Live Review: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, Oklahoma – 2nd June 2024

Picture: Paul Dominy

Let’s face it, in whichever creative direction he travels, Robert Plant will always be recognized as the strutting, bare-torsoed, former front man of Led Zeppelin. If one had wanted to move on from that phase of Percy’s musical career, the preponderance of 1970s and 80s tour t-shirts worn by the audience at this show were more than sufficient to return those memories to front of mind. As it happens, Zeppelin did play once in Tulsa, in August 1970, but it’s doubtful that any of tonight’s items of attire are originals from fifty-four years ago.

Speaking of things that are not originals, the reaction is invariably one of surprise when non-aficionados are informed that just one of the songs on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ two albums was an original written specifically for those recordings. That song, ‘High and Lonesome’, was penned by Plant and T Bone Burnett, whose eclectic and imaginative curatorship, reimagining and production of the two albums’ twenty-five tracks left many with the impression they were bespoke compositions for this duo. A playlist of the originals makes for a great companion to the newer interpretations on those two albums.

Plant and Krauss took to the iconic Cain’s stage to a rapturous welcome and launched into the now very familiar, close, lush harmonies of their first album’s first track and their go-to set opener ‘Rich Woman’.  With its deep tremolo and reverb guitar tones and tribal drums, this version was an inspired reworking and a far cry from L’il Millet & His Creoles’ New Orleans rhythm and blues original from 1955, excellent as that is.

Picture: Paul Dominy

It was in Cleveland, Ohio, at a 2004 Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame tribute to Lead Belly, that the seemingly incongruous Plant/Krauss pairing first occurred. After that performance and almost three years of song selection, experimentation, recording and, according to Burnett, “goofing off, having fun”, the duo’s first album ‘Raising Sand’ was released, garnering worldwide critical acclaim, platinum sales and six Grammies.  A world tour and a thirteen-year hiatus followed, before release in 2021 of their second collaboration ‘Raise the Roof’ which was promoted by touring throughout 2022 and 2023.  Now, without a recent release to promote, the pair set off on a further extensive series of shows under the banner of the ‘Can’t Let Go’ tour and, in another coup in its centennial year, Cain’s was able to secure the opening date.

Although Plant informs the audience that today is Cain’s’ hundredth birthday, the actual date is long lost to history, and one wonders if he might have been thus informed as an incentive to do the show. Whatever the case, the congratulatory applause from the audience suggests they are unconcerned with chronological accuracy and, if it keeps bringing artists like this to town, they are happy to celebrate all year.

The evening was opened by Tulsa’s own JD McPherson, who also happens to assume lead guitar duties in the Plant/Krauss band. The highlights of his short set were a straight ahead cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and a rollicking version of ‘Lucky Penny’ from his 2017 album ‘Undivided Heart & Soul’, a song that inevitably and unavoidably evokes The Black Keys.   In the Plant/Krauss band, JD joins other long-timers Jay Bellerose on drums, bassist Dennis Crouch, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and ukelele, and keyboardist and guitarist Viktor Krauss, Alison’s brother.

Viktor’s sister initially seems a somewhat demure figure on stage, maintaining eye contact with Plant throughout. But don’t be fooled by any impression of coyness. She comes armed with fearsome weaponry: the powerful, sweet voice of an angel, virtuoso fiddle playing and a bright, captivating smile of enthusiasm that seems to light up the room. Gushingly obsequious as it may seem, it is difficult to understate the beauty of her singing.  When Plant introduces the band, the ovation for Krauss goes on for as long as the applause for all the other members combined, including Plant!

Throughout their years of live performance, the pair have covered, maybe surprisingly, just seven songs from Plant’s Led Zep era. The first of tonight’s selection is ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, starting with a screeching fiddle intro leading into a do-si-do rhythm which, had there been space to move in the packed venue, would doubtless have seen many of the Oklahoma audience pairing off and spinning each other around the room.

Picture: Paul Dominy

The majority of the set was drawn from ‘Raise the Roof’, including Krauss taking lead vocal on the half-speed, hauntingly, eerie rendition of The Everly Brothers’ ‘The Price of Love’ with Plant looking on admiringly while providing harmonies and maracas. On Ola Belle Reed’s song ‘You Led Me to the Wrong’, the lament of a lover who awaits execution for his crime of passion against his best friend in revenge for a philanderous liaison with his fiancé, the banjo of the original is replaced by Duncan and Krauss’ dual fiddles, surrounding and sweeping sadly around Plant’s remorseful vocal, in maybe the most emotional point of the set. After a much stripped-down, rootsier rendition of Betty Harris’ more soul-based version of Allen Toussaint’s ‘Trouble with my Lover’, in which Plant once again provides backing vocals to Krauss’ lead, there’s a return to the Led Zeppelin legacy to finish the set.

In a clever three-song medley. Plant’s ‘In The Mood’ (from his ‘The Principle of Moments’ album), with its sing-along “I’m in the mood for a melody” opening refrain, flows into ‘Matty Groves’, a traditional northern English folk song dating from the 17th century, here performed more in the style of Fairport Convention’s version from their 1969 ‘Liege and Lief’ album, maybe as an appreciative tip of the hat to Sandy Denny, famously one of relatively few Zeppelin collaborators.  This transitions to the final song of the three, a thrilling delivery of ‘Gallows Pole’, closer here to the band’s take on the song from ‘Led Zeppelin III’ than the Fred Gerlach version that inspired it.

Then, just in case the previous acknowledgment had been unintentional, along comes a beautiful version of ‘The Battle of Evermore’ from Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, slower but still with its unmistakable mandolin introduction and its build to an impassioned crescendo with, naturally, Krauss taking Sandy Denny’s ethereal vocal part (see the video of this here).

Picture: Paul Dominy

The superbly structured set concludes with ‘When the Levee Breaks’, the Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song that closes that fourth Zeppelin album.  This Plant/Krauss version is significantly slower, replacing the Delta blues feel of the Zep version with a distinctly middle eastern flavour, redolent of the sounds that emerged in later Zeppelin pieces such as ‘Kashmir’. The dual fiddles of Krauss and Duncan evoke the drones and tones of the kamancheh and the drums lay down the hypnotic base familiar in Arabic music.

The one-song encore is another Everly Brother’s tune, ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ which, of all the songs the duo has covered, is possibly the closest to the original recording, with a bouncy, gleefulness that seems a little at odds with the topic of dumping a girlfriend.  Nonetheless, it is a fittingly upbeat choice to end the evening.

I don’t think I’ve ever left a show at Cain’s as early as 9:30 PM but, by his own admission, in this, his 76th year, Robert Plant values more than ever a good night’s sleep.  And that’s okay because, although his days of rock posturing, strutting and torso revealing may be long gone, he remains the rock god he always was and, accompanied by the angelic voice of Alison Krauss, he continues to deliver a simply heavenly show.

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It’s hard to get past the old tour T shirts and memories of yesterday.
Although the current music is done well, I can’t help but feel cheated in paying to see an icon who doesn’t include many of his fan favorites in addition to longer shows similar to his contemporaries . Yes, it’s nice that Plant still tours. But for true memory seekers expecting a true night of entertainment? Not so much.

Paul Dominy

If the objective is to hear a Led Zeppelin ‘greatest hits’ show, I agree – Plant/Krauss is probably not the one for you.

Paul Dominy

Here are playlists of the original versions (except the Plant/Page version of ‘Please Read The Letter’ which is not available in the US).


I am envious of your attending their evening .. raise the roof another addition to his and her recordings.. the only way that i can listen x

Paul Dominy

I was very fortunate to see them in such a relatively intimate setting, by far the smallest venue of the tour. I’m not sure if they’ll be adding any UK/Europe dates, but if they do, hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to see them.