Tuesday, April 22, 2008

LedZeppelinNews.com review of Plant-Krauss show in Knoxville, Tenn.

Photo from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
concert in Knoxville, Tenn.,
courtesy of Bruce "The Buckeye"

8:57 lights out. A soft musical intro rich with fiddles is cued onstage. The band members take their instruments, with T Bone. Taking center stage for ampment. The golden god steps on from stage left. The dazzling bluegrass angel steps on from the opposite side. "Rich Woman" has started, and we're underway in Knoxville.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss both have long, flowing, curly blond hair. Alison's ruffles are sweetly swaying. She's checking out the action between lines. Plant, on the other hand'is just snapping his fingers and moving his body from the waist up. To me, that's what cool is. He's smiling, they're looking back and forth at each other, and he's right on for every musical cue.

They're even gesturing to one another for the lyrics 'She's got the money, and I've got the honey." Plant seems to be amused by this. Plant owns the song a few different times too' after choruses when he adds a few ad libbed lines and at the song's end when he moves with the final note.

"Leave My Woman Alone" is a faster number that wouldn't have been out of place on the album. Alison's got a fiddle with her for this one. Plant's taking care of the verses here, the country star he is these days. That black button-down shirt and graying beard of his don't seem very out of place in this setting. On this third show of the tour, and having already picked up a CMT award last week, he's fitting in quite well into this new role. Which may be why the next song also works in this act.

"Black Dog" isn't the pounding thumper it was in 1971. Now it's arranged quietly, with a banjo picking the riff. Thank goodness that riff's not lost! Robert and Alison grace us with the opening line, and folks recognizing it are appreciative. The guy next to me is laughing with amusement. Each line of the song is greeted with loud screams. The place loves it! Robert beckons the crowd to echo back the "ahh ahh"s -- I would really prefer to listen to the band during those parts though! This arrangement is brooding and it cooks. A violin solo takes the place of a guitar solo, filling the place well.

For "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," Robert takes his seat on a stool behind Alison where no spotlight is on him. He's oohing and ahhing behind her on this tune from the Sam Philips catalog, which she is nailing on both vocals and that set of strings she loves to wield. Robert's intent gaze is on her during her instrumental interludes. The tempo is a tad lower than on the album, which is a welcome fact. Alison remains the center of attention for "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Three-part harmony gets us through portions of this tune, courtesy of Plant and Stuart Duncan, who has already established himself as a multi-instrumentalist.

The logical thing to do after a two-song Alison spotlight is to do the same for Robert. Well, he gets that for the next song, "Fortune Teller," which is delivered with amazing conviction. Then even better is a two-song hit of Led Zeppelin material. Plant says "Black Country Woman" was very Tennessee. For the later verses, he and Krauss are singing their hearts out, and the PA is at max volume as it was for the choruses of "Through the Morning, Through the Night." The next song is the best-received so far, "Hey Hey What Can I Do." Toward the end of it, he's singing like he did back in Zeppelin days, and it really shows how much he is into this. Give this man a break!

And he gets one. A long one. T Bone Burnett leads the band in a few, "The Rat Age" and "Levez les Bons Temps Rouler." Alison's take on "Trampled Rose" follows, with "Green Pastures" next. Finally, Plant is back to sing with Stuart Duncan and Buddy Miller in a three-man harmony part backing Alison on "Down to the River to Pray." I'll have to listen again tomorrow because I couldn't identify which part -- low, medium or high -- Robert was singing.

The next song was all his. "Nothin'" featured a slightly different arrangement compared to the one on their album. To me, the album version works better, but this one still maintained a measure of light and shade, which is what the song demands.

Plant and Krauss return to duo mode now for a soft "Killing the Blues." Alison absolutely shines on the solo piece "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson," which Robert watches from the side of the stage with a can of something in hand.

"When the Levee Breaks" sounds like it has been combined with another song. For another assignment, I'll have to figure out what those additional lyrics are from. Anyway, the tune works. This is really hot. After this is "The Battle of Evermore" in probably the best live arrangment it's ever been in. Alison weaves in and out of it in fine fashion, although I must admit it seemed she was not completely sure of her parts and Robert was coaching her through it. They sounded great together again on "Please Read the Letter," the third song in a row that Jimmy Page helped Plant to introduce to audiences through the years.

A glimmering backdrop is revealed behind the stage for "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)" to make it look like their CMT award-winning video. And it sounds just like it too!

Never forget: Nurses do it better.

That's about all I'm posting now. More from Chattanooga after tomorrow's show!


  1. I was at the Knoxville and Chatanoogs shows as well. (5th row at both)

    In the inteludes of 'Levee', He was singing words from "Girl from the North Country". Also, my two cents: The shows were amazing especially when Robert appeared with an Orange Gretsch and played two solos! (You could tell he was really focusing) :)

    Also, in "Down to the River To Pray", I have to say (being a music director/choir guy) Robert was attempting the lowest harmony part but he really was flat a lot. Especially in Chatanooga.

    I have to hand it to him for being so humbled, but he needs to spend a bit more time with these guys to really learn his part.

    That aside, I couldn't believe how moved I was by these performances. This is what Robert has been all about since 1981. He is always changing....ever onward!

    -Mike Tully

  2. Mike Tully, knowing what I know about you, I should have known you'd be at the shows! Sorry I didn't look you up ahead of time.

    I agree there were more flat notes in the three-part harmony in Chattanooga than in Knoxville, but I couldn't tell who was the culprit.

    Yes, I was surprised to see Robert saunter onstage with an orange hollow-body guitar strapped to him for "Levez les Bons Temps Rouler" in Chattanooga. This didn't happen in Knoxville, correct? He seemed to be encouraged by T Bone Burnett, and Robert played some rhythm and an effective lead.

    If you're heading to New Orleans, have a great time. Let the good times roll! I bet that and "Fortune Teller" will be well received there.


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