If you were hoping for an ageless version of Led Zeppelin with shirtless frontman Robert Plant wailing the opening vocals to “Immigrant Song” on Tuesday night at the Sandy Amphitheater, you were sadly disappointed. But, if you were expecting great American roots music played with masterful artistry, then Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, performing songs from their 2021 album Raise the Roof, more than satisfied your desires.
The evening kicked off with roots rocker JD McPherson and his band cranking out eight polymorphic rock numbers starting with “Bossy.” For his second number, he reminisced about the first time he played “North Side Gal” at The State Room 10 years ago. I remember the show well! That rockabilly song remains my favorite from his deep catalog. The surf-punk styled “On the Lips” led to a The Doors-esque “Lucky Penny” and he ended the set with “Let the Good Times Roll.” Later that evening, McPherson returned to the stage as a member of the Plant/Krauss band.
It’s a rare moment when two iconic figures—titans from different genres—appear together on stage. Plant and Krauss’ collaboration is a musical marriage made in heaven (or at least on a stairway to heaven). Plant didn’t enter the latter stages of his career riding the Led Zeppelin wave and Krauss didn’t stay safely in the bluegrass Union Station. Instead, they both broke from their perspective camps to revive and refresh long-forgotten songs that inspired their earliest musical development. The end result of that project is two fabulous albums of American roots music.
To begin, they reached deeply into the musical archives and played “Rich Woman,” a cover of Li’l Millet and His Creoles 1955 single. The song earned Plant and Krauss a 2009 Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Krauss took lead vocals on a darker (but lovely) stripped-down rendition of The Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love.” The Everly Brothers’ influence permeated the setlist with “Leave My Woman Alone,” a Ray Charles original song covered by the duo in 1958. They ended the set with “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On).” I suspect The Everly Brothers records were a major part of Plant’s childhood collection. They influenced many rockers like The Beatles, The Hollies, and the folk songs of Simon and Garfunkel. Their high, lonesome sound melded well into bluegrass, and Plant and Krauss’ interpretation of their music on Tuesday night served as a deserving tribute.
Some other highpoints included their Grammy winning song “Please Read the Letter,” which Plant wrote with Jimmy Page and “High and Lonesome,” that he penned with T Bone Burnett.
The crowd roared the loudest when the duo played Led Zeppelin covers. They reshaped “Rock and Roll” with a newgrass sound by weaving in the fiddle and drawing back the tempo just a little. The new version of the song is a better fit for Plant’s current vocal range. McPherson Paged-it-out on guitar to retain the song’s driving rock roots. What a highlight! They also played “The Battle of Evermore” and their rendition of “When the Levee Breaks” stole the show. Krauss’s haunting sound, dueling it out with Stuart Duncan on the fiddle, added new depth to the song. An upright bass and drums drove the beat and McPherson’s guitar kept it all in line. For their encore they played their cover of the 1998 Lucinda Williams’ tune, “Can’t Let Go.”
Plant and Krauss are a magical duo whose voices blend beautifully in the Americana style. Accompanied by a fabulous backing band, they delivered an evening of great music. The stage’s backdrop featured curtains with single strands of white lights and made the outdoor venue feel like an indoor concert hall. The sound and sightlines at the Sandy Amphitheater were perfect, and to top it off, Mother Nature blessed us with a comfortably warm evening. (But Plant still kept his shirt on.)
- Who: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss with special guest JD McPherson
- What: Raising The Roof Tour
- Where: Sandy Amphitheater
- When: Aug. 30, 2022
- Info: sandyamp.com