Review of July 10, 2005 appearance at Orpheum–Minneapolis, MN
Originally published in Star Tribune
Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
He has never gotten the kind of critical acclaim that Neil Young, Lou Reed or David Bowie have earned for frequently reinventing themselves. But Robert Plant proved Sunday night at the sold-out Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis that he can still go far in concert without retreading the Led.
The Hall of Fame rocker best known for fronting the Honeydrippers (just kidding), Plant was equal-parts challenging and charming in his 100-minute performance with a new-ish band called the Strange Sensation.
That the electronically enhanced quintet is no Led Zeppelin was obvious from the get-go. Featuring musicians who’ve performed with innovative techno-rock acts Portishead and Massive Attack, the group opened with a version of Zep’s “No Quarter” that sounded like something you’d hear in a drum circle at a jam-band festival. By song No. 3, a rousing, vaguely reggae-ish version of the classic “Rock and Roll,” it was apparent they were applying the title of Plant’s new album — “Mighty Rearranger” — to the old catalog.
For his part, Plant, 56, looked as reenergized and giddy as Kevin Spacey’s “American Beauty” character after he gets his muscle car. He looked more animated than he ever did in Led Zeppelin, throwing tambourines in the air and strutting across the stage. He sounded pretty good, too, though it was little surprise that he couldn’t wail like he did in the ’70s.
“I feel like I’m going to church now,” the singer enthused as the band stretched out in an all-acoustic “Hey Hey What Can I Do.”
As strange as most of the Zeppelin interpretations were — “Gallow’s Pole” even recalled the Beatles’ psychedelic gem “Baby You’re a Rich Man” — so were some of the song selections. “Four Sticks,” which suited the band’s moodiness, is the only song from “Led Zeppelin IV” that you can’t hear on classic-rock radio every day. “That’s the Way,” which the band played surprisingly straight, was another odd but pleasant choice.
While Plant paid his Zeppelin songs plenty of mind, he ignored the rest of his solo career to fit in about half the tracks off “Mighty Rearranger.” None was as exciting as the Zeppelin stuff, but most were worthy enough. The stormy, frazzled-sounding rocker “Tin Pan Valley” drew almost as many cheers as the encore of “Whole Lotta Love.” Meanwhile, “Shine It All Around” was probably the most Led-sounding song of the night — more so than the actual Zeppelin songs. Go figure.
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