WHO: Robert Plant and The Band of Joy
WHERE: The Greek Theater
If you came to the Greek on Saturday night expecting to a hear a half-assed, run-of-the-mill set of Led Zeppelin covers, well, you have another month until Jason Bonham's "Led Zeppelin Experience" rolls through town (shame on you, Jason, for having Nicole Scherzinger singing with you; your pops is rolling over in his grave in a whisky-induced stupor). But if you wanted to hear a rootsy, bluegrass revival band spearheaded by one of the greatest singers in rock history, then the Robert Plant concert was the place to be.
The sexy self-proclaimed Golden God of yesteryear is long gone and in his place is a burly, grizzled rock vet who may or may not have been channeling his inner Situation by rocking semi-faded jeans, a goatee, and a shirt from Ed Hardy (if confirmed to be Hardy, the 1975 Plant would have kicked this old codger's ass). Though a far cry from his Zeppelin-era badass-self, this fashion faux pas didn't stop the denizens of scantly clad ladies chanting and hoping that the Plant from the '70s would emerge. That Plant was around, but unfortunately for the ladies hoping for their pinup, the only thing that remained the same were the Brit's unmistakable pipes.
Reworked songs were the norm. Plant threw the crowd for a loop on the opening number, the Zeppelin classic, "Black Dog." While many were excited to hear the familiar tune, there was a collective sense of bewilderment among the hard rock fans who were perplexed that Plant would have the audacity to drastically rearrange the song. This was to be the theme of the evening, an informed music fan's paradise battling against a headbanger's disappointment. Or as one gentleman in the restroom loudly complained, "What in the hell did he do to "Black Dog?" To which another responded, "He reworked it dummy. You aren't at a Zeppelin concert."
Plant and The Band of Joy gave the informed fans a lesson in roots music. In between the crowd sporadically leaving, Plant was extremely comfortable onstage, as if the pressure of not having to do Zeppelin songs was a huge weight off his husky shoulders. As has been the norm with this tour, the singer slipped out of the spotlight, deferring it instead to his terrific backing band. Whether the beanie-rockin, goateed (sense a theme for the old guys?) Buddy Miller or Patty Griffin's acoustic guitar playing, most were enjoying this talented display while basking in the moonlight and overwhelming smell of pot (whoever said baby boomers don't know how to party are gravely mistaken).
After rolling through a bunch of stuff off his new album, Plant managed to sprinkle in a couple more Zeppelin classics, including the set closing, crowd pleasing, "Ramble On." But instead of Jimmy Page's heavy riffs during the middle, there was an extensive banjo solo.
Fans who were expecting to see the Golden God of Zeppelin sing a career-spanning anthology were undoubtedly disappointed to hear the critically acclaimed, Grammy award winning Grandfather of Bluegrass. Some fans left grumbling, disappointed that they didn't travel to the darkest depths of mortar, which caused one concertgoer to respond, "Didn't you do any research and realize you weren't going to a Zeppelin concert, you fucking moron?!"
While Robert Plant may have dismissed his Led Zeppelin past once and for all when he turned down an obscenely lucrative sum to tour with his living bandmates, it can't be said enough how important it is for a man to stick to his principles. And at the Greek, Plant let the music be his master. Which should make you happy--unless you came to hear a rockin' version of "Stairway." If so, well, you were just shit out of luck.