Review of June 28, 2008–Lake Tahoe
originally appeared on rgj.com
By JASON KELLNER
When Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant teamed with bluegrass star Alison Krauss last year to make an album of folk songs, it didn’t seem like something that would stick around as strong and as long as it has.
The album, “Raising Sand,” has sold more than a million copies and won a Grammy award.
Then Krauss and Plant took the songs on tour along with T Bone Burnett, the man who produced the album and assembled the band of amazing musicians who made all the songs come alive.
And on Saturday at Harveys outdoor amphitheater in front of a near-capacity crowd, the seven musicians took a 55-minute album and molded it into a 2-hour show without a moment feeling padded. Of course, the band threw a lot more into the show than just songs from “Raising Sand.”
The few people in the crowd wearing Led Zeppelin shirts? They got their wishes when Plant and Krauss ran through excellent bluegrass-stained versions of songs including “Black Dog,” “When the Levee Breaks,” Plant’s “I’m in the Mood” and Zeppelins “Battle of Evermore,” a song tailor-made for the Krauss-Plant-Burnett treatment with its mandolin backbone.
This was not a rock show, but a laid-back affair of Americana music played by a fine-tuned group of musicians that played to a crowd that preferred to sit through most of the show.
Plant, still wearing a shoulder-length mop of curly hair, fit perfectly into the songs. Rather than struggle to belt his way through old songs on a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, the 59-year-old chose to return to work with Krauss after a one-shot Zeppelin show last November. The music he’s performing now, along with the stripped-down old songs of his own, seems a perfect fit for this late phase of his career.
Krauss played the low-key bluegrass star, with a subdued stage presence and nary a flash of skin to be seen under her large, white polka-dot coat and black pants. But she sang her parts in her sweet country voice and played a little bit of fiddle during her times in the spotlight.
Krauss did a couple of her own songs, including some pulled from the Grammy-winning surprise hit of 2000, “O Brother, Where Are Thou?,” also a Burnett production.
The rest of the band brought the rootsy sound to life with guitars, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, stand-up bass and an unconventional drum sound from Jay Bellerose, whose kit had only two cymbals, boomy drums and barely a snare drum ever heard. And they played on a relatively sparse stage, devoid of flashy effects. They instead let their music and excellent harmonization carry the show.
Plant explained that he listened to Mississippi Delta music and Chicago blues growing up, messed with it, and, well, you know what happened. But as for the Americana sounds he’s been immersed in working with Krauss, he said he didn’t realize that this had been going on until now.
Krauss, who didn’t say much during the show, seemed to forget she was in Nevada when she introduced a guitarist from “your home state.” He actually was from California. Still, it was nice to hear the artists give a shout out to the crowd.
If anything, hearing these songs performed live, in addition to hearing what they did to some of the old Led Zeppelin songs, begs the question: Will they put out a live album? They’ve got me as a potential customer.
Posted in sr2008 |