Tuesday, 7 August 2012

"Live At The Artist’s Den” by ROBERT PLANT and THE BAND OF JOY. A Review Of The July 2012 DVD and BLU RAY.

“…Sing My Song…”

Forever lumbered with an audience who are quite literally frothing at the gash to hear Led Zeppelin classics every time he plays live (and who can blame them) – to some extent Robert Plant has spent years distancing himself from that to establish a solo identity. And a truly genius move on his part was his "Raising Sand" album from 2007 with Alison Krauss – a captivating mixture of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" old-timey Gospel and Country music given modern-day arrangements and a deliciously softened intimacy. Then came Part 2 of sorts in the "Band Of Joy" project/album from 2010.

Filmed in 2011 in the gorgeous setting of the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville in Tennessee - 
I mention these two CDs above because in some ways "Live At The Artist's Den" feels like a live gig of both albums – with a few curveballs thrown in. And instead of Alison Krauss – we get Patty Griffin doing the female vocal honours – and she (like the rest of the band) absolutely rock.

As for the main man – Robert Plant not only looks and sounds great on this fab BLU RAY (he can do a soft vocal caress or a rock-God scream on a dime) – it's thrilling to see that he is wholly relevant to 2012 and not just 1969. His present set list and song choices now encompass Blues, Gospel, Traditionals, Folk, Rock and World – and it all meshes into the most wonderfully uplifting sound. You can't quite nail down a genre for this but you know it's good. Throw in a truly stunning set of musicians backing him up (Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott on guitars in particular) – and Plant finally seems comfortable – glad to be on stage with these great people - even grinning with relish as he revisits rarely-heard Led Zep album tracks. Wisely too he gives solo slots to Miller, Scott and Griffin - all of whom carry the limelight with shockingly good voices and an ability to play most famous musicians under the table. The four even do an Acapella piece at the end that is more than impressive.

But inevitably it's when the evening touches on stuff from Zep II like "Ramble On" and Zep III like "Tangerine" and “Gallows Pole” - then things just lift off into another stratosphere. Plant has re-arranged the songs so that they now sound like the unplugged feel of the "No Quarter" sessions but with a more rocking band and a grittier edge. The results are fantastic. There are also brilliantly reconstructed versions of "Black Dog" and "Rock And Roll" from "Zep IV" and a funkily cool reworking of "Houses Of The Holy".

Released July 2012 - the picture quality (on BLU RAY) is superb - the gig intimate – and the crowd responsive. And even if you don't know the newer material – the songs are very strong melodically and played with superb feeling by musicians who have a lifetime of musical knowledge flowing through their veins. The only downsides would be that the extras are short – and the gig could have been longer. I actually wanted more – and not less.

To sum up - you can't help but feel that Percy has always been smart - constantly trying to evolve himself and his knowledge of what he loves. And this superbly musical gig sees him finally arrive at a place where he's here in his future and at peace with his past. And we mere mortals can get to enjoy both.

Recommended like a "Hey Hey Mama…"

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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