Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

437

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in Denver, June 21, 2008

Geoff Anderson By

Sign in to view read count
Does all this gospel music mean Plant has found Jesus? More likely it means simply that he's found another musical genre to play around with.
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss
Red Rocks
Denver, Colorado
June 21, 2008


Over the years blues/rock vocalist Robert Plant has come up with some unusual and surprising combinations of music and rearrangements of classic Led Zeppelin tunes, but his recent performance takes the cake: Saturday night at Red Rocks, Plant sang as a member of a gospel choir—a long way from "I wanna give you every inch of my love."

His new persona as a choir boy emerged about two-thirds of the way through his performance with country/roots/bluegrass songbird and fiddler Alison Krauss. Reprising her performance of "Down to the River to Pray" from the movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou, she sang the first half of the song solo, then was joined by Plant, Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller for some a cappella vocals on the rocks. The distance of this subject matter from Zeppelin's typical topics was matched by the gulf between Zeppelin bombast and the sweet vocal harmonies heard on this tune and throughout the evening.

Plant and Krauss are touring in support of their successful album from last year, Raising Sand—a project produced by T Bone Burnett, who is in the band for the tour. "Down to the River to Pray" wasn't the only gospel song of the evening. Those in attendance also heard "Green Pastures" and "You Don't Knock," the latter introduced by Plant with a reference to the spectacular rock formations surrounding the venue as well as to Stonehenge, because Saturday was the summer solstice. He acknowledged the religious nature of the tune but assured audience members they didn't have to be of any particular religion to enjoy it. So does all this gospel music mean Plant has found Jesus? More likely it means simply that he's found another musical genre to play around with.

Zeppelin fans hoping for some heavy metal were probably disappointed, but anybody who liked the "Raising Sand" album had a great time. The band played 10 of the album's 13 tracks and only three Zeppelin tunes—"Black Dog," "Black Country Woman" and "Battle of Evermore." The group had been doing "When the Levee Breaks" on this tour but not last night, since recent events in the Midwest have taken the fun out of that one. They also threw in two songs from Plant's post-Zeppelin work, "In the Mood for a Melody" and "Please Read the Letter," which is also on Raising Sand and originally appeared on 1998's Walking into Clarksdale with Jimmy Page. Krauss sang several songs on her own, some from Raising Sand, others not: "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," "Through the Morning, Through the Night," "So Long and Goodbye to You," "Trampled Rose" and "Green Pastures."

Their tunes together were some of the best performances of the evening in no small part because of the contrasts that, however unlikely, work surprisingly well. It was the grizzled, howling rocker versus the sweet, clear-voiced country singer who includes several gospel songs on each of her albums. Plant had left the howls at home, staying fairly low-key throughout the evening. Having toured together for several months now, the two are obviously getting comfortable with each other. Krauss even improvised some harmonies on "Please Read the Letter."

"Black Dog" was a real highlight. A banjo started the tune by laying down the theme in slow motion. Plant and Krauss harmonized on the verse; then on the "ah-ah" portion, they laid out on every other repetition to let the audience join them for a call and response exchange. At this point in the Zeppelin version, a searing acid, blues-rock guitar swoops in for a clenched-teeth, white-knuckle solo. Last night this part was handled by...a fiddle! Some people have described the Plant/Krauss version of "Black Dog" as spooky. Perhaps a little of that effect was evident, but actually the performance sounded kind of sultry—like the next song Marilyn Monroe might have sung right after "Happy Birthday, Mr. President."

Krauss looked great in a turquoise shirt and black pants on her slim, attractive figure, her appearance in itself a commentary on the line from "Black Dog" that she delivered without a hint of irony: "I don't know but I've been told/Big legged woman ain't got no soul." Plant was relaxed in a casual shirt, jeans and snakeskin cowboy boots.

When the Raising Sand tour was announced, it seemed that a pretty obvious concert tune would be "Battle of Evermore." The original version of that one featured Sandy Denny on backing vocals, the only guest vocalist on any Led Zeppelin album. Krauss and band did the song justice and then some. The acoustic nature of the tune also fit right in with the rest of the Raising Sand material. Krauss gave another nod to Denny, who died far too early at age 31, with "Matty Groves," a traditional English folk song performed by Denny's band Fairport Convention.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017
Read We Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2017
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017 Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland" Live Reviews Arturo Sandoval At Yoshi's Oakland
by Walter Atkins
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read "The Cookers at Nighttown" Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin" Live Reviews Erik Friedlander At National Concert Hall, Dublin
by Ian Patterson
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 1-2" Live Reviews Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 1-2
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Earl Thomas At Biscuits & Blues" Live Reviews Earl Thomas At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: July 22, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!