Sunday, June 29, 2008

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, 6/27/08

I almost didn't go to see Plant and Krauss. I had a late afternoon party to attend, for which I was a key component in both the planning and entertainment, so I couldn't exactly predict if I'd even be able to make it to Berkeley in time for the show. Plus it was sold out. But as luck would have it, I was able to not only get to the Greek just in time, I also scored what appeared to be the lone single ticket sold outside the venue by an unassuming old dude with white hair who parted with it at face value.

I had the welcoming screams of the Greek crowd and Plant & Krauss' opening number, "Rich Woman," as the soundtrack to my entrance and journey to my viewing location. Once I was settled, I saw on the stage a simple set-up with a total of seven musicians: Jay Bellerose on drums, Dennis Crouch on bass, Buddy Miller on guitar, multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, guitar), bandleader/guitarist/vocalist T Bone Burnett, and of course, the show's two stars.

Thanks to Jon Cummings' Popdose Review of the Plant & Krauss show earlier in the week at L.A.'s Greek Theatre, I was kicking myself for not having followed my impulsive idea to fly down south for the show. Fortunately, my last-minute attendance at Berkeley was not among the kind of non-plussed crowd that Cummings experienced. They were pretty chill, but the group of three whose prime viewing space I crashed really seemed to be enjoying the mostly country-bluegrass-Americana set with tinges of gospel. The dudes behind me were really digging Krauss' good looks (as was I), though really, her stunning, pitch perfect vocals would have been enough to satisfy me. And when I say stunning, I mean I really felt paralyzed by the beauty of Krauss' voice on "Trampled Rose." I mean, WOW. And down below my perch, hippie girls were gingerly dancing to the more upbeat numbers in the set. I wasn't hearing any grumbling about the lack of Zep tunes or rock n' roll in general. This crowd seemed to know exactly what they were in for, and loved it.

Plant's presence at the show was maybe a bit less than I expected. I knew that Krauss had some solo space, which was great, but when T Bone sang a couple of songs without Plant or Krauss, that's when the extraneous conversation around me was at its peak. If anything, I attribute this portion of the show to Plant & Krauss' appreciation for the fact that T Bone himself is a modern day master of his craft, and if it weren't for his masterminding of the whole project, we wouldn't even been seeing this show. Or listening to the brilliant Raising Sand album, one of last year's best album releases overall in my humble opinion. Shame that the Zep reunion at the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert overshadowed it completely in the press.

But back to the show... I haven't checked back against the record, but most if not all of Raising Sand was performed, along with some other covers and a few old nuggets from Plant's distant past that elicited the greatest response of the evening: a bluegrass rendition of "Black Dog," straight readings of "Black Country Woman" and "The Battle of Evermore" (with accompaniment from Krauss that, for my money, bettered Sandy Denny's performance on the original Zeppelin recording), and an awesome rustic recast of Plant's solo hit "In The Mood" done as a medley with the old English folk ballad "Matty Groves."

Even though Plant is clearly immersing himself in the music and going with the flow, he couldn't help but have the strongest stage presence due to his old rock god moves. He was shaking and dancing throughout the evening, having a ball and inspiring others who weren't planted in seats to do the same. He only occasionally let out some rockin' wails that recalled his past, notably on "Nothin'", which earned him some applause that was almost as loud as what the Zep tunes garnered.

I walked away having heard all my favorites from Raising Sand -- "Gone, Gone, Gone," "Killing the Blues," "Please Read the Letter," and "Your Long Journey" -- and feeling only mild disappointment. Why? Well, the show was so good, and I was so transfixed the entire evening, that I failed to engage the hot blond next to me. She was afraid to hop the fence at the edge of the lawn seating area to join her friends, and only joined them after I encouraged her to follow my lead. Man, if only the show sucked as much as some of the observations in Cummings' Popdose Review and comments on Shay Quillan's San Jose Mercury News blog suggest, I might have gotten my head together to ask for her number. Damn you Robert Plant! Damn you Alison Krauss! Come back soon, and try to suck just a little bit more next time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bonjour I'd like to thank you for such a great made site!
I was sure this would be a nice way to introduce myself!

Hilary Driscoll
if you're ever bored check out my site!
[url=]lilo and stitch Party Supplies[/url].