Hardcore Led Zeppelin enthusiasts are tough to please. And, certainly, Robert Plant’s twilight career doesn’t make some of them smile. (Hell, the mid-’90s Page and Plant moments were largely too soft for even aging Zepheads.) Page, Plant and John Paul Jones played a one-off with John Bonham’s son, Jason (who is currently helming the Led Zeppelin Experience) in 2007, but a full-scale “reunion” just ain’t gonna happen. (And, right, Bonham’s still dead … for more than 30 years now.)
But Plant’s second (or third or fourth) coming is masterful. “Raising Sand,” his 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, was one that the Grammy buffoons might have actually gotten right — and their Red Rocks concert in its support was a breezy delight. This is a man — and a rocker, to boot — ripening gracefully. Rolling Stones: If it weren’t too late, you’d be advised to take copious notes.
Plant showed at the Fillmore on Wednesday night with his latest incarnation of support, Band of Joy. It shares its name with his most recent record and, also, his first ever group. “Black Dog” opened the proceedings, slow crawling in his recent fashion. Plant and his troupe of five or six backers at a time scratched the mostly middle-aged crowd — many decked out in “Houses of the Holy” or “Stairway” T-shirts — where they itched. He ran through “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Black Country Woman,” a set-closing “Ramble On” and, then, the most raucous moment of the fairly smooth evening and first encore tune: a punchy “Rock & Roll,” for which Plant said the crew eschewed a more reflective Leonard Cohen cover.
Other borrowed material was well-plucked, though: “Silver Rider,” by Low, appears on “Band of Joy” and Plant’s vocals make good use of its lamenting curvatures, both live and on recording. You might think it a cover after all these years, but Plant’s 1983 hit “In the Mood” was made anew by the greying longhair who made the point of saying — at least two times — that it had been 13,781 days since the first time he had played Colorado.
“Monkey” from “Band of Joy” was dark and ominous in a faintly Zep way, and “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” from the same record, allowed Plant to stretch his voice to those oh-so-familiar screeching heights he largely forgoes these days. All the while he was a true professional, allowing his capable band to step out for its own tunes, and his current bluegrass-n-country vibe of choice became even more apparent through their showcases and, then, a rendition of “Please Read the Letter” (from Page and Plant and, later, “Raising Sand”). Even the most brutish Led Zeppelin fan would’ve melted a little bit. The song, it seems, does not remain the same.
Tina Hagerling is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. Check out more of her concert photography.