25 Years Ago: Jimmy Page Begins First Solo Tour
Jimmy Page launched his highly scrutinized first solo tour on Nov. 21, 1988, at the Hummingbird in Birmingham, England, by playing new versions of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ among other songs.
The guitarist had just released his first non-soundtrack album away from Zeppelin — even though ‘Outrider’ included a guest vocal by Robert Plant (on ‘The Only One’) and contributions on all but two tracks by drummer Jason Bonham, son of Page’s late bandmate John Bonham. Perhaps on the strength of that partial reunion, ‘Outrider’ rose as high as No. 26 on the album chart, while earning a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental.
The tour in support of the album immediately followed, and so did over-sized expectations. One of the stops was praised by The Chicago Tribune for having “belied [Page's] age and longevity,” though the writer bemoaned Plant’s absence: “At times, Page seemed too alone onstage, working through material that appeared as distant to him as the band’s past. The result was a cold reminder that what once was Zeppelin is now distant history.”
Page was on the road with John Miles, who had scored a Top 5 hit in the U.K. with ‘Music’ in 1976 and sang on two of on ‘Outrider”s better cuts, ‘Wasting My Time’ and ‘Wanna Make Love.’ Page’s touring band was rounded out by drummer Bonham and bassist Durban Laverde, who had also performed on ‘Wanna Make Love,’ as well as on the Grammy-nominated ‘Writes of Winter’ and ‘Hummingbird.’
“People will see in the show that I’m not avoiding Zeppelin,” Page told The Los Angeles Times at the time. “That’s part of my heritage. I’m proud of it.” Indeed, Page also made room for Zeppelin’s ‘Custard Pie’ and ‘In My Time of Dying’ on the opening-night set list, as well as ‘Wasting My Time,’ ‘Wanna Make Love,’ ‘Writes of Winter’ and the new Zeppelin-esque instrumental ‘Emerald Eyes.’
Bonham, meanwhile, was hailed at the subsequent Chicago stop for “displaying his father’s rampaging drum style and penchant for flash.” Whatever critics thought of Page’s late-’80s shows, that onstage chemistry led directly to Page and Bonham’s later performances with Plant and John Paul Jones, making this solo jaunt a critical moment in the history of Led Zeppelin.