A Night to Remember: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Manchester Apollo – May 7th 2008

We all have nights to remember for various reasons. Hopefully, many are good ones, but of course, there is always the odd bad or indifferent one. And, although it would probably be better to forget the bad or indifferent ones, they do serve to inform some of our less favourable gig-going prospects. Such as when the person next to you sings throughout the show, or they tap their feet, play air guitar or drums. And, just when you didn’t think things could not be any worse, there’s the one where when the first chord is struck, the people in front of you stand up, totally obliterating your view. Or maybe I’ve just been very unlucky on some occasions.

Fortunately, there were no such issues at our much-anticipated gig-getaway to Manchester Apollo back in May 2008. Instead, the crowd were enraptured with the unlikely duo of the inimitable Robert Plant and sensational Alison Krauss, who, in their own words, say “the differences are a blast”. The pair’s multi-award-winning, critically acclaimed eclectic collaboration album ‘Raising Sand‘, of course, the stimulus for the tour. The album is a wonderfully diverse compilation of covers hand-picked by producer T Bone Burnett.

Looking around the auditorium, however, there were clearly many Led Zeppelin fans present and, much to their delight, they were not forgotten. Additional songs on the setlist saw Plant revisiting his glorious back catalogue with stunning reworks of ‘29 Palms‘, ‘Black Dog‘, ‘Black Country Woman‘ and, ‘The Battle of Evermore‘. As if that wasn’t enough, there was also Burnett’s ‘Shut It Tight‘ and ‘Bon Temps Rouler‘, Ray Charles’ ‘Leave My Woman Alone‘, and a beautiful rendition of the traditional ‘Down to the River to Pray‘.

Everything was immaculately performed by a stunning array of musicians, including the rare presence of T Bone Burnett. At the same time, Plant & Krauss hypnotized the crowd with their stirring duets and harmonies on one another’s solo performances. The musical quality, the bluegrass-blues rock combination and the spellbinding, evocative vocals made for a captivating experience and ever-changing spectrum of emotions. It was rocking, groovy, yearning and moody. Sultry and evocative. It effortlessly had it all.

And, exciting news hot off the press is that, after fourteen years, the pairing has come together again with a new album. ‘Raise the Roof‘, produced once more by T Bone Burnett, and is undoubtedly destined for greatness.

Here’s hoping a tour and another incredible night to remember will follow.

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Fred Arnold

Nice article, great memories. I was lucky enough to see the Raising Sand tour at the outdoor Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The setlist was very similar as I recall and I can only agree with your assessment of the band, probably the best supporting musicians that I have ever seen. Even outdoors the atmosphere was amazing and the sound sensational. Here’s looking forward to the tour that supports ‘Raise the Roof’!!