My daughter, MissEight, while swirling her hair into a lazy up-do, hovered over me while I lay feverish and bummed out on my bed. She continued to speak, insistently.

“Mom, you have to go see Robert Plant! You have to! You should get up and just go!”

A sudden bout of flu the night before had knocked me down, and I was ready to call Plant’s concert with the Band of Joy at the Paramount a loss. This was making me very sad, as I wanted to go very badly. Even considering Plant’s iconic past status as frontman for one of rock’s biggest bands ever (Alvin and the Chipmunks…no, I kid, Led Zeppelin, of course), it was more than a regular show to me. I am always fascinated to see how Big Wheels can be reinvented, realigned, and redefined.

So I told the kid she was right, popped some Advil, took a shower, and sucked up my physical misery for some soul-pleasing sounds, and I am so glad that I did. Lesson underlined once again: GO and DO. I missed the opening act, North Mississippi Allstars, arriving with just a few minutes to spare before Plant and the Band of Joy took the stage with just a large backdrop of the BOJ album art as decoration. No massive light shows, no exploding smoke bombs, no trilling 5-minute orchestral opening music; just Plant dressed in dark jeans and a plain shirt along with ace Americana/roots  bandmembers Marco Giovino, Patty Griffin, Byron House, Buddy Miller, and Darrell Scott. (I did not have a photo pass for this show, so all’s I got were a few arty p-n’-s photos for ya.)

There was something sort of amusing and bittersweet in looking at all the faces in the crowd, sort of like being at a class reunion. These were, for the most part, all the people I saw at shows back when Zeppelin was ruling hard in the ‘70s, but with 35 years on them: Stoner Dude was still stoned (it was 4/20, after all), Hippie Groupie Chick was still waving her arms in the air to some unheard beat, Joe n’ Jane Firebird in matching leather jackets, along with Farrah Flip Hair, Lighter Encore Guy, and me, Ex-Feathered Hair-with Wire-Rim-Glasses-and-Bell-Bottomed- Jeans-Nerd Girl. We were all still here, all changed in ways big and small, along with Plant, now a Golden Years God.

Plant has steadfastly refused obscene amounts of money to participate in a Led Zeppelin reunion tour. Granted, he doesn’t need the money, but it’s unusual to see an artist that is able to walk away from both the cash and the monstrous amount of attention and lighter-stoked fan joy such an effort would produce. Once you’ve been at that level of fame, is there not a part of the ego that longs to see that, maybe just one more time? Or perhaps there is something that is even more important? I believe that is what I saw last night, and I think Robert Plant has done what is almost damn-near-impossible to do: he is performing exactly the kind of music that he has always loved while honoring Zep’s spirit, is doing it extremely well, and seems to be very happy doing just that.

The audience was treated to absolutely top-notch musicianship the entire evening, and went along happily with the Band of Joy’s quieter and heartfelt takes on Zeppelin,  Porter Wagoner, Los Lobos, Townes Van Zandt, and others. Plant was in perfect voice the entire night, and Patty Griffin paired particularly well with him. There was real strength in the performance; a good reminder that you don’t need to have a Marshall stack to deliver passion. The songs were both quirky and familiar, desolate and warm, spiritual and chaotic; entrancing and swirling, yet grounded firmly in the long traditions of English and American folk music.

Damn, I thought, Robert Plant’s got it just right. And that was a real thrill to see and hear.

A couple of videos for you; again, my apologies for being short and having taller people in front of me. One does what one can.

“Mom!” exclaimed my daughter to me as I lay in bed at 7AM this morning, “How was the show?”

“It was great,” I mumbled back to her, very tired but with a smile.

“I knew it would be,” she said, confidently turning on her small heel, off to school.