Robert Plant and Band of Joy at the Fillmore, with North Mississippi Allstars, 4/27/11
With North Mississippi Allstars
4.27.11 | Fillmore Auditorium
Say what you will about his refusal to reunite Led Zeppelin and his musical journey since that project ended: Robert Plant is and has always been a rock god. He reminded the Fillmore last night just why some people name him the best rock frontman of all time with a mixture of Zeppelin classics, solo endeavors and collaborations with others, all kissed with his current rock-heavy blend of alt-country. But first, Southern rock/blues outfit North Mississippi Allstars warmed up the crowd.
Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson's set was heavily blues/jam-influenced, with a sound that recalled the Black Keys. Cody held down drums, with some forays into other instruments throughout the set, while Luther's rack of string instruments held six to eight different types of guitars and banjos that he picked up during the night. At 8 p.m., the venue was close to full, and they raised the energy and kept it high in anticipation of the headliner. For "Drinking Muddy Water," Luther picked up a coffee-can banjo built like a dulcimer banjo, wailing on the instrument but also giving Cody room to stretch and improvise on the drums.
"Shake" got everyone in the building moving while Luther's guitar sang along with him; when he growled, "You better shake it like it's gonna save your ass," the electricity in the room was palpable. The boys switched gears after that; Cody put down his drumsticks and picked up an acoustic guitar, and they played some gorgeous instrumental gospel- and bluegrass-influenced tunes off The Word, Luther picking up his cigar-box banjo and Cody settling a washboard over his chest that provided a skittering beat to the low, looping melody.
The guys busted out the gospel classic "Get Right Church," imitating a train's whistle with the guitar and the chugging mechanical moving-train wheels with the drums, then immediately dropped into what sounded like a psychedelically wobbly (and barely recognizable) version of "Amazing Grace," which finished up their strong set. The brothers were fantastic, and the crowd no doubt would have fought to keep them on the stage had we not known who was coming up next.
At a little past 9 p.m., Plant walked on stage with the rest of his Band of Joy: Patty Griffin on harmonizing vocals, Buddy Miller on lead guitar, multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott, Byron House on bass and Marco Giovino on drums. Plant acknowledged the crowd's roar with raised hands, then the group launched into a rootsy, alt-country version of "Black Dog," harmonized, slowed down and funked out. The crowd was in a frenzy. Plant's signature voice has worn well over the years; he's still got the soft croon and rock-star wail down pat.