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Dallas, TX Nokia Live

6 October 2005 2,735 views No Comment

Tin Pan Valley, Shine it All around, Black Dog, Freedom Fries, Seven and Seven Is (Love ’66), Going to California, Girl from the North Country, Another Tribe, What is and What Should Never Be, Four Sticks, Hey Joe, Gallows Pole
Encore: Babe I’m Going Leave You, ?? from Mighty ReArranger, Whole Lotta Love

This from Jeff Horton
Robert Plant and The Strange Sensation brought their version of the 21st century sound to the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas Thursday night. The rock-god veteran and very strong support cast sharply rocked, rolled, and pleased a crowd of approximately 4,000. Forty years of music was spanned as Plant paid homage to his glory days and proved his newest material will let him still bring down the house.

Opening with a forceful Tin Pan Valley and Shine it All Around, Plant showed he was determined as ever to rock and display new musical expressions. The latter was reinforced in the Zep numbers, each tweaked and presented in a strange way that captured the soul of the song but gave it new sensation. The first was a funkified Black Dog not instantly recognized by me or most of the crowd. I found it thoroughly enjoyable and wondered if Plant was going to morph into James Brown or maybe George Clinton, dreadlocks and all.

After Freedom Fries, Plant jokingly welcomed the crowd to “Billy Bob’s”, the oversized honky-tonk 20 miles to the west in Fort Worth. Then taking command of the venue, Plant christened it a “scintillating cabaret”. An accurate description of the stage layout, reflecting the kindred closeness of the band itself. Only two-third’s of the stage was used as the drums and keyboards were fairly close to front, providing the tight space for the four pointed diamond of one guitar to each side, the bass at the back center, lined directly behind Plant at front and center. Throughout the cleverly-lit show, Plant was throwing in all the usual moves, twirling and imitating Johnny Carson’s monologue-closing golf swing to punch the air when Justin Adams’ guitar hammered a note to the back of the hall. Plant also danced his right hand up, letting it imitate a python. It wasn’t the same ol’ Robert or Zeppelin, yet it was, in his signature willingness to experiment and re-grow his body of work.

As always Plant was the affable emcee, able to laugh at himself and enjoy the familiar comfort of being on stage. He mistakenly referred to Mighty Rearranger as Manic Nirvana. And exposed the audience to Love’s Seven and Seven Is from 1966. Then came the story of being in Texas by way of “the western sea” coming over the “misty mountains” (the North American Rockies), and, on the way, pulling an old song out “from a cave” that Plant noted had as much relevance today as it did 35 years ago. He was correct as the band launched into a well-received Going to California. GTC was followed by Plant’s tribute to Bob Dylan as someone who was more than a mere song writer and be-knighted the man with Texas citizenship. The tribute concluded with a well-played Girl from the North Country.

Plant then reflected on the current tour mentioning the stop in Iceland as he did with “Led Zep” all those years ago and playing for the Slavs in Europe. He then commented about the different tribes the band had performed for and how here tonight in Texas, and implied the U.S. leg overall, he saw a nation of tribes. The political message, if you wanted to hear it, being you may be Americans but you’re still part of the human race, treat your brothers and sisters everywhere as those who share your nationality. Then it was back to the rocking with Another Tribe. Throughout the evening’s performance, Plant frequently quickly clapped his hands together at the side of his face, bringing to mind a flamenco dancer snapping his castanets. Tribe was followed by What Is and What Should Never Be, where second guitarist Skin Tyson showed his mastery. From there, Four Sticks, blew away the crowd and could have been renamed Two Axes, as the strings of the band, including John Baggett’s bass, replace d Bonham’s pounding as the forceful undercurrent. It set the mood for a darkly rendered Hey Joe. Plant recast the opening query of the song from “that gun” to “that money in your hand”. It moved the song from a crime of passion to one of pre-meditation and tied back to his hope for better American treatment of the rest of Earth’s tribes.

It all perfectly bridged to the pre-encore finale that was opened with the plea for Mr. Jailer to bring Robert water to dry his throat. Plant repeated the plea to draw the audience into the setting and completed the seduction with the slow pacing at the front of Gallows Pole. As usual the acceleration of the song brought many to their feet. Most noticeably, a group of fans, standing in the far back corner of the venue. About a dozen youngsters in their teens waving their arms and dancing, connected in spirit to rock’s golden Adonis as he did the same 200 feet away at center stage. I smiled with assurance of Zep’s legacy and joy passed to yet anoth er generation. When Gallows Pole reached its frenzied conclusion Plant capped it with a Texas “ye-haw!!!”

From there the encores, including reworked versions of BIGLY and Whole Lotta Love. While the latter rocked, it wasn’t near the powerhouse knockout from the 1998 shows with Jimmy Page. It was embraced by the crowd nonetheless and lead to flowers being thrown on stage which Plant collected as he shook a few hands on the front rows before heading back for the group bow. Plant was content to join the row of his bandmates at one end, but they had none of that.

The others insisted he take his rightful place at center stage in the middle of his band. Plant nearly fell backwards into the drumset but was quickly grabbed by his mates. It brought his biggest smile of the night. As the others exited stage right, Robert was the last to head off. Then he grabbed the mike one last time. “We’ll be back again…before the end” he promised. Even though I’ve seen him five times in the last twelve years, I found something to hope for. Robert Plant at 57 sees there are more years behind him than lay ahead. As he takes his seat in the council of the elders of rock with Mick, Keith, Paul, and Dylan, he’s acknowledged his limits and his greatness. But when he performs, he always shows it isn’t the technical brilliance, although it was on display, it’s the spirit, the joy of song, the energy of sound, and the embrace of life, that make his generation of performers the luckiest and the most pleasurably fun to see and hear.

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