Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic”

On this date in history, 9/20/2019, Willie Nelson brought his Outlaw Music Festival to Deer Creek in Noblesville, IN for a diverse night of musical magic.

Nelson has used the Outlaw Music Festival format for the last couple of years, bringing a package of artists on tour that fluctuates from city to city. On the night of our show, the lineup included Katie Pruitt, Jamestown Revival, Allison Krauss, Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, and Willie Nelson And The Family.

By the time I arrived at the venue, Katie Pruitt had already finished her set, and I listened to only a small portion of the Jamestown Revival’s performance, which was pleasant sounding old fashioned country music.

Allison Krauss continued the laid back and stripped down approach during her time on stage. Her band all sounded fine, but Krauss herself sang like an angel; a really glorious voice that is undeniable. I make no claims to being any kind of expert on this more purified country music, and Krauss only performed one song that I recognized, “I’ll Fly Away” from the soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but I recognize quality in any style of music and I have to say that Willie Nelson had nothing but high quality acts on this tour.

I was thrilled that Indiana got the one tour date featuring Robert Plant, as it made our show even more special and unique, and because Plant fronted my favorite band of all time, the legendary Led Zeppelin.

Plant and his band (the aptly named Sensational Space Shifters) kicked off their set with Zeppelin’s What Is And What Should Never Be, but they tweaked the arrangement to make it more country influenced, and it was a spectacular effect. This rootsy gumbo approach found most of the songs crossing all sorts of genre boarders, including rock, blues, cajun, jazz, electronica, and of course, country.

Several other classics from the Zeppelin catalogue, including Black Dog, The Battle Of Evermore, and Gallow’s Pole, all were transformed into fascinating new shapes, and Plant’s vocals were simply incredible. Like a baseball pitcher who no longer has a reliable fastball, but has developed a wicked change-up and a deadly curveball, Plant has transformed his vocal style to match his age. The high notes are still within reach (as he dramatically proved conclusively on several key moments), but Plant is a cagey veteran who knows when to strike hard and when to remain subtle. Adding to the majestic vocals were his charming anecdotes and insights into the influence that country music had on his musical taste while growing up in Wales. The capacity crowd ate it all up and gave Plant and his band several thunderous ovations.

Willie Nelson is a national treasure, and so is his guitar, Trigger. This was my first time to witness these legends, and I was in awe of the man’s vitality at the venerable age of 86. Nelson’s singing voice literally sounds like it hasn’t changed or aged since the 1970’s…and that wonderful tone that Trigger produces when Willie plays it is magical and makes me smile just remembering how great it was to experience. I was thrilled that Willie paid tribute to some of his peers, fellow legends like Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams during his set. All the iconic songs were played; On The Road Again, Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die, Georgia On My Mind, and the Family played excellently throughout.

The shows at Deer Creek are supposed to end at 11:00 pm, but Willie played until 11:30, because although he is old, Willie Nelson is still a badass! In conclusion, I was thrilled to be at this show.

It was the first concert I’ve ever attended where there were not one, but two vendors selling cowboy hats, and for less than $30 I heard an angel (Krauss), a golden god (Plant), and a national treasure (Nelson)…not to mention witnessed the most legendary guitar outside of B.B. King’s Lucille. Thanks, Willie!

On This Date in History

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Robert Plant: Now And Zen

I saw Robert Plant live for the first time while he was touring for his 1988 Now And Zen album. Consequently, I bought the album and still feel it is one of his strongest solo outings.

The mix is definitely a product of the digital ’80’s, but the songs hold up well, and Plant’s vocals were uniformly superb. In addition to Plant’s killer band, Jimmy Page himself contributed to a pair of songs (bringing the Zeppelin spirit to the proceedings…never a bad thing!).

My personal favorites were The Way I Feel, Heaven Knows, Ship Of Fools, Tall Cool One, Billy’s Revenge, and White, Clean, and Neat.

I remember a few of these from the live show and they sounded incredible in the arena. Robert Plant is one of my Mount Rushmore of rock singers, and I have been continually impressed at the way he has used his vocal chords to adapt to all the myriad musical styles he has explored in his Hall Of Fame career.

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Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

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On this date in history, 6/3/1988, one night after seeing an awesome Joe Satriani show, I traveled back to Indianapolis to my familiar concert home away from home, MSA.

This was a special one for me, as I was going to see one quarter of the mighty Led Zeppelin, the golden god himself…the one and only Robert Plant.

Robert had forged a successful solo career in the wake of Zeppelin’s demise following the death of John Bonham in 1980.

Now And Zen was his fourth and current album at that time and it contained several of the highlight tunes of the concert, like “Heaven Knows”, “Tall Cool One”, and “Ship Of Fools.”

Plant was in great voice and truly charming in his various song introductions.

Several times during the show, the band would tease us with a bit of a Zeppelin riff, but they stuck to the solo material exclusively, probably disappointing more than a few fans, but I personally thought it was a wise move. Not to mention the fact that Plant’s solo material was consistently top notch.

The Mission U.K. opened the show with a good set of English goth rock that was a nice fit with Plant’s style.

Sadly, I never saw Zeppelin, but seeing their singer on a great night was a pretty sweet consolation prize.

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

On This Date in History

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On this date in history, 4/26/1995, I saw exactly one half of Led Zeppelin in concert at Market Square Arena! More specifically, I witnessed Robert Plant and Jimmy Page perform together as Page and Plant, and it was majestic.

 

They had reunited to do an episode of MTV Unplugged and had released an album of reworked Zeppelin songs with both Western and Arab orchestras, mandolins, banjos, hurdy gurdies, and other exotic percussion instruments to add exciting new flavors and textures to those immortal compositions. The concert I saw featured all of these elements and resulted in a mesmerizing mixture of familiarity and imagination.

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Always present was the sound of Plant’s voice and its mate in the form of Page’s iconic guitar tone. Robert has lost some of his range throughout the years, but the character and presence of that unmistakable bluesy wail, coupled with his formidable charisma and swagger as a front man par excellence was simply amazing.

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Add Page’s guitar mastery and stage moves that match his singing brother step for step, and the results were like a musical bomb blast. I never got to see Zeppelin, but on this magical night, hearing them breathe new life into “Kashmir”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “The Battle Of Evermore”, and so many others, was a dream come true. One of my most cherished concert memories for certain!

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka “The Concert Critic

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant 1995

Page & Plant Kashmir With Egyptian Orchestra  1995

On This Date in History