“We’ve got a lot of music for you,” Robert Plant announced at the final date of his U.S. tour Saturday night (July 27) at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, New York. “We’re gonna whip out the REO Speedwagon, but right now we’re gonna go back to the 1920s!” Plant has a sly sense of humor; this was his way of saying, if you’re looking to hear the studio versions of Led Zeppelin‘s songs, you should listen to the radio. However, those with adventurous tastes would be rewarded.
Which isn’t to say that Plant has a problem with his hits or his lineage. That was clear from the opener: “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” A folk song from the 1950s popularized by Joan Baez a decade later, Led Zeppelin turned it into a powerful anthemic adrenaline blast on their 1969 debut album, and it barely resembled the original. Plant’s message seemed to be: old music is a jump-off point to create something new, not to be preserved in its original form. It’s a living organism, not Madame Tussad’s. Four decades later, he seems to feel the same way about Zeppelin’s music. His reverence to his former band is to the spirit of what they did, not simply to Jimmy Page’s arrangements. And while “Babe” stuck fairly closely to Zep’s version, and the same was true of “Going To California,” other songs were taken to the present and beyond: notably “Black Dog,” which became a desert blues instead of the proto-metal headbanger that was released on Zeppelin’s fourth album. It’s a song he seems to particularly enjoy re-shaping: he did a more psychedelic version with his last group, the Band Of Joy (watch that version here) and a bluegrass version when he was touring with Alison Krauss (see it here). Watch his current take of the song below.
— Brian Ives, Radio.com