Robert Plant may be hard rock’s ultimate tease. His 2007 comeback concert with Led Zeppelin has gone down as one of the most spectacular reunions ever — but the singer immediately dismissed any possibility of a more permanent get-together (the next morning he was up at the crack of dawn, giving interviews promoting his new solo album).
Similarly, his latest tour is sprinkled with Zeppelin material: not enough to satisfy the hardcore devotee, yet of sufficient quantity to provide a glimpse of the majesty that might await were the band to ever reunite on a long-standing basis.
Plant is touring Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar, a peculiar record that marks a retreat from the exalted folk-rock of his Grammy winning 2007 get-together with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand.
The duo had planned a follow-up: when magic failed to manifest in the studio, however, Plant called time on the project and instead resumed his stand-alone career. He continues to be fascinated by American roots music : the new project blends his love for Appalachian mountain dirges and hard-charging rock and roll.
In a stuffed Olympia, he opened with the Zeppelin’s ‘No Quarter’, re-casting the epic as a boogie-flavoured rocker, drizzled in mandolin and shuffling drums, his rasping vocals overshadowed by the awesome groove conjured by his band.
Other Zeppelin numbers would follow: the pensive ‘Going To California’, a rollicking ‘What Is’ and ‘What Should Never Be’ – on a medley of ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ and ‘Mona’, meanwhile, he plunged into ‘Whole Lotta Love’: four decades old, the tune remains the musical equivalent of a monster truck driving smashing through your living room window.
Alongside the handful of Zep tracks, Plant delved deeply into the new LP. A reworked American bluegrass number, ‘Little Maggie’ was thunderous one moment, contemplative the next. The single ‘Rainbow’, for its part, was almost Coldplay-esque in its bittersweet tenor, Plant’s vocals vying for supremacy with a pensively droning guitar. Here, for perhaps the only moment all evening, he sounded every one of his 66 years.