Robert Plant & the Band of Joy

Live Shot

Robert Plant and Buddy Miller (l)
Robert Plant and Buddy Miller (l) (Photo by John Anderson)

Robert Plant & the Band of Joy

Stubb's, July 26

Robert Plant blew off Jimmy Page for this? Granted, the 2-ton baggage of a Led Zeppelin reunion for the band's frontman remains the same – untenable – yet with a third of his 22-song performance at a sold-out Stubb's Monday night devoted to the UK's second-best quartet, not including a brief interpolation of "In My Time of Dying" and the singer's own Zep remix, "Tall Cool One," Plant and company still couldn't get the lead out. On the eve of another covers LP, Sept. 13's Band of Joy, a banner for which provided the stage backdrop, Plant, 62 next month, proved more than content to continue Raising Sand. With this 2007 collaboration alongside Alison Krauss and Texan producer T Bone Burnett, the aging lion's career reinvention as a Middle Eastern-accented country rockabilly rang a golden note to match his eternal tresses, and in its "Fortune Teller" bones rattle, Plant bared his teeth. Opener "Down to the Sea," led by bandleader Buddy Miller on spook guitar, lapped into an unannounced and unconvincing Los Lobos cover, "Angel Dance," then Raising Sand breakout "Please Read the Letter" and first Zeppelin payout "Misty Mountain Hop," the Starbucks blend. Between the latter pair, Austin's Patty Griffin, stepping into the Krauss role of Plant's last tour, tried to leaven the rock god's lowering tenor on another new reading, "House of Cards." Her mic volume had other ideas. That it was never corrected spoke to the two singers' chemistry – nonexistent, try though the boss did. And at just such a critical juncture in the almost two-hour set, Plant stepped into Miranda Lambert's "Somewhere Trouble Don't Go" as a warm-up to a song he later owned, Low's "Monkey" – wicked, haunting, like Nick Cave assuming Johnny Cash's mantle with Rick Rubin producing. After that, it was all unleaded Zep (including a pristine "Tangerine"), and in the case of "In the Mood," from Plant's second disc, 1983's The Principle of Moments – has he really forsaken eight solo albums' worth of material prior to Raising Sand? – post-Zep. The playful "Houses of the Holy," an off-key "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Tall Cool One," and main set closer "Gallows Pole" gave way to the encore and ultimate Band of Joy killer, Townes Van Zandt's "Harm's Swift Way." Led Zeppelin twofer "Thank You" and "Rock & Roll" and a closing a cappella capped the ninth entry of a 12-date U.S. tour, first leg. Robert Plant's one-trick show pony and thoroughly revitalized musicality shouldn't necessitate Jimmy Page, but it misses the original Band of Joy drummer, John Bonham.

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