Speaking after the show, Plant, who was visibly moved by the rendition, told her he’d developed negative feelings about the song but that she’d helped change his mind, she said.
“It went off really great,” Wilson explained in a recent episode of the Eddie Trunk Podcast. “Afterward, the Zeppelin guys each came back individually… [John Paul] Jones was like, ‘Wow, you did a great job.’ And Robert Plant goes, ‘Whoah, I learned to just hate that song because everybody murders it – but you did it justice. Way to go!’ And Jimmy Page goes… ‘You played that great; just lovely.’”
She argued that the emotional moment was made even more so because Jason Bonham, son of late Led Zep drummer John, was part of the extended band on stage. “He [used to be] the little kid, scampering around the practice areas in their rehearsal spaces and their studio space… running around outside when they were recording outside,” she said. “He was the little kid that grew up with them, like his uncles. So I’m sure that was a lot about the emotional reaction that they got, that they were surprised to have, during that song.”
Wilson also recalled that she hadn’t performed well during the only rehearsal that took place before the performance. “It was cold as heck in Washington D.C.,” she reported. “My hands were freezing when we finally got into the practice room with all the choirs and all the players… So it’s like, ‘Okay, go, let’s just play “Stairway to Heaven.” You start.’ … I’m trying to play this beginning, and I’m just barely getting it together, because it was just a cold, draughty old place.
“The guys in the house band were like, ‘Oh, well, we could just shadow you. You just kind of play along, kind of behind…’ It’s like, ‘No, no, seriously, I got this – don’t worry about me. … I’ve got this. I’ve been playing this all my life’.” The next day, before the show, she made certain her hands were warm enough. “I walked out there, took a really, really deep breath, just looked them in the eye, had a very big exhale and started,” she said.
Watch Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson Perform ‘Stairway to Heaven’