Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Battle Of Evermore

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City

June 11, 2008

"The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back. Bring it back..."

Recently Umlaut found himself back in New York City working to pay his mortgage. Earlier on the day of this show, I found myself in one of those business meetings that destroys part of my soul. The person giving the pitch was arrogant and clueless and exactly the type of person who has taken everything we love about music and strangled it. His pitch attempted to convince us that online gambling is "the next natural step" for a certain iconic Rock band to take. I was, like, WTF.. Is online gambling really "the next natural step" for a certain iconic Rock band to take?? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Thanks to the Rock Godz, my return to NYC coincided with a pair of sold out shows by Plant & Krauss on their Raising Sand Tour; Umlaut has been, for lack of a better word, obsessed with the Raising Sand album since soon after its release... so needless to say I thanked the Rock Godz for their generosity.

I met up with the friends who I was attending the show with at a nearby Irish pub prior to the show (Hey Christa and Tim). At The Garden they served beer in plastic cups with tops that have the opening so you can put a straw in it... I was tired from my long work day and, instead of removing the top, I automatically grabbed a straw and punched it into the cup. I felt like an alcoholic little kid walking through the concourse and drinking beer out of a straw like that.

Plant is STILL a Golden God.. He looked and sounded great.. and Krauss is stunning all around. I became so entranced by the performance that at one point I realized I hadn't moved a muscle for at least a song and a half. Plant did the Classic Rock Star Move #7 during 'Black Country Woman' where he held the mic stand from the top and kicked the bottom up into the air and caught that end in the air before singing the final chorus.. He's still got it. My Inner Music Geek was also tripping that I was seeing the show in the same building where The Song Remains The Same was filmed.. Does anybody remember laughter?

"With flames from the Dragon of Darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes..."

Several times during the show I found myself thinking about the business pitch I'd heard earlier in the day. As the performance washed over me I knew that Mr. Online Gambling was clueless and could never appreciate something so purely musical like the magic that was onstage. That certain iconic Rock band was nothing more than a BRAND NAME to him and THE MUSIC had nothing to do with his interest in them... FUCK HIM. I, on the other hand, am professional enough to cop to the fact that I almost started to cry like a little school girl during the version of 'The Battle Of Evermore'... ALMOST.. Dude, it was stunning.

Of course, Plant and Krauss are getting all of the media and fan attention, but their backing band is a fantastic collection of seasoned musicians. My Inner Music Geek couldn't help but notice that for most of the set guitarist Buddy Miller played a Danelectro like the one Jimmy Page made famous.

For those who don't read liner notes, Page co-wrote the Plant / Krauss hit 'Please Read The Letter'... so if you're looking for a new Zeppelin song that's as close as you're gonna get.. but at least it's a great song.

"Dance in the dark of night.. sing to the morning light."

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I was sitting next to Ecstasy Girl.

The chick sitting to my left was totally wasted; obliterated would be another adjective that comes to mind. Early in the set she sort of started dancing and doing the Hip Hop Nation thing of holding her hand in the air and waving it like she just don't care... which, like, didn't go with the Bluegrass song that was being played onstage. It was obvious she wasn't interested in being at this concert at all and was waging a battle against her own boredom.

Compounding the situation was the fact that her date was completely ignoring her, either because he was embarrassed by her behavior or he was trying to watch the show; probably a combination of both... Yeah, he was being a dick. Ecstasy Girl tried everything to get her date's attention (hugging him, groping him, etc.) but to no avail.

Then I noticed that Ecstasy Girl had put her head on MY shoulder and was doing the same type of rubbing thing my kitten does against my neck. I ignored her at first, thinking that maybe she'd realize her move was, like, TOTALLY invading my personal space... I tapped Christa on the arm and she looked over and got a horrified / amused look on her face and said "Is she on X??".

The awkwardness of the moment finally got the better of me and I shrugged Ecstasy Girl off my shoulder. She pouted back down in her seat and tried to grab her date again... and he blanked her again. So Ecstasy Girl did something that I think probably only works in porn ("Dear Penthouse..."): She reached out for the guy sitting in front of me (who, by the way, was sitting next to a female date of his own) and tried to get his attention by touching his shoulder / fingering his collar / fondling his neck. Sadly, this didn't work in Ecstasy Girl's favor either so she sank back into her seat and didn't cause trouble for the rest of the show because she soon left to go find solace somewhere else in the venue.

"The Queen of Light took her bow... and then she turned to go..."

Anyway, during this entire episode, I remained transfixed by Plant and Krauss and their supporting cast of artists onstage.. It's not often that I witness something as magical and special as this performance... Sorry Ecstasy Girl.. Music, in its purest uncut form, is my addiction (Picture courtesy of the NY Daily News).

Number of Zeppelin shirts = 3. In you bought one of every Plant & Krauss merch item you would have paid $460. On the way back to the hotel, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. After the show, we saw Ecstasy Girl and her date leaving the venue. She was throwing her arms up in the air wildly and yelling at him.. He was walking silently with his hands in his pockets. Does anybody remember laughter?

"The drums will shake the castle wall... The Ring Wraiths ride in black... Ride on!"

The next morning I was in a Starbucks on 7th Avenue. While waiting for my order the guy who had been standing behind me in line came over and asked what my name was... It was a guy from San Jose who I hadn't seen in at least 10 years!! HOW... RANDOM.. IS.. THAT??! He now lives in the 212 AND, to top it off, his office was only a half a block from my company's NY office... so later in the day we were able to grab lunch in a pub and watch Croatia embarrass Germany in Euro 2008 (David! Stay in touch, bro!).

Man, I'm still buzzing from this show a little bit. Magical... and I can't wait for Skychick to see Plant & Krauss with me in Berkeley in a couple of weeks. Will magic strike twice? Me thinks it will.

"War is the common cry... Pick up your swords and fly."