accounts burst, whichever came first.

Instead, in defiance of 1995 capitalism’s mania for profit enlargement uber alles, P&P; have taken the comparatively modest tack of touring arenas and outdoor amphitheaters as just themselves. The move may have cost them a few million bucks, but it spared them having to hear themselves play “Stairway to Heaven” every night, which a reconstituted Zep pretty much would have been obligated to do (gosh, if all fabulously rich people took such a cavalier approach toward their incomes, thousands of downsized Americans might still have real jobs).

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Instead, Plant and Page bought the freedom to try out a few new colors to go with their old band’s fundamentals of heavy rock and mystic moods.

On their reunion album “No Quarter” and in their touring, they have incorporated an ensemble of Egyptian percussion and violin players, bestowed the spotlight on a hurdy-gurdy man, and hired large string orchestras at each stop.

When their caravan passed through Southern California last May, those fresh embellishments worked splendidly to bolster and intensify some well-chosen nuggets from the Zep catalogue. The two protagonists did their share, Plant with a fine vocal performance and Page with at least intermittent displays of his old guitar fire.

The spring go-round offered a couple of odd song choices: “Lullaby,” by the Cure, in unnecessary deference to the fact that Cure guitarist Porl Thompson is part of the P&P; touring band, and “Shake My Tree,” a routine raunch-rocker originally sung by Plant imitator Dave Coverdale on an album he did with Page (that was a few years back, when Plant was saying he didn’t want to revisit the past, prompting poor Page to ally himself with the closest substitute he could find, which happened to be the wretched front man of Whitesnake).

It will be interesting to see whether a new tour leg brings some fresh selections. Don’t look for “Stairway to Heaven,” though--P & P have too much integrity to do it. Either that, or they’re as greedy as any merge-and-purge empire builder and, in a Barnum-like stroke, they’re saving it for the real Led Zeppelin reunion.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

* What: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

* When: Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m.

* Where: Irvine Meadows, 8800 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.

* Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to the Irvine Center Drive exit. Turn left at the end of the ramp if you’re coming from the south, right if you’re coming from the north.

* Wherewithal: $25 to $75.

* Where to call: (714) 855-6111.

* POP & ROCK LISTINGS, F18

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