Talking with Robert Plant

Touring the South, the legend talks about Led Zep and Alison Krauss. Mostly Krauss.

Those blind beginnings are long gone. Raising Sand, an independent release of 13 punctiliously picked covers, garnered the pair yet another Grammy (Plant's second and Krauss's 21st), "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals." And before even that first night in the Bluegrass State, the album became not only the biggest commercial success of Krauss's career, but the bestselling non-Zeppelin Plant disc of the past quarter-century. So, of course, they decided to take that puppy for a walk."

It's almost like automatic pilot to think that there is a tour that goes with an album," says Plant. "I mean, there are so many situations that I wouldn't want to tour in now, because I may have visited certain areas of music too often to actually be excited."

Yes, Led Heads, he's talking to you. Though he's willing to throw his more metallic fans a Zoso bone (or three): The Plant/Krauss set list often includes reworked versions of "Black Dog," "When the Levee Breaks," and "The Battle of Evermore." "There are certain songs which will lend themselves to an absolute, stripped-down situation," Plant says. "And the thing about my singing is, I'm really, really working on moving from style to style within the show, you know. I mean, I think it's such a great challenge. That's where I'm really getting off, because I'm doing so many things differently. And still being whatever I was."

The tour," he says, "just became something to get excited about once we had a personality. But, you know, touring for the sake of touring, for me, after all these years, is just pointless. I have to be excited."

Yep, still looking at you, Zep fans. And just in case you need more: "You can't just borrow the Stones' plane," Plant says. "It's got to have a creative kernel of endeavor and whatever it is, otherwise it won't work, because Zep was about that.

"I mean, if you want the quick tug," he continues, "if you want the $5 massage or the happy ending, you know exactly how to get that. That's a pointless exercise. For me, I just want to do stuff where at the end of the night, I can turn and look at the people I'm working with and go, 'That was not just an achievement—it was one of the most heart-rending experiences I've had.' And that's what happened to me night before last."

The "night before last," Plant and Krauss (and T-Bone and company) played their second show in Louisville, which seems to have provided Plant with everything he could ask from musical roadwork.

"It was almost as if we were, you know, on laughing gas," he says, "because it all worked and it swung like crazy and the stage volume was very, very excellent for what we were trying to do. I mean, you can hear absolutely everything. You can even hear the skin of the banjo, you know. I mean, it's like—it's unearthly at times. Something happened that was much more intense and much more rewarding than any of us had expected. We found that we were going into a place that none of us had been before.

"Obviously," Robert Plant concludes, "this is just the beginning."

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss play the Madison Square Garden Theater June 10-11, thegarden.com

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