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Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy – Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

21 January 2011 3,949 views No Comment

Robert Plant and The Band Of Joy continue their US tour with a lively show in Michigan which included the re-appearance of Silver Rider and a bizarre hat wearing encore (see photo below)

Angel Dance
Please Read The Letter
Down To The Sea
Rich Woman
House of Cards
Love Throw a Line
Central Two-O-Nine
Satisfied Mind
Silver Rider
Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go
You Can’t Buy My Love
Houses of the Holy
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Twelve Gates to the City/Wade in the Water/In My Time of Dying Medley
Tall Cool One
Ramble On
Gallows Pole
Harm’s Swift Way
Rock and Roll
I Bid You Goodnight

photo by Wyatt Brake

Robert Plant makes Michigan fans very happy with his ‘Band of Joy’

Suffice to say, Robert Plant has been entranced by American roots music for a long, long time, immersing himself in seminal recordings of old blues masters who inspired Led Zeppelin’s heavy rock in the ’60s and ’70s.

“The English have been quite famous for taking American music and re-presenting it to the Americans,” the rock band’s frontman told me in a 2002 interview. “There’s nothing much left that the English can bring back to you guys now.”

On the contrary, Mr. Plant.

Now in his 60s, the curly-haired singer has earned Grammy nods and drawn widespread acclaim for his reinterpretation of folk, bluegrass, country and rockabilly music in much-acclaimed studio projects with Alison Krauss (“Raising Sand”) and his current “Band of Joy.”

On Friday night in Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium, he “re-presented” some Americana gems – along with revamped Led Zeppelin classics – in a way that not only held true to their soulful origins, but advanced them with a distinct Plant edge that absolutely beguiled the 3,000-plus fans on hand.

He did it brilliantly, with a hefty helping hand from Patty Griffin on backing vocals and album co-producer Buddy Miller on guitar, on “Can’t Buy My Love,” a scorching, rockabilly-styled version of a mid-60s R&B tune.

He did it as a sideman, playing an impressive bit of harmonica while Miller dove into a rollicking, crowd-revving version of the countryfied “Trouble.”

And the singer may have triumphed best of all with Miller, Griffin and the rest of his touring version of the Band of Joy (multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, bassist Byron House and spot-on drummer Marco Giovino) when he ended the night’s main set with “Gallows Pole,” the old traditional American folk-blues number that Led Zeppelin refashioned on its third album.

Starting in spare fashion with Scott on banjo, the Band of Joy’s rendition of the dark tune was scary and powerful, building to a dynamic, raise-the-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck finish that proved definitively that Plant’s most recent music exploration project is a resounding success.

After the duo version of the North Mississippi Allstars (Luther and Cody Dickinson) warmed things up nicely with a bluesy 38-minute opening set immersed in the deliciously swampy South, Plant and his crew got things rolling with Los Lobos’ upbeat “Angel Dance,” followed by “Please Read the Letter,” which Plant and Krauss recorded for their “Raising Sand” album.

The show’s early vibe had a psychedelic flavor with Miller in a goofy hat (and tassels swinging from the head of his electric guitar) while Plant meandered between the musicians on stage.

But when the band kicked into gear on “House of Cards,” from Plant’s “Band of Joy” album, everything seemed to really fall into place for this super-group of highly regarded musicians and singers.

Plant seems to recognize the limitations of a voice decades removed from its heavy metal heyday, instead accentuating its resonant strengths on these slices of Americana – vocals which mesh beautifully with Griffin’s higher, more crystalline strains.

“It’s a great thing, this Band of Joy. It’s super-duper stuff,” Plant crowed. “I’m proud to be part of this.”

From there, things only got more compelling, whether it was Griffin taking over lead vocal duties on “Love Throw a Line” or the band performing a lush, magical cover of Low’s “lo-fi” song “Silver Rider,” or tackling gospel-drenched tunes such as “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” “12 Gates to the City” and “Wade in the Water,” or eventually, unfolding its own rootsy takes of Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine,” “House of the Holy” and “Ramble On,” which took on a groovy, lava-lamp-like vibe.

The journey into Led Zep-land clearly ignited the Hill Auditorium crowd, which ranged from baby boomers bred on Plant’s legendary rock outfit to college kids still inspired by the influential group.

Plant, for his part, seemed absolutely jubilant about “re-presenting” those Led Zeppelin classics in a fresh way, including giving “Rock and Roll” a peppy, rockabilly twang during the encore.

And at times, he still came off as the “golden god” of those days of old when Led Zeppelin played Detroit’s Grande Ballroom, cradling his microphone stand with his head tossed back and his legs crossed on stage.

“It’s been a great night,” Plant raved, before the group closed things out in gospel-drenched, a cappela fashion.

And who could argue with that?

-John Sinkevics



Robert Plant delights with Band of Joy at Hill Auditorium

Even Robert Plant doesn’t quite seem to know how to label what he’s playing with his new outfit, Band of Joy. But he seems pretty sure — as did an adoring audience at Hill Auditorium Friday — that, whatever it is, it’s working pretty well for him.

“What a great night,” Plant said as his 90-minute set wound to a close. “You get it. We get it.“But what is it?”

Good question. In fact, it was a return to Plant’s pre-Led Zeppelin roots, finding the still-golden-haired singer exploring deep American blues, Appalachian gospel and British folk music, with a little low-fi indie rock thrown in amid a handful of Zep classics.

And, for as weird as it was at times, it it worked pretty well on Friday.

It doesn’t hurt that Plant has assembled a world-class band, anchored by the always-amazing Buddy Miller on lead guitar, as well as singer-songwriter Patty Griffin on guitar and vocals and multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott on just about anything with strings.

Nor does it hurt that, behind those three, Plant might be the fourth best singer in the band.

But in spite of some occasional pitchiness — and, unfortunately, frequent feedback issues — Plant has a way of making a song his own. Ever the showman, he can sell a song by sheer charisma, even at age 62.

There isn’t much to a lot of the covers Band of Joy tackled. Songs like the rockabilly-tinged “You Can’t Buy My Love” or “Please Read the Letter,” which was culled from Plant’s multiple Grammy Award-winning 2007 record, “Raising Sand,” lack any real hooks and tend to sound same-y as a result. But Plant added a stately grace to even the thinnest of material, whether he was singing or playing sideman to his bandmates by shaking maracas or dancing along.

Miller, Scott and Griffin took solo turns on one number apiece. Miller’s was the highlight, benefited by Plant’s bluesy harmonica work and Griffin’s harmonies.

Plant, likewise, was at his best when harmonizing with Griffin, as he did frequently, or reinventing the gospel standard, “Wade in the Water,” which segued beautifully into the blues standard “In My Time of Dying,” made famous by Led Zeppelin on “Houses of the Holy.”

Not surprisingly, that song and selection of other Zeppelin classics were the evening’s best-received, if most uneven, tunes. “Tangerine,” the “Led Zeppelin III” chestnut, was appropriately twangy, while “Gallows Pole” was as dramatic as ever, although “Ramble On” was a mere shadow of it former self as a vapid, deconstructed folk tune void of any dynamics. But Miller proved that Jimmy Page has got nothing on him during a smoldering, reading of “Rock and Roll” that should become the standard by which the song is measured.

by Will Stewart

Robert Plant plays Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium Sample

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