Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
July 10, 2008
Chastain Park Amphitheatre
Atlanta , GA
This is what Robert Plant should be doing now. Sure, he can trot the globe belting out “Immigrant Song” and “Stairway To Heaven” in a reunited Led Zeppelin and the majority of the rock fans on Earth would rejoice. Instead, he has chosen to keep the legacy of that great band alive and untainted by continuing to evolve as an artist rather than get bogged down in nostalgia.
The interesting point to this is that as much as Robert Plant doesn't need Alison Krauss or T-Bone Burnette, they don't need Plant either. Which may be what makes the band that they all lead all the more thrilling. They're pushing each other. They're entertaining each other . And if the audience enjoys it, that's just gravy. It was evident from the moment they took the historic Chastain Park stage that they were relaxed and happy to be together.
“Rich Woman” set up the evening nicely. T-Bone's ringing guitar underscored the stunning harmonies of Plant and Krauss that lifted this performance from a Honeydrippers' style retro show to something unique and thrilling. But it was what came later that really set this experience apart.
The legendary riff to Led Zeppelin's “Black Dog” galloped not from a thick, chunky Les Paul but from the skin of a banjo. And instead of the prototypical banshee wail, Plant restrained himself to a perfect harmony with Krauss. Somehow it worked. Subtlety was given to a song known for having none and the humor of the lyric came out with a sly smile. The hamfist was kept tightly in pocket and everyone was the better for it.
Robert didn't ignore his solo career either. A hypnotic version of “In The Mood” gave way to Alison reviving “Matty Groves” before it turned back around to a reprise of “In The Mood”. This two-fer received one of many standing ovations this evening. The energy level rose tremendously for Zep's “Black Country Woman.” Plant swung his mic around and generally appeared to be having a ball. He and Alison would steal glances at each other like they were shy teenagers on a date, occasionally doing a little dance together.
The hot Atlanta summer night only added to the timeless haze of the music. Robert and Alison left the stage to T-Bone for a rollicking take on “Bons Temps Rouler” that featured drummer Jay Bellerose thundering steadily. Between songs I noticed the guitar tech on stage right was Robert Plant. Talk about checking one's ego at the door. This is the man that could have chosen to be the singer for the biggest, baddest band in the world right now (as well as in history) and he turned it down to do what he wanted to do. And what he clearly wants to do is have fun and create music with his friends and support them even when he wasn't playing. As Robert helped switch out guitars between songs, T-Bone commented on the humid weather with “It's great to be playing underwater.”
Alison eventually rejoined the boys without Robert for the highlight of the night. Tom Waits' “Trampled Rose” was eerie, violent and calm…all at once. A 10/8 beat would repeatedly resolve itself into fours before going back again. It was the musical equivalent of bi-polar disorder. And it was Alison who had the most affecting wail tonight. “Trampled Rose” was infinitely more sinister than the album take and by now, the beauty of this band was beginning to bare its teeth.
Robert Plant didn't reappear until “Down To The River To Pray” which started as a haunting a capella performance from Alison. The last time I saw her perform this live, she had Emmylou Harris and Patty Loveless chiming in with her. This time, she was alone until the end, when “the brothers” joined in on 3-part back up vocals. Again, seeing Robert Plant as a backup singer was very strange but the perfect thing for the song.
After a heartfelt introduction for the Townes Van Zandt song “Nothin'”, Plant finally cut loose. Alison didn't sing on this one and Robert ripped it up. He flung his mic and threw it down to accent devastating power chord punches from the band. They all followed “the moment” and were clearly stretching out from the recording, flying on the wings of improv before they would purposefully nosedive it into the ground. If there is no DVD or live CD of this tour, it will be a crime. As good as the Raising Sand album is, the live versions are infinitely better.
As if it was nothing, they then pulled out “The Battle Of Evermore” as an overwhelming duet with Plant and Krauss. I will admit to having chills on my arms as I heard those words, thought about our current war-torn country, enjoyed the beautiful melodies mixing with the perfect summer night. It was almost too much. And with the power of music and passion, for a moment during the extended passages where Robert and Alison demanded to the universe to “Bring it back, bring it back, bring it back”, they did just that.
A few minutes later, they were letting the good times roll again with the set ending “Gone Gone Gone”. The crowd was on its feet. Robert and Alison danced around and even playfully punched around a beach ball a few times with members of the audience. There were smiles all around. This was fun.
Photos and review by Chris McKay / concertshots.com
Robert Plant / Alison Krauss Set List For Atlanta on July 10, 2008
(Click on the highlighted links for YouTube videos from this show.)
2.Leave My Woman Alone
4.Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
5.Through the Morning Through the Night
6.Goodbye So Long
8.In the Mood / Matty Groves
9.Black Country Woman
10.Bon Temps Roule
13.Down to the River to Pray
14.Killing the Blues
16.The Battle of Evermore
17.Please Read the Letter
18.Gone Gone Gone
19.You Don't Knock
20.One Woman Man
21.When The Levee Breaks
22.Your Long Journey