Former Led Zeppelin frontman called on friends Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller to wow crowd at Stubb’s
Robert Plant took all sorts of detours on his way from dancing like Legolas to looking like Gandalf.
There was that unfortunate haircut during Live Aid, that time he looked like a burrito on the cover of Musician magazine and naming a record “Now and Zen.”
But he seems to have hit a sweet spot these past few years. “Raising Sand,” his collaboration with Alison Krauss, was a weird miracle of rootsy swagger and classy rock lilt; the tour that followed produced some of his strongest, heaviest music in a very long time.
For his next trick, he revived the Band of Joy (which was the name of his pre-Led Zeppelin band with John Bonham), enlisted the help of Patty Griffin and “Raising Sand” tourmate Buddy Miller, cut a record that’s due in the fall and hit the road, stopping at a sold-out Stubb’s Monday night.
With Miller, Griffin and Nashville pros such as guitarist Darrell Scott, drummer Marco Giovino and bassist Byron House, Plant grooved through an often surprising set of covers, older solo material given a fresh coat of class and a few Zeppelin nuggets.
An swinging, almost psychedelic-folk take on Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” followed opener “Down to the Sea” The Richard and Linda Thompson lament “House of Cards” and made beautiful use of Griffin’s vocals, which were occasionally a little lost elsewhere (she seemed to vanish on “Please Read the Letter”). Yes, he broke out “Tall Cool One” and “In the Mood.”
As for the Zeppelin, country-honk filled in for stomp on “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Over the Hills and Far Away” and especially “Houses of the Holy,” while the excellent “Gallows Pole” and “Tangerine” — both from the folkier “Led Zeppelin III” — flourished.
Miller was the set’s not-so-secret weapon, leading the band and contributing solos both razored and tuneful; his thrum of feedback powered the night’s most unexpected cover: indie rockers Low’s “Monkey.”
A glorious cover of Townes Van Zant’s “Harms Swift Way” all but upstaged Zep classics “Thank You” and “Rock and Roll” in the encore. The man really knows how to make folk songs into electric castles — it’s easy to see him making music like this for the rest of his life.
Robert Plant, backed by the Band of Joy that included Austinite Patty Griffin, played covers from his upcoming release as well as some Led Zeppelin songs.