10 June 2008

Krauss/Plant @ CMAC

Had a bit of a different live experience this Saturday night at the slightly updated and annoyingly named Constellation Brands Melvin Sands Performing Arts Center, formerly Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center, aka CMAC. Don't have a clue what CMAC is actually short for but they had a Dinosaur BBQ stand smoking meats on site, so I wasn't complaining. Anyway, aside from hearing the seemingly odd combo of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on stage, the real reason the experience was different for me was because I dragged my not quite 2-year-old daughter along for the ride. And I'll tell you, it sure beat going alone, she was a great show-going companion. She even had her father's penchant for being up front as she dragged us and our lawn ticket all the way down to the pit without one question from an usher. We went straight back out though.

There was a completely unannounced opener which was particularly annoying for me on this night trying to entertain my daughter for an extra hour or so. She was not into the opener and nor was I. Pretty bland stuff, but she had a nice voice. Sharon Little was her name and she just released her first album a couple of weeks ago. "Go buy it" so says she.

Not much to say about the Krauss Plant combo that hasn't been said many times before. I have yet to hear the album so none of those songs were familiar. For the most part the only songs I recognized were the Zep tunes and even those weren't easily identifiable. The Black Dog was completely redone americana style and slowed down to an almost standstill. It struck me about midway through the set, why is Robert Plant here? Really, between the folksy roots type music they were playing and the redone Black Dog, he was hardly recognizable or identifiable as himself, his classic and distinct voice getting no workout whatsoever. I seriously thought to myself, he could not be here and this show would be about the same, he's adding nothing. As much as I liked the Black Dog "cover" it wasted his talents as none of his memorable vocalizations for that song came through, and since his voice is his instrument, and the way he sings that song originally is the voice of his instrument (his voice duh!) it just struck me as a little wrong. Still great though.

But the lack of Plant all changed in the 2nd half where he strapped on his working boots and kicked some Americana ass. Before I forget, I also need to mention that the rest of this band were no slouches. You've got Stuart Duncan playing various strings, and Buddy Miller wailing on guitar, and of course T Bone Burnett who put the whole thing together, as was mentioned many times during the night. I think the only thing that could have possibly made the band better was if Allison had brought on Jerry Douglas from her band. That would have sweetened an already oozingly sweet pot.

Anyway, back to the Robert Plant thing. Finally, soon after a short T Bone Burnett 2 song interlude, all of a sudden I remembered it was Robert Fucking Plant on stage. First on a Townes Van Zandt song called "Nothing" which was one of the highlights for me. Fantastic. "Battle for Evermore" was a more straightforward cover with great mandolin intro work, and some fantastic Plant action as well. Might also want to mention that Alison Krauss was equally fantastic. Her voice simply soars. But I knew that already and have experienced it first hand. No surprise. She was also bedecked in a flowing gown that glowed with the stage lighting behind her. Angelic.

I wish I had some more specifics and insights, but I was a bit preoccupied. We left before the encore, not sure if they brought out any big surprised there, but we left quite satisfied. I definitely need to pick up this album now, not that I hadn't already wanted it before.

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