Review of July 19, 2008–Nashville, TN
Originally appeared in The Tennessean
by DAVE PAULSON
At first, it seemed like a moment straight out of the ’70s: An arena audience finished applauding an incendiary performance of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” and Robert Plant slithered up to the front of the stage to address the crowd.
“People of Nashville,” he said, and then paused. “And when I say, ‘People of Nashville,’ half of them are on this stage.”
Plant, of course, was not with his legendary former band, but his newfound, Nashville-based musical soulmate, Alison Krauss, and a backing band peppered with top-shelf local talent.
Their performance at the Sommet Center Saturday night was the final date of a summer tour in support of their highly successful collaborative album, Raising Sand, which Plant and Krauss recorded in Nashville last year.
Closing out six straight weeks of shows, the concert balanced an elated homecoming vibe with a finely tuned performance, as the duo’s smoothly blended harmonies rose and fell in perfect step.
In fact, after entering the stage on opposite sides, there was little Plant and Krauss didn’t do in sync at the show’s outset, whether it was sauntering up to the microphones or creeping back with the band, which included Nashville musicians Buddy Miller and dazzling multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan. Their two-hour-plus performance was set to slowly build to a boil, and as sublime as those first, swampy duets were, the pair didn’t heat up until after a few solo turns showcased their individual strengths.
Krauss displayed her otherworldly vocal precision on haunting ballads like Tom Waits’ “Trampled Rose,” her transcendent soul on a cappella show-stopper “Down to the River to Pray” and fiery range on bluegrass classic “It’s Goodbye and So Long to You.”
Plant gradually reclaimed some of the sneering bravado of his “Golden God” days with a searing version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Nothin’” and Zeppelin’s “Black Country Woman.”
“Oh yeah!” Plant exclaimed at the conclusion of the latter tune.
Earlier in the evening, he told the crowd of the trepidation he had felt about coming to Nashville to begin his work with Krauss.
“Two years later, I’m pleased to say that I feel so at home in this environment,” he said, to warm applause.
To close the set, Plant and Krauss reconvened with looser spirits for a trio of harmony-rich tunes: proto-Sand Zeppelin duet “The Battle of Evermore,” Sand’s “Please Read the Letter,” and the pair’s Grammy-winning single “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On).”
They returned for a five-song encore, highlighted by standout Sand cut “Killing the Blues,” Zeppelin classic “When the Levee Breaks,” spontaneous turns by the backing band and Plant and Krauss’ beaming expressions.
“Thanks for a fantastic finale,” Plant told the audience.
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