"It was cathartic... a trial by fire": Robert Plant on how it felt to sing Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven for the first time in 16 years, and possibly the last time ever

Robert Plant, 2023
(Image credit: Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Palms Resort & Casino)

Robert Plant has revealed that performing Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven for the first time since 2007 at a charity gig in England last year was "cathartic", albeit "a trial by fire".

Led Zeppelin's former frontman has a famously complicated relationship with the band's most iconic and best-known song.

“I’d break out in hives if I had to sing it every show,” the singer told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don’t know. It’s just not for me. No more Stairway to Heaven for me." 

But last year, for the first time since Led Zeppelin's performance at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London's O2 Arena on December 10, 2007, Plant performed the song at a gig in Oxfordshire organised by former Duran Duran/The Power Station guitarist Andy Taylor to raise money for The Cancer Platform charity. 

In an exclusive new interview with Rolling Stone to promote an upcoming North American tour with Alison Krauss, Plant is asked how it felt to perform the song once more, and he replies, "It was cathartic."

"People go, 'Oh, that’s good. He never was going to do that'." he continues. "But I didn’t really do it! I just blurted it out. ‘Cause it’s such an important song to me for where I was at the time and where I was with Jimmy and with John and Bonzo. So on that night, it was what it was. It was a trial by fire, but I felt better at the end than at the beginning." 

When writer Brian Hiatt says, 'I was thinking it could be the last time you ever sing that song. Would you be OK with that?', Plant responds," Yeah, I think you’re probably right."

"I haven’t got around to doing the ice-skating rinks in Finland yet with a small orchestra," he adds with a laigh. "So I don’t think I’ll be doing that, but I don’t know. Who knows? Something could change somewhere. Spirit and heart could come back in the soul. It’s a long song. Who can remember all those words?" 

Plant and Alison Krauss have lined up 28 dates in North America for their Can't Let Go Tour in June, August and September. Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 16. More details here.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.