Monday 25 October 2010

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy
The Sage, Gateshead
20 October 2010

It's been another busy week, with three very enjoyable shows in quick succession. For the first of these, my favourite music venue - The Sage - once again provided an opportunity too tempting to miss.

Robert Plant's 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, RAISING SAND, marked a new direction for the former Led Zeppelin front man and was very well received indeed. The change of direction has continued deeper into Americana territory on the BAND OF JOY CD, released earlier this year. This time, Alison Krauss is nowhere to be seen, but it's not all bad news. The Band of Joy in question features Buddy Miller (guitar), Darrell Scott (guitar et al), Byron House (bass), Marco Giovino (drums) and - best of all, as far as I’m concerned - the inimitable Patty Griffin on harmony vocals and acoustic guitar.

Following an intriguing support act of Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara - blending the Blues with traditional West African music - Robert Plant and the Band of Joy took to The Sage to great applause and launched straight into Tall Cool One. ‘I’m like a strange cat running in the heat of the night’...and indeed, with his flowing mane of hair and beard it is hard to shake the image of Robert Plant cast as Narnia’s Aslan.

Right from the off, it was clear we were in for a special evening. Harmony vocals abounded, sometimes with four voices at once. The musicianship was just as good as one can rightfully expect from such an eclectic group of people.

Robert Plant has lost none of his posturing. The microphone stand went where he did, a Rock ‘n’ Roll prop carried around in both hands. His voice certainly isn’t stuck in one era or genre though and he showed a terrific range in both lead and harmony vocals.

Two stand-out songs included Please Read The Letter and Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down. A sprinkling of Led Zeppelin classics - including Tangerine and Rock and Roll - sat nicely amongst the pure Band of Joy set list. Those who came along expecting more of the old greatest hits would perhaps have been disappointed but maybe the broadening of horizons would have been ample compensation.

Robert Plant was happy enough to step out of the spotlight midway through the show to provide harmony vocals on songs by Buddy (Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go), Patty (Move Up) and Darrell (A Satisfied Mind). Nor was Plant confined to vocals throughout the evening; a harmonica was strongly in evidence while the other artistes took centre stage and at one point he even produced a skiffle-style wash board. He said he’d always wanted to play an instrument, but claimed ‘I was held back’.

The three-song encore concluded with I Bid You Goodnight, featuring a four-way a capella harmony. It was a beautiful finale to a magical evening. Will the Band of Joy ever return, or will it remain a short-term project? Let’s hope it’s the former.

Here's a few photos from the evening...

Strutting with the microphone right from the start

Robert Plant, Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott

Marco Giovini on the drums

Buddy Miller

Byron House on the bass

Patty Griffin - one of my all-time favourite artistes - singing Move Up

The skiffle element!

The set list:

Tall Cool One
Angel Dance
House Of Cards
Please Read The Letter
Misty Mountain Hop
Rich Woman
Twelve Gates To The City
Somewhere Trouble Don't Go
A Satisfied Mind
Move Up
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Central 209
Houses Of The Holy
You Can't Buy My Love
Down To The Sea
Gallows Pole
Another Tribe
Rock and Roll
I Bid You Goodnight

It was an excellent concert and another indication of how lucky we are to have such fine acts visiting the North East.


Anonymous said...

Amazing pictures, as always!

Sean Marsh said...

Thank you!

We were sitting in the penultimate row too, so my zoom had to work hard all evening.

Lots more photos to come this week...