review of May 22, 2008–Wembley Arena, London
Originally appeared on inthenews.co.uk
by Lewis Bazley
Just as some might say the V festival is for… well, people who don’t like festivals, one look at the clearly respectable, undeniably sensibly attired crowd at Wembley Arena reveals that the target demographic for this gig might not be composed of regular gig-goers.
More’s the pity, so astonishing is the performance from the two who might have seemed the least likely residents of the Wembley stage a year ago, until the jawdropping advent of Raising Sand showed that age is no barrier to producing mood-altering magnificent music.
The band amble lazily on before Plant and Krauss appear, shuffling with camaraderie through the opener Rich Woman, before Krauss’ fiddle-playing on the bluegrass second track, Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson, sends us down to the bayou for the moment.
The material’s hardly that which made Plant famous, or indeed that with which he graced the O2 stage last year, but the rock god still holds the mic like he’s commanding the stage at the Filmore, with any notion of inappropriate posturing forgotten when a countrified rendition of the Black Dog riff surfaces. While the slow-burning version never reaches the explosive heights of the original, it’s majestic nonetheless.
Krauss offers a spellbinding, Patsy Cline-esque solo turn from Krauss on Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us and the vocal marvel of the one-time Union Station singer’s voice can’t be overstated. She shifts her tone accordingly with the song with consummate ease and when she offers a jealous refrain with Plant and co backing subtly on Through The Morning Through The Night, it’s hard to ignore a lump slowly rising in your throat.
The sound of the Midwest echoes across the London stage throughout, even when they break into Fairport Convention’s Matty Groves, wistfully defined afterwards by Plant as “Sandy’s song”, a reference to the lost greatness of Sandy Denny.
The continually swaggering Plant offers a glowing intro for producer and country great T Bone Burnett and the guitar ignites like a Lindsey Buckingham riff, before Krauss provides a mystical and siren-like rendition of Trampled Rose.
Down To The River To Pray - from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack - is a moment of intense magic, with Krauss’s clear voice ringing out over the stunned venue, while Plant and friends add delicate backing to her a capella beauty. It’s melancholy and sounds as if its from another age, and even atheists can feel a touch of God ring through the north London night.
Album favourite Killing the Blues follows before Plant introduces the “profound piece of pain” that is Townes Van Zandt’s Nothing, swirling and shimmying like a raging delta demon.
He talks of Sandy Denny again and while the anticipation is briefly broken by a cry from the crowd of “Robert, I love you!” - to which he replies “Well, you waited a long time to tell me!” - the new version of Battle of Evermore, their classic Tolkien-flavoured duet from Led Zeppelin IV is otherworldly, heart-stopping and altogether wonderful.
The four mesmeric minutes of Please Read the Letter somehow provide a perfect encapsulation of love and loss while Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Me Wrong) is vivid and alive through Krauss’ lilting refrain.
They retire to a standing ovation but the house lights stay down and their reappearance is met with a shout of “Going to California!”. Plant shares a laugh with his band at the mention of another classic cut from 1973 before replying “He said ‘You’re at the wrong gig’”.
His candour is loveably disingenuous however, as they roll into a wailing, weird and wonderful version of When The Levee Breaks, lacking in John Bonham’s monolithic drum sound but as tumultuous as befits a gig of such splendour.
The clamour might be growing for a full Led Zeppelin reunion tour after their one-off show in 2007, but if Plant can keep making such beautiful music with Krauss, it’s hard to see how - or why - he’d stop.
Posted in sr2008 |