Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thoughts from the Plant/Krauss show in Nashville

A few thoughts occur to me as I sit in the back of the Sommet Center tonight for my fifth show of the Raising Sand 2008 tour.

One is that the band is being somewhat adventurous with the set list, continually tweaking it: adding songs, substituting others. The medley of Plant's "I'm in the Mood" and the traditional "Matty Groves" (familiar to Fairport Convention fans) is still a crowd favorite, having entered the set midway through the tour. And "When the Levee Breaks"/"Girl from the North Country" returned to the encore set tonight.

Plant remarked afterward that they try to play it differently every night, to the point that they don't always finish together. Tongue firmly in cheek, he asked the crowd if they ever have that experience.

Further set alterations: "Green Pastures" has been sacrificed, and tonight they debuted a Carter Family tune with Alison on vocals. She proclaimed it was only yesterday that T Bone Burnett suggested they play "Wildwood Flower" and she was nervous about performing it for the first time to her home audience. Well, she really needn't worry, with that overly capable band behind her. Stuart Duncan in particular shines on this number, playing the mandolin.

Robert Plant also has a new solo song now. It was my first time hearing him cover "Nervous Breakdown" by Eddie Cochran, and his imitation of the singer was perfect. It wasn't a crowd pleaser for some reason though. I'm wondering if they "got it." Some suspect this song was a lyrical and possibly musical influence on Led Zeppelin when writing "Communication Breakdown" for their first album.

Plant's vocal improvisations are taking center stage on the bluesy Led Zeppelin original "Black Country Woman" and the Townes Van Zandt album closer "Nothin'," which Robert remarkably makes his own with every performance.

For Plant, performance-wise, the highlights of the show still seem to be those two tunes and his fitting duet with Alison, "The Battle of Evermore." These are truly incredible numbers, and it's great to hear the Nashville audience recognize them too.

One final note about the show, since this is my fifth time seeing it, is that the band is really improving with each performance. The rhythm section, drummer Jay Bellerose and bassist Dennis Crouch, proves its worth night after night responding to Plant's vocal improvisations. This was most evident at the end of "Nothin'" tonight when Robert let out a litany of "come on, come on, come on" and Crouch followed. Bellerose was adding rhythmic emphasis on the verses, accentuating Plant's singing. Don't hate me for saying this is tight but loose! It really is!

Hey you! You on the West Coast! You have the chance to "Boogie with Stu" and the rest this autumn! Go! I'm telling you!


  1. Made it to the show last night and agree with you that people should check it out on the west coast. I can't believe there was an empty seat in the house last night. Guess tickets were not cheap, but that was one amazing show!

  2. They actually performed Wildwood Flower for the first time the night before at Rupp Arena. Lexington is a big Alison Krauss mecca, too, and they loved it. And they also seemed to really get into Nervous Breakdown. I think it was the "Elvisness" of it.

  3. Oh, I stand corrected. Alison did say it was only "yesterday" (which was Friday) that T Bone suggested playing that tune, which I took to mean they hadn't done it live yet. Alison led me to believe this was the song's premiere onstage, but she didn't actually say it was.
    A note about attendance: I did see some empty seats. I was next to one of them. I had just arrived to the venue when I was sure (from experience) the set must have just begun, based on time. And I asked a group of people if they had an extra ticket. They did. It was a comp ticket in section 224, the club level. It was the very back of the place. I walked in to the tune of "Through the Morning, Through the Night" and settled in. Section 224 and the one opposite the aisle from me were largely empty, as they are basically the worst seats in the house (a city block away from the stage). But the rest of the whole place was packed!


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