review of July 13, 2008–Molson Amphitheater, Toronto
originally appeared in the Toronto Sun
By JASON MACNEIL
When Robert Plant and Alison Krauss announced they were teaming up to record an album, the word that was tossed around most was “unlikely.”
Unlikely in the sense that one of rock‘s biggest frontmen would join forces with a talented singer and country-leaning artist. And unlikely that the synergy between the two would make for anything more than a musical train wreck, fuelling more speculation that once Plant got this out of his system, he would see the light and get Led Zeppelin on the road for a highly anticipated tour and cash bonanza.
How wrong everyone was.
Last night at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre, the pair and a stellar band led by T-Bone Burnett showcased the duo‘s debut Raising Sand during a fine and roughly two-hour set featuring most of the new album and some material from both back catalogues.
Opening with Rich Woman off the new record, Plant and Krauss paced the show almost as well as they paced back and forth from the microphone between verses, allowing Burnett and stellar multi-instrumentalist Buddy Miller to shine.
What was most surprising throughout the night was how well the two voices blended, rarely fighting for space but complementing each other on the gorgeous Please Read the Letter that was near the homestretch or during Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us with Plant lending subtle harmonies.
“Good evening everybody in Toronto,” Plant said early on, welcoming the near-capacity crowd to their Celtic-meets-Appalachian “revue.”
And he couldn’t have described it better. Even when Plant opted to toss in a handful of Zeppelin songs for good measure, it was more O Brother, Where Art Thou than Houses of the Holy. A perfect example of this was during Black Dog which had the banjo taking the lead role of Jimmy Page‘s searing guitar solos. Later on it sounded like “Led Zeppelin at the Hootenanny” when the foot-stomping, banjo-led Black Country Woman began.
Another factor which added to the show was how both Plant and Krauss knew when not to stretch themselves thin with one leaving the stage for some portions while the other took over lead vocals. The only downside of this was when both left midway through the set for Burnett to perform a rollicking Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler.
Nonetheless, it was a small miscue on a night that, for some unknown reason, seemed to work. Whether it was the melodic pop-meets-roots of In the Mood or the great a cappella offering Krauss gave during Down to the River to Pray, it seemed quite magical.
Other highlights included the big, bombastic cover of Townes Van Zandt’s Nothin‘ driven by Plant’s classic wails, Battle of Evermore which earned a standing ovation and the set closing boogie of Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On), perhaps the greatest tune The Honeydrippers never recorded.
In good humour most of the night, and with each trying to crack the other up (which Krauss did to Plant on one occasion), the group returned to deliver a decent gospel-tinged You Don‘t Knock and a rather ordinary One Woman Man before nailing the pleasing Your Long Journey.
The Zeppelin fans yearning for a reunion tour were also dealt a blow yesterday when another round of West Coast North American dates featuring Plant and Krauss were announced for late September and early October.
And sadly for those fans, there seems to be plenty of steam left in this musical engine.
Posted in sr2008 |