Robert Plant and Alison Krauss transform Zeppelin mystique in Madison

Robert Plant Alison Krauss

The stunned silence behind me was overwhelming. Two gentlemen had been loudly debating the merits of Robert Plant’s career, bordering almost on annoyance, during the set. As the montage of tracks from Led Zeppelin including "Gallows Pole", "The Battle of Evermore" and "When the Levee Breaks" rained through the sound system at Breese Stevens Field, the sheer power of the arrangements kept everyone in awe. We were witnessing one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll singers transforming his past, present and future into an unforgettable performance.

Partnered with his cohort Alison Krauss, who referred to Plant as “our ring leader,” the 80-minute set and two encores complemented the beautiful Saturday evening in Madison. Plant whose post Led Zeppelin solo career spanned many configurations, including a reunion with friend Jimmy Page, had culminated with an Americana-inspired effort collaborating with Krauss. The combination produced two critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums spawning multiple Grammys.

The show tonight highlighted the best of those albums along with a healthy dose of reimagined Led Zeppelin classics. The chemistry between Plant and Krauss evident in the live vocal performance erased any doubts someone may have had on the merits of their ongoing project. Even the die-hard Zeppelin fans behind me had to give it up. Besides the third Led Zeppelin album was predominately acoustic.

The backing band was on fire keeping the communal vibe going with a well-paced set. Opening with “Rich Woman” the tone was set for a pulsating groove with building tempo. The first Zeppelin track to appear was a slowed down version of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” complete with a fiddle and shuffle beat. Johnny Cash would have liked this version. Plant was feeding off the energy of the crowd and appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself.

“I hope you’re having as much fun as we are up here!” exclaimed Plant with a roar of approval from the packed stadium.

The set ended with the three-song Led Zeppelin acoustic attack that silenced my two talkative concert buddies. Plant had no digital effects on his voice except for a slight echo toward the end of “When the Levee Breaks” as he reached for the high notes. We were hearing the raw vocal and it was amazing how well he could deliver the goods both solo and with Krauss. The encore was two Everly Brother’s covers from the first Plant/Krauss album “Sands.” As Plant, Krauss and the band took their stage bows to end the evening, I was seriously considering catching the next show on the tour. It was that good.

Opening the show was Nashville-based J.D. McPherson and his band. The retro rockabilly troubadour tore through a 30-minute set traveling down the lane of Eddie Cochran, early Elvis and Stray Cats. McPherson also played the role of lead guitarist for Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s backing band providing that ‘50s rock n roll edge to raise the temperature from simmering to a boil for the large outdoor audience.

Post-show Madison residency

Plant had a few days off before his next gig in Iowa with Alison Krauss and he spent it in Madison. Sightings at Sardine, B-Side records, The Chocolate Shoppe and Monsoon Siam verified his time on the town after the show. According to B-Side Records, Plant spent considerable time browsing through the store and left with a new Ratboys album purchase.


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