Robert Plant Cancels Festival Gig to Stand Trial in 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Case

Robert Plant performs in Austin
Gary Miller/Getty Images

Robert Plant performs in concert as Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters at ACL Live on March 20, 2016 in Austin, Texas. 

Lawyers representing the L.A. classic rock band Spirit are taking Led Zeppelin to court over claims that “Stairway to Heaven” unfairly borrows from an instrumental track Spirit released three years prior to the Led Zeppelin IV centerpiece. The trial begins June 14, and it’s forced one of Zeppelin’s members to scale back his live plans. 

Today (May 25) the London music fest Meltdown announced Robert Plant will not be able to perform his previously-scheduled June 19 gig at Southbank Centre. The former Zeppelin singer was slated to play a show titled The Boat We're In as a benefit for the British Red Cross’ refugee awareness campaign.  

Plant is expected to appear in a California court alongside former bandmates Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. The case was supposed to begin May 10, but was pushed back to June 14.

Led Zeppelin Could Settle Its 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Trial For Just $1

As the plaintiffs, lawyers representing late Spirit guitarist Randy "California" Wolfe claim the famous opening of “Stairway” copies Spirit’s 1968 song “Taurus.” Zeppelin’s camp insists the alleged similarities come from a common musical ground that’s centuries old, and therefore falls outside of copyright protection. 

Since Plant will not be able to attend Meltdown, the fest canceled the Boat We’re In performance and is refunding all tickets via their original payment methods. “In place of this event, Southbank Centre would like to invite customers to a free concert in The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, with acts chosen by Guy Garvey and featuring Southbank Sinfonia,” Meltdown writes on its official Facebook page. The full lineup for that show will be announced in the coming days. 

Judge Asked to Order Robert Plant & Jimmy Page to Attend 'Stairway to Heaven' Trial

First held in 1993, Meltdown features a different musician curating its entire lineup annually. This year, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey is organizing the June 10-19 bill. 

“Robert has been enthusiastic to help in any way to the increased awareness and support of so many powerless and distraught peoples,” his reps said in an official statement. “Therefore the opportunity afforded at Guy Garvey’s Meltdown was an event that Robert was passionately drawn to.” 

Beyond the canceled June 19 show, Plant's official site lists a slew of European tour dates between July 1 and Aug. 7. 

For more on the trial, read yesterday’s Billboard report on Led Zeppelin’s claim that the “Stairway to Heaven” plaintiffs are trying to taint the jury pool.

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