January 27, 2011

Rock Over Boston: Robert Plant | House of Blues | 1.26.2011

[Flier for the Boston Tea Party for May of 1969. Not a terrible lineup.]

Led Zeppelin played Boston three times in 1969, according to LedZeppelin.com: the first was a 4-night stand in January at the Boston Tea Party, the second was a 3-night stand in May again at the Tea Party (see the schedule above), and the last a single night at the Boston Garden in October.

In May of '69, the Tea Party moved from their 53 Berkley Street digs to 15 Lansdowne Street. A building that housed a succession of night clubs before being dismantled a couple of years ago to make way for a slick new mega House of Blues. (More on the Boston Tea Party here).

Robert Plant
took note of this coming full-circle moment at his gig there on that spot on Tuesday night. And, really, he could not seem more happy about it. Spurning the massive glorious spectacle and payday that the Led Zeppelin tour everyone wanted and expected after their '07 London reunion gig, Plant instead decided that he'd be much happier doing this: making a great folky-bluesy Americana record and doing a club tour. Bravo to him for it. As I complained about in the Plant entry in my 2010 top 10 list, why do all these big classic rock acts continue to insist on the ginormous stadium spectacle that they can only pull off with lots of production gimmickry and dubious musical compromises?

But Plant knows the score - his voice is better suited for what he's doing now than putting it through the rigorous demands of a Zeppelin tour. That's a respectable decision in my book.

His handpicked Band of Joy for this tour is the same one he made his recent album of the same name with, and they're a great band to be making traditional American music with, most notably Buddy Miller, a great guitar player and songwriter in his own right, has been a sideman to Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle; Bostonian Patty Griffin sings some sweet harmonies, but is a well-established folkie; and Darrell Scott (who also spent a few years in Boston) was a great utility man, playing pedal steel, banjo, and extra guitar. Each of them took a turn fronting the band (sort of like Ringo Starr's All-Star Band, but good), and Darrell Scott's entry made me want to investigate further. Drummer Marco Giovino is apparently from the Boston area as well - it's all about us!

The set was naturally heavy on the band's great recent album of mainly covers of standards and other songs obscure, oddball, and otherwise. I was wondering how many people in the audience knew who Low is? Not many, I'm guessing, though the band's version of "Silver Rider" is honest and vibrant. The spark in Miller's guitar playing drove a lot of the show, but was not so flashy to compete with Plant and Griffin's sweet harmonies. There was plenty of gently re-arranged Zeppelin material that worked really well for this band. Stuff from III was an obvious choice, and "Tangerine" and especially "Gallows Pole" were highlights, as were "Ramble On," and a rave-up of "Rock and Roll."

Hell, he even made "Tall Cool One" sound pretty good. But where was the rap part?

-Michael Piantigini

Robert Plant: Intertubes

1 comment:

Ric Dube said...

The year "Tall Cool One" was released I was in the training program to be a DJ at WUNH, the college radio station at the University of New Hampshire. My favorite band that year was Squirrel Bait, but I was impressed with certain moments of that Robert Plant LP and played it for the DJ training me as an example of a supposed tired, dinosaur classic rock artist who nevertheless clearly had some innovative ideas in the hopper.

I was flogged mercilessly and went through a brief period that I can't help but thing many college radio DJs never quite recover from, when at best valid opinions are silenced by peer pressure, or at worst they are killed by the trauma of reprogramming. Fortunately I was just temporarily shaken.

I still enjoy both Squirrel Bait and Robert Plant, though I will acknowledge that Skag Heaven has aged a hell of a lot better than Shaken and Stirred.