Whether he's gifting joints to talk show hosts or wailing on "Whole Lotta Love," Robert Plant has most definitely still got it. And last night at Brooklyn Bowl, the former Led Zeppelin frontman put on a show that proves he hasn't lost a single inch of his potency in the years since a couple of kids got together in London and started what was arguably one of the biggest rock bands of all time. In the intervening years, Plant hasn't slowed down at all; if anything, he's embraced new techniques and styles and transformed into something greater than his origin story, a difficult task when all audiences want to hear is "Black Dog."
Plant didn't disappoint at last night's show, riffing on the two aforementioned Zepp tunes, the first of which was part of a medley with "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Who Do You Love." The frenetic, darker version of Black Dog was particularly well-rendered, thanks to the addition of a riti, played with finesse by Gambian native Juldeh Camara. Other Zeppitude included a laid back, somewhat scattered version of "Thank You," where Plant seemed a bit lost in the moment, plus an appropriately raucous rendition of "Rock And Roll."
If the sold-out crowd came solely for the throwback covers, none hit more deeply than a tear-inducing version of "Going To California," with Plant's caramel-rich vocals blending seamlessly with Justin Adams and Liam "Skin" Tyson filling in for Page and Paul Jones's steel guitar and banjo. Now if only the drunk dudes in the back would STFU.
Last night's show concluded the US section of Plant's 26th tour, a figure that includes his travels with Led Zeppelin, the fantastic Mighty Rearranger tour with the Strange Sensation, a stint with bluegrass artist Alison Krauss and the current Lullaby...and the Ceaseless Roar tour with the Sensational Space Shifters. Plant treated fans to "Tin Pan Valley" from the Rearranger album, an intense, driving piece that wouldn't be out of place in a remake of Halloween. I wouldn't have been disappointed by the more heady "Shine It All Around" or moving "All The King's Horses," but "Valley" captures the hard rock ethos upon which Plant built his career, and for anyone unfamiliar with his post-Zepp offerings, it would seem a natural extension.
The single "Rainbow" from the new album also made an appearance, backed by a literal rainbow of stage lights. It's got a U2-esque thing going on, albeit with more sincerity and gravitas befitting its leader. You're with him on it, new agey and soaring, especially his signature "Ooo's," a holdover from the Rearranger days and a smoother, more world-wise and settled version of the screaming moans from tracks like "Kashmir."
Plant's a long way from the Mud Shark party days—Colbert joint incident aside—and his tambourine was filled with Poland Spring bottles instead of whiskey bottles last night. But he did emerge for the encore with a beer in hand, treating the crowd to Zepp's version of "Nobody's Fault But Mine," imparting a revival-gospel air with some sick slow jam banjo. A track from the new album called "Little Maggie"—a product of Plant's New Age Appalachia mentality in the new release—and a medley featuring "Whole Lotta Love" closed out the show, once again putting Plant's dynamic vocals on display.
Anyone at the show just for the Led Zeppelin songs should have been pleased—if they were sober enough, that is. There was markedly less engagement during the non-Zepp tunes, which is too bad, because Plant's vocal flexibility shines through even brighter in his fresher material.
A young woman in cut off denim shorts bucked trend with a crowd that skewed older, some perhaps hoping to relive a special moment from 1971. If so, they found an older version of their teen idol, certainly, but one still capable of wielding a mic stand like a weapon. And even after all these years, dude's still got killer hair.