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Robert Plant & The Band Of Joy – Chicago Auditorium Theatre

9 April 2011 3,205 views No Comment

Robert Plant & The Band of Joy set Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre

1. Black Dog

2. Down to the Sea

3. Angel Dance

4. Black Country Woman

5. House of Cards

6. Monkey

7. Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go (Buddy Miller vocal)

8. Silver Rider

9. A Satisfied Mind (Darrell Scott vocal)

10. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down

11. Twelve Gates to the City/Wade in the Water/In My Time of Dying

12. Patty Griffin song

13. Please Read the Letter

14. Houses of the Holy

15. Ramble On

Encore:

16. Tangerine

17. Harm’s Swift Way

18. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Whether singing blues, folk or Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant sounds fresh

by anders smith lindall

There was a moment early in Robert Plant’s set Saturday night at the Auditorium Theatre when the music fell away, a hush hung in the air and Plant sang delicately about getting older and “settling down.” Then just as quickly his band leaped forward, the throaty scream of Buddy Miller’s lead guitar split the silence, and the rocking-chair reverie was dashed.

It was a minute exchange, one little detail of a single tune — “Down to the Sea” — but it said much about the old soldier’s current path. Decades past his iconic stardom as Led Zeppelin’s “golden god,” Plant’s energy, vitality and curiosity are undimmed.

His voracious appetite for varied sounds is nothing new, of course. A shape-shifting ability to synthesize the styles of others has been Plant’s hallmark, whether as an English teen devouring blues or during his much later explorations of West African desert rock.

The new disc “Band of Joy” continues down the same mid-American dirt roads as “Rising Sand,” Plant’s Grammy-winning 2008 duo disc with Alison Krauss. But in addition to further elaborations on its elegant country, folk and blues, this latest album has a sharper rock edge owed largely to co-producer Miller, a fearsomely talented singer and songwriter in his own right.

Touring with the same core roster that recorded “Band of Joy,” Plant gave the musicians generous attention Saturday. He ceded the spotlight to Miller on the cutting country-blues “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go,” to multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott for Porter Wagoner’s stone-country classic “A Satisfied Mind” and to vocalist Patty Griffin’s earthy gospel turn on the R&B nugget “Ocean of Tears.”

Yet even at center stage, his presence didn’t overwhelm. Yes, the signature lion’s mane of curls was intact, along with the old habit of handling the microphone stand like a lover’s body, and that remarkable, instantly recognizable voice, mellowed but uncompromised by age.

But the focus was squarely on the songs. Plant and his players gave a bit of guitar snarl to “Angel Dance” by Los Lobos. And they fused sultry sex appeal with creeping dread in “Monkey,” one of two stately songs Plant pulled from an especially unlikely source, the intensely minimalist underground rock trio Low.

And, of course, they played Led Zeppelin. But “Black Dog,” which opened the set; “Black Country Woman”; the closing two-fer “Houses of the Holy” and “Ramble On,” and the encore take on “Tangerine” all sounded squarely of a piece with everything around them. Draped in gorgeous group harmonies, touched with haunted bouzouki or soaked in steel guitar, they came off rich, ringing and renewed.

Review by Anders Smith Lindall

 

Robert Plant in ghost dance with roots

Reveiw by Greg Kot

Robert Plant could’ve trotted out a greatest-hits set Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre and no one likely would’ve complained. Even just a hint of that old Led Zeppelin mojo and he’d be basking in standing ovations.

Instead, the 62-year-old singer gave easy nostalgia the brushoff at the sold-out concert and went for something far more elusive. He has chased the muse of American music from his European home for several decades, and now he’s got an American band to help him explore the roots of blues, country and folk. But again, the angle he took on these traditions was not always obvious, shadow-boxing with tradition and putting greater stock in rolling rhythm than rock bombast.

Plant glided through the concert like a lean, ringlet-haired ghost rather than a chest-thumping golden god; his voice evinced suppleness and nuance, his hands twirled shapes in the air, and he frequently deferred to his band and drifted into the shadows. At one point he played a harmonica in the darkness as if holding a private seance with the spirit of Sonny Boy Williamson.

Even Zeppelin perennials such as “Black Dog” and “Ramble On” didn’t sound quite like themselves. Plant and his Band of Joy didn’t try to replicate them in the least, instead aiming for a loose ebb and flow that suggested cosmic folk more than the proto-metal of the originals. Plant knew it would’ve been pointless to try to replicate the thunderous Jimmy Page riff at the heart of Zep’s “Houses of the Holy,” so he didn’t bother with it at all. Instead the song was refashioned around Darrell Scott’s pedal-steel moan into a country lament, then shifted into a gospel-tinged affirmation.

Besides Plant, the band boasted three excellent lead vocalists in guitarist Buddy Miller, multi-instrumentalist Scott and Patty Griffin, and the arrangements exploited the power of their instruments, notably on a cappella passages in the old Porter Wagoner country hit “A Satisfied Mind” and the five-part harmonies that turned Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” into a moving elegy.

Those harmonies are a new weapon in Plant’s arsenal; he often blended in with the ensemble, putting the focus on songs he admired, whether Richard Thompson’s “House of Cards” or Townes van Zandt’s “Harm’s Swift Way.” He was wise to let the band do the heavy lifting, because it was up for it. It shimmied at every opportunity, thanks to the work of bassist Byron House and drummer Marco Giovino, who mixed mallets, brushes and percussion knickknacks like a master painter. Miller played the resident mystic, even more so than Plant. He played guitar solos that simmered like a hot sun on asphalt during “Please Read the Letter” and a cover of Low’s luminous “Silver Rider.”

It was music that couldn’t easily be defined or pinned down, elusive and allusive, much like Plant himself.

The openers, a stripped-down version of the North Mississippi Allstars, did some roots-excavating of their own. Guitarist Luther Dickinson and his younger brother, drummer Cody Dickinson, dug into the trance-boogie traditions of their hill-country neighborhood. Even more impressive was a brief acoustic set by the duo, swapping rapid-fire guitar runs like back-porch virtuosos.

Reveiw by Greg Kot

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