Robert Plant’s band a joy to experience

by Ryan Snyder

While Led Zeppelin fanatics might still be holding their breath in anticipation that the greatest hard rock band that ever was laces up their leather pants once more, their golden-haired god has been busy bringing back another, even older act of his. When Plant and his Band of Joy came to Charlotte’s Ovens he always seems to wind back up at his patented cross-legged stance as if by reflex.

But Plant proved he can still dominate a stage with his intensity, even he takes it down to a gentle croon as he did on the cover of Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” and the menacing “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” the latter of which saw the band’s jack-of-all-country-strings Darrell Scott move from mandolin to banjo. The sultry Austin singer-songwriter Patti Griffin was there to enhance Plant’s voice to its near-feminine younger days, though he still managed to belt out a few on his own made all the more melancholy by Scott’s sorrowful lap steel. It was Scott’s turn at the mic, however, that cast him as inarguably the mightiest voice on stage. It was his only turn, and he certainly made the most of it as his baritone delivered “Satisfied Mind” with the richness and warmth of good Kentucky bourbon.

While most came to hear Zeppelin classics given over to roots and Americana, a few gems from his early solo career surfaced, including the rocking “Tall Cool One,” where Plant admitted to making a small mistake towards the end, and encore

Auditorium Monday night, it was made clear why he opted to leave potentially tens of millions of dollars on the table that a Led Zeppelin reunion promised: This band is probably a lot more fun to play with at this stage of his career. At the heart of the set was material from the recent Band Of Joy album, a collection of obscure traditional and Americana numbers representing Plant’s latest American musical infatuation, but all 100 minutes of the performance cut a wide swath through Plant’s entire career.

Of course, Plant still got the Led out, but these songs didn’t exactly remain the same. With a accord. His voice was commanding and opener “In The Mood,” where the dreamy dynamite cast of players who can’t simply even during much of set closer “Gallow’s soundscapes were replaced by layers of be called supporting musicians, but col- Pole” before finally letting a convincing overlapping steel and strings for Plant’s laborators, Plant gave the healthy number of shriek go towards to end, and when the voice to wander over. For all it’s sing-along Zeppelin tunes and vestiges of his solo days crowd braced themselves for an eruption on potential, “Rock ‘N Roll” seemed anticli- that he offered up an oft-unrecognizable the chorus of “Ramble On,” Plant gave them mactic after hearing the masterful treatments treatment. He discarded the snappy riffage exactly what they wanted. given to so many better Zeppelin tunes. It of set opener “Black Dog” in favor of a Other times, Plant humbly stepped into was a wonderful touch to see the band go swampy baritone rumble that favored guitar- the role of backup singer and harmonica a capella at the end for a song popularized ist Buddy Miller’s Memphis musical roots. support while his bandmates put their own by the Grateful Dead, “And We Bid You With every instrumental mini-breakdown in prodigious vocal talents on display, relishing Goodnight” with bassist Byron House, an between verses, Plant shuffled around with the anonymity that standing in the shadows original member of Band of Joy in 1966, a sort of intensely dry charisma that would provides, but also giving himself time to rest holding down the low end. As the band took make a man of less cachet appear some- his vocal cords. Miller unleashed a pointed a bow, Plant dashed off his summer festiwhat enfeebled. Plant, however, is anything bit of old-time rock and roll with “Gasoline val plans. “We’ll see you at Telluride and but; the feral energy of his youth has been and Matches,” before Plant stepped back to Bonnaroo!,” he said, and as of Tuesday, add reigned in to fit these interpretations, though the forefront with a version of “Tangerine” MerleFest to that agenda as well.