If nostalgia is the death of creativity, then Robert Plant has both feet firmly planted in the land of the living.
Yes, Plant revisited the catalog of Led Zeppelin several times during his Friday night concert before a sold-out Ruth Eckerd Hall audience of 2,180. But the songs were rearranged and in some cases heavily reworked.
And his Zeppelin choices were the ones the fit in well with his new band and the material from his upcoming album, both named Band of Joy.
"Down to the Sea," from 1993's "Fate of Nations," opened the show and set the tone with its dark mix of folk and swamp-rock.
Buddy Miller, who Plant introduced as "the king of psyche-billy guitar," sang lead on the reverberating blues of "Trouble," while Darrell Scott had his turn on "Satisfied Mind."
Guitarist Scott was the MVP of the evening, also adding harmonies, mandolin, banjo and a particularly gorgeous pedal steel solo on "Tangerine."
Plant's musical heart currently resides in the U.S. south, and blues, country and gospel figured heavily into the set, particularly on the rave-up "12 Gates to the City," which worked in a bit of "In My Time of Dying," and "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down."
Plant was in fine voice, even if he did keep the banshee wail of old in check. He's clearly enjoying his new band, as well as reminding his audience that he's only rarely looked back, much less stood still, in the almost 30 years since Led Zeppelin's demise.
Betty LaVette's superb opening set, drawing heavily from "Interpretations," her recent album of British rock covers, was a treat for her fans and a smashing introduction for anyone unfamiliar with her. LaVette's been in show business for 42 years, as she told the crowd, and she knows how to win over an audience, with impassioned, soulful vocals on material ranging from George Jones' "Choices," to her closer, a thrilling take on The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me."