Saturday Night: Robert Plant & Band Of Joy At The Woodlands

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Photos by Jason Wolter
Robert Plant & Band of Joy, Bettye LaVette
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 24, 2010

Robert Plant is a master of the musical bait and switch, but an exceptionally gracious one.

Plant is no dummy. He has to know that the commercial radio stations in Houston (and, let's be fair, most everywhere else) that run ads and give away plenty of tickets for his concerts would sooner add Lady Gaga to their playlists than touch anything from 2007's Raising Sand or his forthcoming Band of Joy album.

Therefore, he also had to know that an overwhelming part of the audience was there to bask in "Communication Breakdown" and "Heartbreaker," not to sample the Los Lobos, Richard Thompson and Louvin Brothers offerings from Band of Joy's self-titled album due in September. He acknowledged as much four songs deep into the set, thanking the crowd for its "admirable restraint" after Sand's "Please Read the Letter."

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Plant, who had an imp-like gleam in his eyes the duration of the 90-plus minutes he and Band of Joy were onstage Saturday night at the Woodlands, may have had the last laugh anyway. After his thank-you - Zep's "Thank You" came in the encore, by the way - he and the four-man, one-woman Band of Joy began another fuzzy, acoustic-blues arrangement that only revealed itself as "Misty Mountain Hop" when Plant began singing the lyrics.

As soon as the words "Walkin' in the park the other day, baby..." left the singer's lips, the entire crowd leapt to its feet, a pattern that would continue the rest of the night: Standing for the Zeppelin tunes and, save a few intrepid souls that danced the night away, seated for everything else.

More than anything Plant and the other musicians did from the stage, that was the only difference between the Zeppelin and non-Zeppelin songs Saturday. Seeded with bandleader Buddy Miller's biting electric leads and/or his and Darrell Scott's sturdy acoustic rhythms, or overlaid/underscored with Scott's pining steel, the Americana makeovers given "Tangerine," "Over the Hills and Far Away," "Houses of the Holy" and "Gallows Pole" revealed those songs as very much precursors to where Plant's musical head is now. Or always has been.

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