Robert Plant and Alison Krauss cement their unique musical path at Thompson’s Point
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
I was feeling almost wobbly at what had just taken place. And it wasn’t just because the ground was covered in sawdust and woodchips to make up for the fact that it had been raining in New England for about a month straight, making the ground a little uneven and awkward. Still, we all stood dumbfounded at the musical display that had unfolded before us.
And then, as he does, Robert Plant succinctly summed up the evening:
“Wow, what a trip. Forty-five shows, and this is the one. Thank you.”
Over the course of about 90 minutes and with the sun setting stage right along Portland, Maine’s Fore River, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss graced this peninsula for the final date in the United States on this 2023 leg of the Raise the Roof tour and left the audience with a stunning show that blended all their influences and experiences.
All the threads of Plant’s and Krauss’ careers intertwine on their two albums and on stage, with bluegrass and folk melding with the blues and rock, reinforcing the limitations that strict genres needlessly impose on musicians and their audiences. Krauss could be playing a fiddle figure and, within moments, Plant could be wailing or JD McPherson could have his guitar howling from the sidelines. These are not sounds meant to be segmented and separated. In the right hands, they can fuse and create a new aural tapestry.
If 2007’s Raising Sand wasn’t enough evidence of this, 2022’s Raise the Roof picked up where the previous record left off, following a classic with its equal. To that end, “High and Lonesome,” “Can’t Let Go” and “The Price of Love” were examples from that most recent album that highlighted the strength of the duo comes to more than the sum of its considerable parts.
Of course, in addition to their joint material, there were reinterpretations of a handful of Led Zeppelin classics. “Rock and Roll” was reinvented as a hillbilly hoedown, with Stuart Duncan’s fiddle grabbing the spotlight, but “The Battle of Evermore” was mostly a straight retelling, with Krauss standing in for Sandy Denny’s original performance. Still, it’s a song that was timeless since inception and fits perfectly into this new setting.
Meanwhile, “Please Read the Letter” has become a signature song for Plant since it first appeared on 1998’s Walking into Clarksdale, and its ability to seamlessly adapt to his surroundings — blowing the top off an arena with Jimmy Page, exploring the sonic outer reaches with his Sensational Space Shifters — is a testament to its strength. And that’s no different with Krauss. It was a highlight on Raising Sand — a triumph on an album of triumphs — and it was a centerpiece of this evening’s show.
As Plant has aged and adapted, he’s acquitted himself more gracefully than many of his peers, chasing new sounds and not sitting still while he explores the range of his more mature voice. Still, he hasn’t lost his knack for his stagecraft, working in those little twists and gestures as he sings and, on a few occasions, letting out a belt that recalls moments from his late 1970s days.
That sense of showmanship was even present upon their introduction. With the band kicking into the bluesy drone of “Rich Woman,” Krauss and Plant appeared from opposite sides of the stage, sidling up to their respective microphones just as their opening lines were due. And as first impressions go, they immediately had the crowd in the palms of their hands; the melding of their voices was on point from the start and served as an immediate reminder of the power of this still astounding pairing.
The main set built to a crescendo with an astounding reading of “When the Levee Breaks,” the blues classic that Led Zeppelin turned into arguably their signature song. Here, it’s a dark and brooding take on the flooding of the city, anchored by those ominous tom drums and dueling fiddles that echoed the theme from Zeppelin’s “Friends” weaved within the track. After a few minutes, it all built to a suddenly thundering guitar-and-drum combination, punctuated by Plant’s stunningly powerful cries of going to Chicago. The captain of this particular viking ship, as Krauss referred to him during the band introductions, was reminding the crowd one more time of the legend standing amongst them.
Not that anyone needed any reminding by this point in the night, though. Plant’s standing remains unquestioned at this point, and the pairing of his yin to Krauss’ yang has created a sound that stands on its own, apart from both their storied careers. And apparently, this night was the one. Indeed, what a trip.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org