As much as Robert Plant treasures New Orleans' musical roots, it's not hard for him to play to the crowd at Jazz Fest. When he sang “going to Louisiana with an aching in my heart,” switching up the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California,” he was rewarded with a wave of cheers.
Throughout his Samsung Galaxy Stage closing set on Saturday, April 26, with his band The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant name-checked great NOLA guitar legends Snooks Eaglin, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Earl King. He recalled them playing Zeppelin parties, many on the now-grounded riverboat The President, which hosted everyone from Plant to Paul McCartney with The Meters and The Rolling Stones in its glory days.
But it wasn't just the heyday of Golden God '70s parties that Plant harkened back to; it was the songs themselves. Plant revisited everything from “Whole Lotta Love” and “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You,” moving straight out of Zeppelin’s classic canon to his solo hit: “In the Mood for a Melody.” Space Shifter Juddeh Camara on African violin was joined by Skin Tyson on guitar for a moody and mystic effect — the clouds above seemed to cluster in response.
The show was a one-off, and the cost of flying the entire Robert Plant experience to New Orleans, 5,674 miles as he pointed out, was a whole lot of festival dollars. “Welcome to a mellow afternoon of Americana and banjo music,” Plant joked before performing Zeppelin songs that were neither.
He punctuated one tune transition with “OK! Let's go!” “Take us” shouted a voice from the crowd in response. And with that, Plant launched into “Every day's like Sunday down here on memory lane,” from his tune “Tin Pan Valley.”
Plant introduced a Roscoe Holcomb tune and Bukka White's “Fixin to Die Blues” with “This is a time of disposable styles, but there are songs that resonate for all time.” That could be said of much of the Plant and Zeppelin songbooks. Throughout the performance, there was swinging of the mic stand. There was working of the crowd. There was a rock star very much in his element enjoying another Saturday night in New Orleans.
Read more on the all-AXS Jazz Fest Guide