Early 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.”
Plant 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,
While 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 Park San 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
On 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
“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
– Konocti Harbor Kelseyville, CA – October 4, 2008
If Plant had been the star of the
Krauss continued to steal the show during “The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard,” before
With Plant and Krauss pushing themselves despite the bitter conditions,
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
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
Mountain Winery –
Saratoga, CA – October 5, 2008
Often 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
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.
With 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.
After 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.
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
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.