What do you do when you’re battling a nasty chest cold, and a good friend calls up with a ticket to see Robert Plant and his Band of Joy? You go, of course! We saw them perform at War Memorial Auditorium last Tuesday, 2/8/11. It was a terrific show, and the band was tight as a tick. Buddy Miller, one of my favorite guitarists and songwriters, was the bandleader. Patty Griffin sang backup, Byron House played bass, Darrell Scott played steel, acoustic, and electric guitar. Marc Giovino was on drums and percussion.
Plant mixed it up, songwise, playing tunes from his latest album Band of Joy, early solo work (Tall Cool One), Led Zep (Ramble On, Tangerine, Gallows Pole, Rock and Roll, Black Dog, Houses of the Holy) as well as traditional folk and Americana. What made the performance so interesting was Plant’s approach to his LZ songs – what were originally mostly crunching rockers have been transformed into stripped-down almost folk-blues performances. They lost none of their power, however; if anything, they gained in stature. Plant is no longer the young cock rocker of the 70s, and he has wisely adapted his songs to a timeless mode of expression. He’s the old bluesman now, and he looks like he’s loving every minute of it.
War Memorial is a rather small venue; I’d say it holds maybe 2000. As a kid, I saw the Nashville Symphony perform there several times. Later on, before we had kids, my wife and I saw Joan Armatrading, Elvis Costello and the dB’s, and Todd Rundgren there. I have a lot of fond memories of that place, and last night definitely provided new ones. As I looked around at the audience, I kept thinking how different this must be from playing huge stadiums as the front man for Led Zeppelin. And yet, Plant was obviously having a blast performing his music for us. The final song of the encore was an a cappella rendition of a gospel lullaby, We Bid You Goodnight. Each member of the band took a solo turn singing a verse. It was a perfect end to an excellent performance. Here’s a video of that song being performed in Little Rock, AR:
Here’s a couple more pics: