Review and photos by Andy ArgyrakisWhen Robert Plant came to the town of Austin, Texas to give the keynote address at SxSW, he didn't just speak for an hour and book out of town. He actually spent quite a bit of time hanging out, starting the night before when he was spotted by some standing in the shadows of a Hubert Sumlin show (which Elvis Costello also happened to be at and jumped on stage for a quick collaboration). Though Plant didn't indulge in the moment, those that spotted him saw nods of approval and a look of joy on his face. Of course anyone seeing this noted blues man would be in this state of mind, but the one time Led Zeppelin front man also has a lot of other items to be happy about these days.
As fully divulged in the following morning's keynote address (attended to maximum capacity in the main room, overflow area and even hallway television monitor feed) the singer/songwriter has regrouped with his latest band Strange Sensation and is hitting the road once again. The reason stems from a forthcoming release titled Mighty Rearranger which follows a recent lineage of an Atlantic Records double disc collection and the Universal issue Dreamland. This time out however Plant is turning to Sanctuary Records, a label home that's given much more freedom of expression. Aside from sharing stories about the recording process and his vast career, fans were also treated to a sneak peak of listening snippets, along with a short documentary video tracing the asst and present. Early indications point that Mighty Rearranger is loaded with an array of Northern European and ethic instrumentation with Strange Sensation taking an even more experimental approach than the last time out. Naturally, those details are all intertwined within Plant's distinctive wails, which despite being lower than days of yesteryear remain unmistakable.
Following the event and an enormous ovation, Plant snuck backstage to field questions in a press conference that expanded on his earlier dialogue and got a bit deeper into the creative process. He also fielded questions about current bands he likes (which include Ohio's The Black Keys and the U.K.'s Kasabian) along with advice to up and comers wanting to break into the business (such as not signing with a major label). However even more exciting was the sessions final question which was posed eagerly by a women who abruptly shouted out from one of the back seats. "Robert, do you still have groupies?" It was none other than Pamela Des Barres, world famous groupie who had previously spent time with Plant. The question and realization that it was indeed her seemed to throw the singer off guard, who jumped off his platform, went running into the audience and embraced Pamela for a solid minute. After photographers clamored to get pictures and journalists corralled for a few juicy quotes, the pair made a brisk exit much to the shock of everyone in attendance.
Several hours following the hoopla, Plant re-emerged at the Austin Music Hall to perform much of the Mighty Rearranger material, a handful of obscure covers and a series of Zeppelin classics. Most arousing were a re-worked bluesy take on "Black Dog" and an extended version finale of "Whole Lotta Love." It was a fitting finale to a series of enjoyable appearances in which Plant truly gave his supporters some up close and personal lovin'. Hopefully for him, they'll return the favor by picking up the new disc upon its May 3rd release.
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