Plant & Krauss Close Chapter One of the Raising Sand Revue, Prepare to Record Second CD

PlantKraussPortland930HT1.jpgEarly this spring, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took to the road with a cast of five stellar musicians, yet the ensemble had never performed live.  The group quickly gelled, becoming a band in the truest sense of the word.  As they traveled the United States and Europe, Plant dubbed the project “The Raising Sand Revue,” a spectacular extravaganza that at times sounds like an ancient gypsy caravan, while other times sounding like angels sent from above.

With their tour coming to an end, and no official comments on the band’s future, Honest Tune took to the road for the final five shows of the tour, and found the musicians having the time of their lives, and talking amongst themselves of more good times to come.


Theatre of the Clouds – Portland, OR – September 30, 2008

Walking in to the show, it was hard to comprehend how anyone could describe the venue as the “Theatre of the Clouds,” when it was in fact nothing more than a basketball arena with curtains blocking off most of the room.  With no clouds in sight, the audience was very receptive as the band took to the stage for the set opening “Rich Woman.” 

PlantKraussPortlandFULLBAND1.jpgPlant and Krauss were instantly playful, dancing in unison and grinning ear to ear.  While the two vocalists were without question the center of attention, Buddy Miller led the charge instrumentally with his vibrant lead guitar that pushed the song to heights not heard earlier on the tour.

Not to be outmatched, Stuart Duncan showed why Krauss has often referred to him as “my favorite musician in the world.” The ultra-talented multi-instrumentalist kicked off a re-orchestrated version of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Black Dog” on banjo, and later switched to fiddle, each solo topping the one prior.  While the crowd was most vocal when Plant dipped in to the Zeppelin catalogue, the artists in the band showed the most joy when performing songs from their Raising Sand CD.  This was never more true than the set closing “Gone, Gone, Gone,” as Plant and Krauss turned their backs to the crowd, laughing hysterically as their dance signaled a change in the stage backdrop from plain cloth to the shiny, silver shimmy seen on the song’s video. 

The evening closed with a three song encore that included rousing renditions of “You Don’t Knock” and “I’m A One Woman Man,” followed by a spiritual take of “Your Long Journey Home.”

 

Wamu Theatre – Seattle, WA – October 1, 2008

The following night, Seattle’s Wamu Theatre, little more than a convention hall with concrete floors and folding chairs stretching to the back of the room, was treated to another stand out performance. Plant was in particular fine form, as evidenced during “Fortune Teller” and “In the Mood.”   The latter song featured an intriguing insertion of “The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard,” an English folk tune dating to the 17th century, that saw Alison return to center stage.  The segue from “The Ballad” back in to “In the Mood” was brilliant, turning Plant’s 80’s mainstream hit in to a folk classic that seemed to have come from many centuries ago.

PlantKraussPortlandFULLBANDgreen.jpgWhile most reviews from this tour tend to focus on the lead vocalists, or band orchestrator T Bone Burnett, one can not say enough about the rhythm section of Jay Bellerose and Dennis Crouch.  Together, these two form the backbone of the band, providing plenty of space for the others to take the lead, while adding their own subtle rhythmic nuances the likes of which few have ever heard.

On this night, Crouch was utterly joyous as he articulately plucked his big-toned upright.  While his action on the bass was very high, Crouch constantly remained in the sweet spot, providing just the right low end.  Bellerose, more of a percussionist extraordinaire than mere drummer, filled the space between, utilizing an assortment of vintage drum gear that can be inconsistent in that you never know what sounds are going to come out any time he hits them, adding a twist of drama to his playing that is as unique as it is entertaining.

Seattle may not be known as a hot bed of Americana music, but on this night, looks of awe and joy permeated from the faces throughout the crowd, and everyone seemed to go home happy, the kind of happy that only comes from having your spirit filled with the sweet sounds of a heart warming, soul stirring performance from one of the better bands you’ve ever had the good fortune of witnessing live.

 

Golden Gate ParkSan Francisco, CA – October 3, 2008

Following their only off night of the week, the Revue headlined Friday afternoon’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival.  Early in the show, Plant asked, “Are their any Mavericks here tonight,” alluding to the previous day’s Vice-Presidential debate, and drawing loud laughter from the approximate 30,000 fans spread out throughout a beautiful landscape that is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. In case anyone had misunderstood the sentiment of his earlier comment, Plant would later warn, “Beware of the Maverick,” before leaving the stage.

PlantKraussSanFranStage.jpgOn a tour filled with one joyful moment after another, one complaint members of the band have vocalized was the fact that very few members of the audience ever stood to dance.  While that could at times be blamed on security at several venues (including Seattle) that would actually make fans that did want to dance sit down, it was at times incomprehensible that more of the crowd did not feel compelled to get up and shake their old bones to the delightful sounds of the Raising Sand Revue. At Golden Gate Park, one of the largest crowds to witness the Raising Sand Revue, volume one, nearly everyone stood and danced.  The crowd participation propelled the entire band, especially Plant, who, in turn delivered one of his best performances of the tour. At one point, as fans near the stage laughed with bliss, Plant would comment, “This is no laughing matter… this is the beginning of the next chapter,” one of his first hints to the audience of what the future may hold for his new band.

“The Battle of Evermore,” a song Led Zeppelin never performed live, was executed beyond perfection, and was unequivocally the highlight of this performance.  Constantly hailed as the best song of the night at nearly every stop of the tour, “Evermore” featured a crescendo that can only be described as otherworldly.  Between Plant and Krauss’ vocal harmonies and the indescribable sounds coming from Miller’s guitar and Duncan’s fiddle, “Evermore” was just about as good as music gets, perhaps the single musical high point of the entire tour.

 

Konocti HarborKelseyville, CA – October 4, 2008

A beautiful afternoon on the banks of Clear Lake turned bitterly cold as show time approached, leaving fans carrying blankets in to the show.  By show time, it felt as though the fabled mighty winds of Thor were actually blowing in from the lake, blowing sheets of water on to the band as they made their way on stage, and a few other times throughout the night as well.  The band members were troopers to perform under such artic, not to mention unsafe, conditions, and Plant even cracked jokes that he had performed in the northern parts of Norway and it had not been so cold.

PlantKraussKonocti.jpgIf Plant had been the star of the San Francisco show, then this show belonged to Krauss.  She took control early singing a haunting “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” followed by “Through The Morning, Through The Night.”  By the time she launched in to “Goodbye and So Long To You,” Krauss was finding comfort in stepping out of her normal zone, adding some rock-n-roll pizzazz to the Mac Wiseman classic.  Crouch was again leading the rhythmic charge, providing the low frequencies that were the heart of the song.

Krauss continued to steal the show during “The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard,” before Duncan jumped in for virtuous fiddle duo that segued back to “In the Mood.” When Plant strutted from corner stage, playing shakers in both hands, he suddenly let out his biggest screech of the tour. Krauss quickly harmonized, pushing Plant to even greater heights as he seemed determined to prove he could hold a note as long as Alison.  In the end, both had a nice laugh at one another’s expenses, and suddenly the artic winds no longer seemed so harsh.

With Plant and Krauss pushing themselves despite the bitter conditions, Duncan did the same for “Black Country Woman.” His banjo sounded particularly crisp in the artic-like conditions, as did Crouch’s bass.  By the end of the song, Plant stepped to the microphone and served up his most Zeppelin-like scream of the night, before ending the song laughing at the ridiculous conditions he was performing in, saying, “Sometimes you’ve just got to smile, man.”

This being her night, Krauss was hardly done commanding the crowd.  Left on stage alone, she launched in to the hit “Down by the River to Pray,” from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack she recorded, with Burnett, many years ago.  Never had Krauss held the crowd more in the palm of her hands, with the audience squealing with admiration each time she paused between verses.  Later, Plant, Miller and Duncan surrounded a single microphone on the side of the stage, adding harmony as the song came to a stirring, and stunning, close.

Late in the show, with the wind chill factor dipping below freezing, Plant ran off stage, with an obvious look of mischief.  Seconds later, as Krauss was preparing to sing “Please Read the Letter,” Plant returned, commenting that he wanted to bring her “the heater,” a 1950’s era two-foot space heater that hardly looked capable of warming one person, let alone an entire band.  The absurdity of the situation, of these two super stars performing under such heinous conditions, with little more than a tiny space heater to protect them from the elements, spoke volume’s of the complete Konocti Harbor experience.  Billed as a luxury resort and spa, the reality of Konocti is far from luxurious.  The view of the lake was nice, when you could see it.  If you one day make the trek to Clear Lake, be sure to come equipped with your all weather gear, or beware of those winds of Thor, they do blow cold.

 

Mountain Winery – Saratoga, CA – October 5, 2008

PlantKraussWineryBuddy.jpgOften times the end of a tour can be a joyous occasion, a celebration of good times gone by as band mates prepare to leave the road and return home.  This night seemed more of a somber occasion. With the Raising Sand Revue drawing to a close, the members of the band were far less conversive than normal, both amongst themselves and with their audience.  Though the show was nothing less than delightful, you could sense the musicians were already starting to miss their mates and the great times they’d had together the past six months, as their gypsy caravan traveled the world making music that filled so many souls with joy and good times.

The setting of Paul Masson’s lush Mountain Winery proved to be a stunningly intimate venue, offering spectacular views of the Silicon Valley, well worth the exorbitant ticket prices that reached $200 for premium seating.  Plant and Krauss made sure that each member of the Revue was given plenty of time to shine throughout the tour’s swan song. 

Buddy Miller was perhaps the most impressive performer of all, showcasing his awe-inspiring guitar talents while cutting loose with powerful guitar solos on “Fortune Teller” and “In the Mood.”  At one point, Miller’s playing was so stimulating that Dennis Crouch stopped stroking his bass to point at Miller, encouraging the crowd to recognize just how talented the “Singing Fisherman” truly is.

Not to be outdone, Jay Bellerose seemed utterly elated in showcasing his inimitable style.  Playing everything from soft padded sticks to an array of shakers, to a cymbal with the triangle carved out of it, Bellerose and his unique take on rhythm left little doubt why he was selected by Burnett to join the band.  Stuart Duncan was equally impressive, again standing out on both banjo and fiddle during “Black Country Woman.”  And T Bone Burnett, who Plant introduced as “the Conjurer who has changed the face of me,” smiled like a proud papa, swelling with pride as the band he helped conceive concluded a tour that many have called the best traveling show of the year.

PlantKraussWINERYFULLBAND.jpgWith their band performing with near perfect precision, Plant and Krauss did the same.  Krauss brought the haunting “Trampled Rose” back to the set, a song the Revue had not performed during this final leg of their tour, despite many concert-goers having called it their favorite earlier in the year.  That preceded the June Carter Cash classic “Wildwood Flowers,” which Krauss somewhat jokingly introduced saying, “I love this song, because it’s real sad.  The sadder the better, because we don’t want any body walking away from here feeling good.”  It seemed as if the band was going to go home sad that the tour was over, then their crowd was going to have their sad moments too, sad in the most beautiful manner possible.

With the end of the show, and the tour, drawing near, it was time for Plant to take command of the stage, to provide the capacity crowd a performance they would not soon forget.  “Nothin’,” the Townes Van Zandt classic that Plant had never even heard until Burnett introduced it during the band’s recording sessions, proved to be his showcase of the night. 

PlantKraussWineryStuart.jpgAfter commenting on the band performing the song differently each night, Plant launched “Nothin’” in a very soft, almost spoken word manner before later erupting with primal vocal screams that were very Zeppelin-esque.  Powerful yet shocking, the screams were something Plant had left behind for most of the tour. While he now opts for a more tasteful, melodic approach, singing harmony for the first time in his illustrious career, Plant let it be known that, when he feels like it, he still can still howl with the best of them.

 

The Future

While nothing has been publicly announced, members of the band confirmed during the final week of the tour that sessions have already been booked in a Nashville studio for January 2009 to begin work on a second CD, with tentative plans to return to the road in 2010.

Though dates for the tour have yet to be booked, no one was content to let this be the end.  Barring any unforeseen developments over the course of the next year, look for the Raising Sand Revue to return, supporting a second CD of Americana classics, by the summer of 2010.  They may be “Gone, Gone, Gone” for now, but another long, heavenly journey awaits.

It’ll be well worth the wait.

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