(Review written by Jerry Rubino)
I guess I should set the scene for those who aren’t familiar with the Bowery Ballroom in NYC, and how special this night would be. “Legally” the venue holds about 550. It’s not the type of venue that an established artist would play, that’s a given. In all the years I’ve been going there, the other artists I’ve seen do this type of intimate show were [lastfm]R.E.M.[/lastfm] and [lastfm]Pretenders[/lastfm]. But tonight, it’s a rock and roll legend, with his new stellar crew of musicians, [lastfm]Robert Plant And The Band Of Joy[/lastfm].
The last time I witnessed [lastfm]Robert Plant [/lastfm]on a stage in person, was June 13th & 14th back in 1977 at Madison Square Garden. These shows (six of them) would end up being the last time [lastfm]Led Zeppelin [/lastfm]played New York City. Walking west on Delancy Street to the Bowery on this night had a slight adrenaline rush. Once inside the venue, the Bowery pretty much looked and felt the same as if I was seeing any other band. Well, there were two major differences I guess. There was no merch table in the usual spot selling T-shirts, albums and CDs, and the crowd was much older than usual. Once I was settled upstairs about 20 feet from the stage, I was brought back to 1977 with a light odor of pot.
At just after 9pm, while many were at home watching Sunday Night Football, the season finale of True Blood or the VMAs, guitarist [lastfm]Buddy Miller[/lastfm], bassist Byron House, drummer [lastfm]Marco Giovino[/lastfm], vocalist [lastfm]Patty Griffin [/lastfm]and multi-instrumentalist [lastfm]Darrell Scott[/lastfm], trailed by Robert, took to the stage. Most of the show would of course spotlight the new album Band of Joy, which is made up entirely of cover songs. They opened with [lastfm]Low[/lastfm]’s “Monkey” (one of two Low covers on the album). Next up, they tackled [lastfm]Richard And Linda Thompson[/lastfm]’s “House Of Cards.” The first non-[lastfm]Band of Joy[/lastfm] track was next, and introduced by Robert as “a song written in England hundreds of years ago by a ubiquitous couple.” He was referring to “Please Read The Letter” a song that Robert first took on with former band mate [lastfm]Jimmy Page[/lastfm] on their Walking Into Clarksdale album. Plant would re-record that with Alison Krauss on Raising Sand, which won a Grammy for Record Of The Year in 2009.
Other Band Of Joy album tracks done on this night included “Angel Dance” from [lastfm]Los Lobos[/lastfm], the traditional piece “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” which went right into the [lastfm]Lightning Hopkins[/lastfm] tune “Central Two-O-Nine,” and “Harm’s Swift Way” by [lastfm]Townes Van Zandt[/lastfm].
Robert gave way to his band members at various times in the set for their spotlight, while he took to standing in the back, either playing harmonica or adding background vocals and harmonies. [lastfm]Buddy Miller[/lastfm] did his own tune “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go” and [lastfm]Patty Griffin[/lastfm] did her song “Move Up.” [lastfm]Darrell Scott [/lastfm]took center stage for the often-covered “A Satisfied Mind.” Robert and Patty would share the spotlight doing a song that Plant and Krauss covered on Raising Sand (and won a Grammy for), “Rich Woman.”
Of course, the night wouldn’t have been complete without Plant dipping into his own past. His solo track “Tall Cool One” sounded great, especially without all the silly Zeppelin drops. “Misty Mountain Hop,” Houses Of The Holy,” “Gallows Pole,” and “Rock And Roll” covered his [lastfm]Led Zeppelin[/lastfm] years. [lastfm]Patty Griffin[/lastfm]’s added vocals on these gave them a special touch. To me, they way these songs were presented, reminded me of the way I love Led Zeppelin III and the non-rockers on Physical Graffiti. As drummer Marco Giovino finished up “Rock And Roll” in a similar [lastfm]John Bonham[/lastfm]-style bash-up, he teased us with the opening hard beats of “Black Dog” but stopped right there. The band dropped all of their musical tools and let us out of the room with an a cappella version of the traditional piece “And We Bid You A Goodnight.”
Before returning for the encore, Robert told the crowd, “Thank you for a spectacular evening.” I know for a fact, all that were in attendance for this special show were thinking, “No, Robert, thank you for being a part of our musical lives.”