Robert Plant & Alison Krauss | 09.24.08

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His face framed by those signature curly locks, Plant crooned into the microphone and danced around, looking all the while like he was having the time of his life.

 

Photos: Amy Burger 

Fabulous Fox Theater, St. Louis

It seems like such an unlikely collaboration - the queen of modern bluegrass paired with the biggest rock star in history. But when Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took the stage together at the Fabulous Fox Wednesday night, their voices intertwined to produce a harmony that was simply meant to be.

Touring in support of their critically-acclaimed, genre-defying album, Raising Sand (2007), the duo was backed by Jay Bellerose on drums, Dennis Crouch on bass, Buddy Miller on guitar, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin among other instruments. Legendary producer and bandleader T Bone Burnett joined them as well, playing guitar and six-string bass. Burnett produced Raising Sand as well as the award-winning 2000 soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou, featuring several memorable tunes by Krauss and greatly expanding her audience.

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The pair kicked off an evening of stellar performances with the first song from Raising Sand, "Rich Woman," a soulful, bluesy number with a sort of rockabilly guitar riff. Krauss was radiant in a sexy black lace overlay dress and thigh-high black leather boots, with Plant introducing her to the crowd as the "Queen of Everything." His face framed by those signature curly locks, Plant crooned into the microphone and danced around, looking all the while like he was having the time of his life.

Nearly 40 years after the release of Led Zeppelin's first album, Plant's voice is still amazing - and even fuller, richer, deeper and dare I say, better, than it ever was. This is clearly a man who is at peace with the past but not living in it. He's still every bit the Golden God, but perhaps one who is more spiritual and wise with the passage of time. Amid continuous rumors, hopes and speculations of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour, it seems as though this is where Plant is most comfortable.

Not to ignore his roots, however, Plant, along with Krauss, indulged the audience in a few Zeppelin classics including a slowed down and dark bluegrass version of "Black Dog," with the legendary guitar riffs plucked out on a banjo. Strange as it sounds, it was incredible; a whole new take on a signature song. They remained truer to the originals for "Black Country Woman" and the ethereal "Battle of Evermore," which sounded positively transcendent in the acoustically perfect Fox. I've said it before and I'll say it again - there is no better place to hear live music performed in St. Louis and quite possibly the world than the Fox Theater. The ornate building has a presence all its own that, when coupled with artists of this caliber, is quite simply magical.

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In addition to other choice cuts from Raising Sand, including "Fortune Teller," "Through the Morning,Through the Night," "Please Read the Letter," "Killing the Blues" and "Gone Gone Gone," the audience was treated to material from both artists' solo careers. The duo performed Plant's catchy "In the Mood," from his 1983 album Principle of Moments; and in a moment that truly brought down the house, Krauss' a cappella "Down to the River to Pray," from the O Brother soundtrack. Burnett even took a turn in the spotlight, performing the dark ballad "Earlier Baghdad (The Bounce)" from his album "The True False Identity."

A few well-done covers rounded out the evening's selections, including the American folk ballad "Wildwood Flower," with Krauss' vocals soaring into the balcony, and Staples Singers gospel classic "Don't Knock." Hearing Robert Plant singing gospel seems unlikely, and yet it totally works. They finished off the evening with a version of George Jones' "One Woman Man." 

This feast for the ears was originally scheduled for late June, but was postponed for the recording of a DVD here. When filming ended up being canceled, a second show was added on Thursday night, perhaps to better accommodate fans who held tickets for the original date. Plant made a point of apologizing profusely for this confusion, declaring that he was "Sorry, so Englishly sorry." Everyone in the theater eagerly accepted his apology, knowing full well they were privileged to have this incredible musical experience no matter what the date. I can tell you it was well worth the wait. | Amy Burger

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