In rock and roll debates 101, Robert Plant arguablys hold the greatest rock and roll voice….ever. Sure Steven Tyler, Bono, Roger Daltrey, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Mick Jagger are up there too, but its not even worth arguing. On a nun’s list Robert Plant is top five and his voice can do things that make 55 year old grown men in attendance jump the stage (which happened this evening in Phoenix) and 30 year old woman pass roses to the golden locked voice of ____(fill in the blank with your favorite Zep tune).
For those hoping to see their Knebworth or Song Remains the Same, this was the “Raising Sand Revue,” so forget about it. The Led Zeppelin was mainly kept to a hush, in favor of Plant’s recent discovery of “Americana Mountain Music. ” This tour serves as a coming out of one’s comfort zone party; and as exemplified by Raising Sand, his 2006 collaboration with Allison Krauss, Plant is coming out fine This black and white duo, revisit and reconstruct songs from Tom Waits, Gene Clark, Sam Phillips, Townes Van Zandt, The Everly Brothers, and Mel Tillis. Although the past was the focus this evening, clearly Plant and Krauss are in their creative present.
Kicking off with “Rich Woman” from Raising Sand, Plant and Krauss immediately showed off their two as one harmony lead vocals, as the mid-tempo tune got the night off to a festive start. But it wasn’t till “Fortune Teller” where Plant started to sing some of his
familiar Zeppelin howls, acted out his tiny hand clapping, and did his microphone leaning that got the crowd “aww’in.” A barely recognizable “Black Dog,” with Krauss on co-lead vocals also had the theater giddy, as “hey hey mama” was stripped to a slow blues romp.
The five piece band led by T Bone Burnett was pure country-western, and any Jimmy Page comparisons or teases, didn’t exist… period.. But although Plant was the star, Krauss is a mega star in her own-right as multi-grammy award winner and the voice of modern day bluegrass. At times she looked uncomfortable, with her hands held behind her back, never working the stage beyond her place front and center, but her angelic voice made up for any stage apathy.
But the highlights of the evening were two of Krauss’ songs on lead vocals, the country-western drenched “Through The Morning, Through The Night,” and Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose.” The later was worth the price of admission to see Plant singing backup vocals in the back, sandwiched between two other musicians, as he was a bowtie, turquoise suite, clap and spin away from Temptations territory. Krauss later nailed two gospel numbers: "Green Pastures" and "Down to the River to Pray, " with the latter being the only song from the Burnett produced O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
But for those rockers in attendance, Plant didn’t totally ignore his Zeppelin or solo catalog. A toe-tapping version of “Black Mountain Woman,” and a well-placed version of “Battle of Evermore,” were close to perfect. With rumors of a Led Zeppelin on the horizon, hearing Plant sing Americana was no doubt the “second best thing, but you can’t complain, as the voice clearly remains the same.