Thursday, June 12, 2008

Raising Sand: Allison Krauss And Robert Plant Feat. T-Bone Burnett

My Dad asked me, "Robert Plant. Robert Plant? Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant?" I said, "I'm pretty sure." He then asked something to the effect of "why?" Because I missed the boat on the whole Led Zeppelin thing, I really didn't think it was weird for two musicians to do an album and tour together.

As we walked up to the Garden it dawned on me how bizarre this pairing was. Seeing the people going into the bowls of Madison Square Garden I started to get nervous as I saw more Led Zeppelin T-shirts than bluegrass-looking fans (because what kind of t-shirt would we wear?). I whispered to Justin, "I hope the Led Zeppelin fans are disappointed," which was mean of me, but I really honestly didn't want myself to be disappointed. I was not disappointed, and I have a feeling that the Led Zeppelin fans were not either.

Back to the question of "why?" The answer I found is T-Bone Burnett, a musician and producer thought it might work, and took the risk. He produced music for "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou" and "Cold Mountain." He played with Bob Dylan (there were a few Bob Dylan t-shirted fans as well.) And his own music is a mix of blues and rock. He plays on stage, and said on NPR's "All Songs Considered" that its the most fun musically he has had, and would be content if he just did it for the rest of his life.

The concert was amazing, I loved every second of it! I was easily lost in the musicality of it all. I was pleasantly surprised by a good mix of genre; rock, blues, blue grass, gospel, old-school country, were integrated in such away that each just belonged. It was the eclectic listeners Valhalla. (Hey, dad did you like that reference?)

Alison Krauss has such an amazing voice that I wasn't at all surprised that listening to her live is better than you can imagine. I was finally thankful that she was sick the day I was supposed to see her with Bobby McFerrin. I still enjoyed that concert, and not seeing her gave me the fabulous excuse to NEED to see this concert. There was a song at the McFerrin Concert that I longed to her Alison sing, and I was elated when she sang it. Its a gospel song, that I can't seem to find anywhere. The chorus is something like "Going up on to live in green pastures while we we shall live and die ever more. Even the Lord will be in that number when we have reached that heavenly shore." While she sounds lovely with all the instrumentation and back up, I have to say that I got goose bumps when she started singing "Down to the River to Pray." She was alone on stage for the first verse and chorus and then had back up singers (Stuart, Billy, and Robert) for the last part, but it was all her celestial voice.

Instead of lead guitar they had Stuart Duncan on one of his many instruments, or Alison on fiddle or just Alison's voice. It made the songs that I may have not loved so interesting that I could really listen to them. The intricate harmonies and skill level required to make it all work was apparent, but came out effortlessly. You wouldn't imagine that banjo and mandolin would be a good replacement for lead guitar, but Stuart Duncan pulled it off without a hitch.

I couldn't help but laugh every time the rock star slipped out. Robert Plant would pick up the microphone stand and swing it around with him when he was so moved. He had a very endearing little bent-arm-step-side-to-side dance in his cowboy boots that convinced me was really enjoying himself. I couldn't tell you if they played any Led Zeppelin, because the only song I know for sure is "Stairway to Heaven" which they did not play. But the very obvious Led Zeppelin fans sitting behind us sang along to a couple songs. One of which, "In the Mood (For a Melody)," was intriguing, with a interlude of a great bluegrass ballad.

One of my favorite parts was watching the percussionist, Jay Bellerose. He'd had four maracas in one hand, and a stick in the other, and every once in a while he would play the drums and high hat with the maracas. He, too, looked to be having the time of his life, and it sounded fabulous. When he came out from behind the set he had what looked to be a tambourine strapped around left shin. I would have loved to take some of those maracas or the tambourine from him to help out, but I think watching the epitome of multi-tasking ambidextrousness was just as much fun as being a tambourine girl.

Buddy Miller played a few different guitars, and was masterful. Between sets of songs it seamed the long-curly-haired stage hand (roadie?) would come out to hook up the new guitar, and take the other one off his hands.

And what concert would be complete without the bass? Dennis Crouch rounded out the whole set. I haven't seen much live bass playing, so I was really excited when I saw he "slapping" the strings when they came out to salute Bo Diddley and play "Who do you love."

Justin LOVED "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us." which is on the CD. I think he wants to use it in a movie... which movie? I'm not sure, but that is always what he wants to do when he loves something.

All I can say is GO! (I know Hannah is going right before she gets married which I think is a lovely idea.) And if you can't go, its worth a listen.


Charity said...

Looks like it was an awesome show. I love that song Please Read the Letter. They harmonize so beautifully.

hanner said...

I think it was a great wedding present to myself. I'm excited to hear them! And I love the Greek Theater in LA, it's big yet still feels pretty intimate. So I'm excited. I also look forward to concerts that I kind of have forgotten about... I bought U2 tickets and David Gray tickets waaaay before the concerts, and it was like a pleasant surprise I had forgotten that I paid for.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Hey, I'm not sure I have a current email address for you and Justin and I need to get in touch with him ASAP. Could you have him email me?

Tammy Lorna said...

OH I'm so jealous - it sounds wonderful!

xo Tammy

charrette said...

So jealous you got to go to this concert...and also jealous that Hanna's going to see it at the Greek!
Sounds like it was fabulous. Way to take advantage of the big city.

Rachel said...

OK, I know I'm a day late and a dollar short on this one, but I just thought I'd mention that one of my absolute FAVORITE songs to play on the piano and sing is "The Scarlet Tide," which was performed by Alison Krauss for Cold Mountain-- written by T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello. It's really simple, but so fun and beautiful. With your lovely voice, Brecken, you ought to sing that one sometime.