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Robert Plant Joins Patty Griffin Onstage for Austin Benefit Show
Photo by Jim Chapin

After roughly a half-hour of soulful, confessional solo material on Saturday night, roots singer Patty Griffin paused to introduce her "driver" to the couple hundred fans packed into Austin's tiny Continental Club.

"Three years ago a guy with big hair and a British accent called me and said he needed help singing on their record," Griffin said with a knowing smile. "I followed him on the road for 18 months and after it all he said he'd be my driver."

That introduction done, rock legend Robert Plant stepped up on stage wearing a black chauffeur's cap that he promptly removed with a laugh and took to the microphone to join Griffin on one of her new songs, the slow, yearning "Ohio." Saturday's intimate club performance was the first of two for the couple, both nights benefits for injured and uninsured Austin musician Michael Fracasso – a longtime friend of Griffin's – and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians medical assistance program.

Weaving between Plant and Griffin's solo material, a handful of Led Zeppelin covers and 2010's Band of Joy record that first brought them together, the couple showed an obvious respect and admiration throughout the set, singing in unison on "In The Mood," and "What Is And What Should Never Be," with Plant's still golden, smooth tone joining Griffin's impassioned and occasionally ragged vocals.

While the night was officially billed as Griffin's, she and the three-piece backing band let the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer direct the set, upping the tempo of some songs or signaling for section changes on the fly. Intermixed throughout, Plant offered cheerful anecdotes about Led Zeppelin's recent audience with President Barack Obama at the Kennedy Center Honors, touring with Griffin in the former Soviet Union, and venturing to this legendary roots and country music club the night before from the couple's nearby home.

As well received as the Griffin and Band of Joy material was, the chance to hear Plant perform reworked versions of Led Zeppelin classics in such a confined space was the obvious draw for most. Beginning with "Black Country Woman," the singer was in complete control, with a swampy blues solo from guitarist David Pulkingham standing in for Jimmy Page's thunderous guitar work and an Ennio Morricone-esque spaghetti western introduction disguising the opening of "Tangerine."

The songs' reworked structures might have served a double purpose, as they allowed the 64-year-old Plant to sing those classics in a middle register without stretching his vocals to the caterwauling heights that first set him apart in the Seventies. So even though "Going to California" lacked the thousand-yard force of its middle verse and set closer "Black Dog" kicked off with a deliberate and menacing intro instead of Plant's iconic "Hey hey mama . . ." solo opening, the performance showed how he's evolved creatively into a sort of shamanistic roots singer in tandem with his blues and heavy metal-based legacy.

Also scattered throughout the night were touching and bare glimpses of Plant and Griffin's still-new romance, like his longing gaze her way while singing the "to find a queen without a king" line of "Going to California," or joking about Griffin pushing material from her next album, American Kid, to which she responded, "It's my show."

It was, after all – which was why after the triumphant stomp of "Black Dog," Plant gave the audience a wave and popped his driving hat back on with a smile, ready to get his lady home for the night.

From: Rolling Stone

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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