Thursday, June 12, 2008

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at the Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA - 06/05/08

Yes, this concert took place a week ago. I just got around to writing about it because I was just able to pick my jaw up off the floor. You should also probably know that this is the show for which my ticket-buying experience yielded this scathing anti-Ticketmaster post.

Anyway, we ended up with four perfectly decent seats for this show when we ultimately were able to get in and actually purchase them. The cool thing about this venue is that it is relatively bad seats. It's an outdoor semi-tent, so when you are seated, if you look behind you, you see the incomparable Boston skyline and if you look to your front, you can see the planes taking off from Logan, since it is right near the airport.

Anyway, we had decent seats for this, but given my complete fanatical attitude for this show and my love of this disc, I wanted excellent seats. Not just OK ones.

I scoped out Ticketbastard in the weeks leading up to the show in the hopes of upgrading our seats. No such luck. Good seats on eBay were unsurprisingly out of King Midas' price range. I resigned myself to the fact that we would all have just OK seats and continued to damn Ticketmaster every chance I could.

Then, the day before the show, I went on Ticketbastard and miraculously pulled 4 seats (me and Xteen were going with our friend Jesus Joe and his new fiancee..congrats, man!) that were a little better than the ones we had. Not enough to make me pull the trigger on them, especially since we would have to get rid of the tickets we already had at the last minute, which would not be easy. I threw them back. Just for fun, I edited my selection to look for 2 tickets. I pulled up these:

Go ahead. Click on it to make it bigger. I couldn't believe my eyes either.

My heart just pounded like it used to when I would stumble upon a Shannon Tweed Cinemax After Dark Friday night showing when I was 14. My first call was to Jesus. Joe, that is. Not the real Jesus. Unless you think that Joe IS the real Jesus. I personally don't (no offense to Jesus Joe), but I'm sure some people do. You might. In that case, no offense to you either). I explain the situation to Joe, which sucks for him, since I only pulled two (even though I tried to get 4 all along). He laughs a bit and basically says "Hey, what can you do? It's front row." So, I very guiltily purchased them (yes, I paid The Man. Again!) with the promise that we would get Jesus and his gal down to the front row for a few songs during the set. We'd just swap seats. It's really the least I could do and it did small wonders for alleviating my guilt.

Now, the process of unloading the two tickets I had. I paid probably about $150 total for them, so my initial message out to friends and co-workers was for $100. No takers. I had some that would have been interested, but the last minute nature of the whole thing threw them off. I ended up having a friend throw them up on eBay for a last-minute auction. $50 minimum bid. For TWO tickets. $25 a piece. I'd be taking such a serious bath on these tickets that I should require the winner to provide me with a rubber ducky. But guess what? Not a single bid. I pretty much resigned myself to eating these two tickets, but said I would check out the scene outside the venue when we got down there and see what I could do. I'm not exactly Mike Damone, scalper extraordinaire, so I wasn't too optimistic.

Xteen and I pick up our friend Simone on the way in as she bought my friend Rubin's extra tickets a few days before. Got that? We head in to meet Jesus Joe and his soon-to-be better half as well as Simone's pal Mike. Once down there (by the way, it's early June and it is miserable, damp, cloudy, misty), Xteen and I go to join Jesus Joe and the missus and Simone hangs somewhere else awaiting Mike.

Immediately, I am greeted by a scalper outside the venue. It's like 3 and a half hours before the show. He asks if I need tickets. I laugh and ask if he needs them. He asks where they are. I tell him and he offers me $20 apiece for them. I turn him down and he replies, "Yeah, you'll probably get more than that later. No one has seats that close to sell." I felt like laughing..."and these aren't even my GOOD seats, illegal ticket reselling dude!" I walk away convinced that'll I'll probably be able to snag about 2 large plus a hickey from Kate Beckinsale for these puppies. Nice haul, says I. Clearly, the ticket gods are with Dim on this day.

The four of us end up dining at this place that recently got cited for being dangerously close to falling into Boston Harbor. One of the views from said restaurant is of another seafood joint, that recently had like an 18 alarm fire and is a total loss, including the 36 tons of lobster held therein. Not a good sign.

Food was good, the Sam Summers were better, and there was even a Red Sox/Tampa Bay brawl on the TV before we left for the show. Sort of tempered the confusing karma I had going on. Nothing like a benches-clearing brawl with grown men pulling hair and grabbing nuts and swinging punches to make me feel better about my cosmic place in the universe.

We move along toward the venue and I am pretty much just holding my extra tickets out to gauge interest. I got my incredible seats from the will-call window and had everyone look at them just to make sure I wasn't losing my mind. So, I'm a little discreet and understated in trying to unload my old tickets. I'm not exactly boisterous in my sales pitch. This is not a good marketing ploy and I would not recommend it if you ever decide you need to sell something.

Jesus Joe takes a walk to gauge interest himself and comes back laughing. Not a good sign.

Simone and Mike meet up with us and Simone is laughing that I haven't been able to unload the tickets yet. Lots of laughing going on. None by me. Not a good sign.

Simone and Mike then get REALLY into trying to sell my tickets for me. Like REALLY into it. I'm embarrassed enough, but secretly hoping their strategy of being very friendly pays off. Honestly, they sound like carnival hawkers. It's entertaining to everyone other than me, who starts sweating despite it being like 60 degrees out.

Then a guy with a raging skullet (in fact, it might have actually been David Crosby) comes up. "Where and how much?" he asks. I tell him and keep it reasonable. I ask for $80, which, mind you, is about half of what I paid for them. Skulletman already has tickets. I look at his and realize to myself these aren't going to be much of an upgrade and I don't think he realizes it. He offers me $40. I say no and he walks away. Xteen then proceeds to say "Dim" about a hundred and eighty times. She wants me to take the 40 beans. I'm no whore, I say. I just paid the same company I have been bitching incessantly about TWICE for the same show. I'm not just going to give them away. I give a solitary, convincing nod. And then vomit into the harbor.

Fast forward about five minutes and I am trying to just give the fucking tickets away. I'd settle for a Lincoln and a peck on the cheek from Bea Arthur at this point. You'd seriously think I am trying to sell tickets to an ebola conference. I see the scalper from earlier in the day. He says "Bet you wish you took the $40, huh?" I punch him in the balls.

Right in front of me some sleazy older guy sells his ticket, for face value mind you, to a girl who not only will get to sit in worse seats than the ones I have, but also have to sit with this sleazy older guy. I throw my hands up. Clearly the ticket gods have a bullseye right on my manjunk right now.

At this point, I say fuck it and decide to eat the tickets. Quite literally. After I'm done chewing, the four of us (me, Xteen, Simone, and Mike) hear a ruckus. In front of the venue, some guido cruises up absolutely fucking BLARING "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin in his car. He sees the crowd and frantically rolls down all his windows and fumbles for a CB (yes, a CB) into which he sings the lyrics, off-key of course, and they broadcast out of his car. What is he driving, you ask? An IROC? A Firebird? Try a late model Toyota Corolla. I'm not kidding. Not a good sign, despite Simone's attempts to convince me that seeing that was worth eating the tickets. I'm conflicted. Losing money, yes. A guido singing "Kashmir" into a CB that's part of a souped up Corolla? Borderline priceless.

So, we convene to the venue and I buy a poster and we head to our seats. And they really are the front fucking row. I've never ever had seats even remotely close to this. I'm practically salivating at seeing every sharpei-like wrinkle on Robert Plant's mug. The couple next to us asks how we got the tickets. I tell them. They mention that they won their seats in a charity auction. For $600 apiece. I don't feel so bad about what I paid especially since 100% of the proceeds went to the Holy Shit Dim is Three Feet Away from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant Foundation. Then, I notice like 3 fratboys sitting behind us. One has his head in his hands and is rocking back and forth. Not a good sign.

The lights go down and the place erupts. The absolutely amazing backing band slowly takes the stage and I would be incredibly remiss if I neglected to mention who they were even though you have no fucking idea who they are: the fantastic Jay Bellerose on drums (who I saw drumming for Grant-Lee Phillips last year and was impressed then as well), Dennis Crouch on the stand-up bass, Buddy Miller on guitar, and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan who kicked in fabulously on fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and banjo. This band was truly professional and so responsible for how good everything sounded that night.

The band leader, the person whose brainchild this whole collaboration was, was the amazing T-Bone Burnett. His arrangements on these songs, his vision to get these two artists together, and his guitar work were all sublimely glorious. He got a lot of whooping and hollering from me throughout the night.

T-Bone walks out on stage amid the band starting the ultra-cool and vibrating lead track of "Raising Sand", "Rich Woman". The music is spot on...very tight. And then Plant and Krauss walk on the stage and we are instantly amazed at their presence and how good they are. The digital camera immediately comes out and Xteen is being flash. We look, disappointed at the two shots taken. I look at her and say "Fuck it. We're using the flash." Seriously, with all the camera phones out there, who is gonna care? Besides, if any security people came up, I would say, "Look. I paid $1,200 for these seats and the money went to charity, so I am taking fucking pictures, OK?!?"

I won't bore you with the setlist, only to say that it was incredible. There was a sultry swinged out version of the Zeppelin hit "Black Dog". Plant took the reins for Allen Toussaint's "Fortune Teller", which segued beautifully into an uplifting duet of "In the Mood" a solo song of his from his "The Principle of Moments" offering. The whole time, the band clicked perfectly, with nary a note out of place. Krauss added fiddle accents as well as her absolutely perfect pitch vocals and Plant explored vocal stylings I never thought were possible for a hard rock wailer like himself. Their disposition on stage took on different characters. At times, they were playful and thoroughly enjoying each other's interaction. Other times, they seemed very businesslike, determined to absolutely nail the song (which they always did). But the whole time, you could feel the immense and reciprocal respect they had for each other and their amazing band. And they always seemed to have fun.

We were complete and total geeks...hollering and waving and taking pictures. I was cheering hard for T-Bone and gave him the "rock on" salute and he nodded and gave me back the Vulcan hand gesture. Finally, a GOOD sign.

The set continued and we ultimately left our seats about 45 minutes in to switch with Joe and L. Figures, when they got to the good seats, both Plant and Krauss had left the stage to let Burnett do a few songs on his own. Luckily, they stuck around to hear what turned out to be their favorite song before they swapped back.

Krauss' vocals were just so amazingly perfect. Her haunting take of Tom Waits' "Trampled Rose" was mind-blowing as was her a capella take on her own tune, "Down to the River to Pray".

As great as their solo pieces were, though, nothing resonated as much as the duets from their brilliant disc. The slow, somber "Killing the Blues" was magical as was "Nothing". The dedication of "Who Do You Love" to the recently deceased Bo Diddley (featuring Plant on harmonica) was a nice touch and added a welcomed uptempo song to the set.

But as truly jaw-dropping as the whole performance was, nothing could beat the experience of witnessing the performance of one certain song near the end of the main set. When Stuart Duncan started the song off with a delicate mandolin intro, everyone erupted knowing Krauss and Plant were going to tackle the epic "Battle of Evermore" from Led Zeppelin's seminal fourth album. To call the performance of this song transcendent would be selling it short. It was historic. Easily one of the best songs I have ever seen performed anywhere. Plant laid down his familiar Lord of the Rings narrative while Krauss added the ethereal supplements originally sung by Sandy Denny. It was just an incredible performance to start. And then, the end. Just perfect. Plant again, with his rock solid lead vocals, but instead of providing an airy veil in the background, Krauss decided to absolutely wail and explore registers I have never heard her sing before. Just a completely staggering and awe-inspiring performance.

The set ended wonderfully, with the tremendous single, "Please Read the Letter" and the shuffling Everly Brothers cover "Gone Gone Gone". They waved good night and Alison laughed at the adulation I was showing her with my goofy faces and pointing. We had great interaction with T-Bone as well.

After a short break, the band came back, followed by the two mega-stars. The highlights of the encore was the Krauss-led Zeppelin cover of "When the Levee Breaks" and the glorious and gorgeous closer, "Your Long Journey".

At some point in the encore, Xteen looked at her feet and noticed a guitar pick that T-Bone threw out. She snagged it and it now resides on the poster, hanging up on our wall. As the band took their final bow, and Plant and Krauss took extended waves, I couldn't help but think not of the skullet or the money thrown away, but of what I just saw and how it was one of the top three concerts of the hundreds I have seen.

One of the fratboys agreed with me. The same one who previously opined during the show "If this is what heaven is like, I want to die right now", proclaimed "I'm not the same person I was when I first got here." He's right. When he first got in here, he didn't subsequently vomit up his $10 Bud Lights and a sausage from the enigmatically named "Sausage Guy".

I kid.

Oh, and we got the setlist. Definitely a good sign. See?

And here are some pics we took. Yes, we were that close.

And some video clips from "The Battle of Evermore":

Enjoy! Now, go get the disc!

- Dim.
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