Robert Plant | 6.15.11

There’s no doubt that Robert Plant still has the ever-elusive "it" that makes him impossible not to watch.



North Mississippi Allstars have released four albums thus far – and three of them are Grammy nominated.  This is not to say that their music is formulaic or built to appeal to critics – it’s wonderfully rough and heartfelt.  Only two members of the band were present – Chris Chew did not perform – but brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson created an incredible amount of sound for just the pair of them.   
While the songs with vocals were good, they really were at their best when they were simply sitting next to one another, playing acoustic guitars.  These interludes into blues and bluegrass interspersed in with times where Luther played guitar (as he does for The Black Crows) and Cody played drums provided for a versatile and incredibly enjoyable set.  At one point Cody addressed the audience, who was obviously into the music, and said, “We’re having fun.  You guys are having fun too? Awesome!”  Awesome about sums up their performance – they got a standing ovation and will no doubt have an enthusiastic audience the next time they come to St. Louis. 
Robert Plant and The Band of Joy was up next, though none of the members of the original Band of Joy from the 1960s (other than Plant) are part of this new version. I have to admit that I was not raised on Led Zeppelin – John Bonham died exactly a year before I was born – and I was in my twenties before I started to listen to it and see the brilliance.  By that time, Robert Plant had firmly established himself as a solo musician, so I was curious how much of the set would be Led Zeppelin material and how much would be his own music.  There’s always the worry, too, that someone that has performing as long as he has would be burned out by now. 
Overall, I can say that no matter what flaws may have been present in his set, there’s no doubt that Robert Plant still has the ever-elusive "it" that makes him impossible not to watch.  He’s got swagger and commands the stage.  There’s just enough interaction with the audience to make them feel a part of everything, but at the same time establish Plant as somehow different from the rest of us.  
As for the performance itself, the set list was varied – some Led Zeppelin songs were mixed in – but it was all very polished.  This isn’t always the best thing.  Anyone who has listened to the original version of Black Dog would have possibly recognized the song when it was played, but the grit that made it sexy has been lost in the last 30+ years.  There was also the fact that at one point Plant said they were spreading the virtue of bluegrass.  While that would indeed be a noble cause, the song that followed his statement (and, in all honesty, the set as a whole), had nothing to do with bluegrass.  This is not to say it wasn’t great – it was – but one does have to wonder how someone who has been doing this as long as he has could not be able to identify bluegrass. 
That all said, at one point he commented, “I should have it right by now, and I do.”  He does.  He has the charisma to carry an audience wherever he’d like to take them and have them enjoy the ride.  The last 30 years may have tightened up his performances a bit overly much, but they’re still something to be able to immerse yourself in.  There’s no doubt that as long as he’s willing to perform, we’ll be more than happy to watch
| Teresa Montgomery

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