Review and Photos by Tony BonyataThe lion's mane may be a bit more tame. There may even be a few more deep lines in the face and small tire starting to take residency around the midlands, but make no mistake, when former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant graced the stage of the Eagles Ballroom last Monday evening he still had all the power, stamina and, most important, Herculean vocals that helped make his former band one of the biggest acts in the history of rock.
In support of Dreamland, his first solo studio album in nine years, Plant not only performed a handful of enigmatic versions from that album, such as the hallucinogenic opener "If I Ever Get Lucky," which hearkened back to his early blues influences while lacing it in swirling psychedelia, and the tumultuous "Hey Joe," which was drastically altered from Jimi Hendrix's original, but also gave the crowd what they really came for, and that was to see if this 53-year old rock veteran could still pull off his own renditions of old Zeppelin classics.
Nobody left disappointed as Plant, along with his band Strange Sensation, rampaged through an explosive version of Zeppelin's "Four Sticks" with all of the finesse of Godzilla plundering through a Japanese village. It wasn't long before the golden-tressed vocalist casually seated himself on a stool, and gave a moving rendition of the folkie acoustic number "Going To California."
While "Celebration Day, "originally from Led Zeppelin III, and "Whole Lotta Love," from Led Zeppelin II, were both welcome additions, it was during the somewhat muddled instrumental stretches of both of these numbers that also made the crowd yearn for Jimmy Page's shimmering, sun-shower guitars as well as the cannonading rhythms of the late drummer John Bonham.
While the cover of Tim Buckley's tender sonnet "Song To The Siren," made for a beautifully haunting addition to Plant's latest album, as one of the two encore's performed that evening, it also slowed things down a bit too much. That was remedied quickly, however, as Plant and company ended their set with a passionate take of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," from Zeppelin's 1969 self-titled debut album.
With broad shoulders and sensual moves that transformed from flourishing thespian hand gestures to hip-shaking grinds, along with one of the most potent set of pipes in rock music today, Plant proved upon entering middle age that he's still at the top of his game, even without the ominous crunch of his former band.
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