Robert Plant and the Band of Joy at the State Theatre, 4/12/11

Categories: Last Night
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Photos by Steve Cohen
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy
April 12, 2011
State Theatre, Minneapolis


When Robert Plant opened with a funky, schmaltzy version of the Zeppelin classic "Black Dog," I was worried that the show would be a series of classic rock songs made palatable for the adult-contemporary crowd. Luckily, it only took about one more song for Plant to ease into his bluegrass-inspired, countrified folk sound, and as soon as he clicked with his band and warmed up his voice the show turned into something quite extraordinary.

Plant is touring in support of his new album, Band of Joy, and had a seasoned group of talented musicians in tow for his State Theatre stop including Patty Griffin, Darrell Scott, and Buddy Miller. With the obligatory first Zeppelin cover out of the way, the group settled into some of the tracks from the new album and enveloped the room in a warm, lush sound.

Before playing one of two Low covers (both of which appear on the new album), Plant made a somewhat confusing joke about getting into a new style of music that "people call 'lo-fi'... which sounds like it was developed in Whole Foods or something." He also mentioned that he felt like he was auditioning for the crowd, which might have been in reference to the fact that he was in Low's home state, but other than that he made no correlation between his newfound love for the Duluth rock trio and the fact that he was playing a gig in Minnesota. One has to wonder if Alan Sparhawk and Co. were in the audience (I was secretly hoping they would appear on stage).

Plant's take on "Monkey" was sad and sweet, and he moved to stand next to Griffin as they harmonized together, but it was "Silver Rider" that really shined, and was a high point of the first portion of the set. I might even go as far as to say it sounded better than the original, with Plant's voice growing from a murmur into a throaty, desperate wail.

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Speaking of that iconic desperate wail, Plant's voice seemed to get stronger as the night wore on. At some points, his vocals would be drenched in reverb, as on the minimalist "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down," and rather than accentuate the melody the added effects seemed distracting. But by the time the band launched into "House of the Holy," Plant's high-register howling was downright chilling.

For the encore, Plant pulled out another treat for Minnesota music fans: a transcendent, harmony-heavy gospel cover of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

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Photos by Steve Cohen
Personal bias: Hearing Plant sing songs like "Tangerine" transported me back to my childhood, dancing around to my dad's records in the living room. Nostalgia factor aside, it was a really amazing performance.
The crowd: Middle-aged and polite.
Overheard in the crowd: "Was this your first time seeing the Golden God?"
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.

Set list:

Black Dog
Down to the Sea
Angel Dance
Black Country Woman H
ouse of Cards
Monkey
Somewhere Trouble Don't Go (Buddy Miller on vocals)
Silver Rider
A Satisfied Mind (Darrell Scott on vocals)
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
What a Beautiful City / Wade in the Water (Rev. Gary Davis medley)
Ocean of Tears (Patty Griffin on vocals)
Please Read The Letter
House of the Holy
Ramble On

Encore:
Tangerine
Harm's Swift Way
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall


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