Having been an enormous Led Zeppelin/Page and Plant fan, and not so keen on Plant’s latest delta blues covers repertoire, I must have been the only person in the world that didn’t enthusiastically ramble on (pardon the pun) and on about his Molson Amphi-theatre gig with the iconic darling of Jazz (and Canadian to boot) Alison Krauss, So I was more than a little lukewarm about accompanying my better half to the January 23 show at The Sony Centre for the Performing arts (I know – sacrilege). Sold to capacity, – in fact tickets sold so fast that 10 minutes into the AMX front of line advance booking window, my husband was left with no option but to buy us tickets sitting one in front of the other in separate rows (well at least that’s what he told me!) – “The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts” is a wonderful venue with great acoustics and apart from feedback problems during the kick-off song – “ Cindy I’ll Marry You someday”, the sound balance was terrific. More importantly the band is accessible in this venue – I stood right at the front in the centre aisle within spitting distance (his not mine) of the stage for much of the show. Holding about 3000, this was a small fry indeed for the legend that packed-out – amongst others – the 127000 capacity Wembly stadium during the Zeppelin heyday. So hello… I guess he’s not doing it for the money. In such a small and intimate setting one got more of a feel for the man and his band in a very informal and relaxed stage environment Plant retreated on several occasions (complete with huge mug of tea) to sing back-up/play harmonica/maracas whilst allowing band members to showcase their own material. One gets the impression that for Plant these days it’s more about having the platform to perform and promote his preferred musical genres – rockabilly, gospel, delta blues, Appalachian roots, and surround himself with talented American musicians all loosely assembled within the vehicle of transient one-off bands (I’m thinking Honey drippers; Strange Sensation and now Band of Joy. As an extra bonus the supporting act performing to the half empty auditorium (being the opening band must suck) called the North Mississippi Allstars (Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson) WOW – they blew the audience’s collective socks off! – just two guys (a guitar-vocalist and a drummer) with a Blues meets rock style that filled the auditorium – a vibrant wall of sound. I couldn’t believe there were only 2 of them and kept peering through my rented binocs for hidden band members behind all the musical accoutrement set up for the Band of Joy. After what seemed like an extended intermission, Robert Plant strolled on stage preceded by the incredible and teeny tiny – and yet to be introduced – Patti Griffin (acoustic guitar and vocals) who strutted on stage in precariously high-heeled long brown boots and a floral shift – no spring chicken, she looked like a million dollars; keeping slightly adjacent to the stage, it wasn’t possible to get a really good look at her – even through the binoculars – so at first I thought she must be some ditzy backing singer until she opened her mouth to accompany and harmonize note for note with every one of Plant’s vocals. Only when she did her first and only solo did you really get a handle on how powerful her voice was – she sounded and played the acoustic guitar exactly like Katy Tunstall – BIG BIG voice. The Band of Joy also comprised Buddy Miller on lead guitar and Darrell Scott on a variety of stringed instruments The audience of course erupted as Plant interspersed the set-list with inspirationally arranged versions of about five Zeppelin songs – “Tangerine”, “Gallows’ Pole”, “Thank You”; “Ramble On” ; and Rock and Roll” – the latter had the audience dancing in the aisles. Whilst Plant could hardly do a show without a nod to his previous incarnation, make no mistake about it. Plant was here primarily to showcase his other musical preferences/interests. Plant was faultlessly professional, charismatic and with a voice that appears to have defied time. Long and lean but with the tell-tale thickening of the torso and a face to match his 62 years, he still sported the trademark long curly mane, and the original rock star stance, i.e. one leg planted in front of the other leaning slightly off centre and using the free-standing mike as a counterbalancing accessory. He chatted effortlessly to the audience in between songs, patted his stage-hands on the shoulder and generally came over as ambivalently paternalistic. in his rapport with his band members. He did make a strange farewell comment – thanking us for being “an interesting” audience – not quite sure what that referred to – maybe he just couldn’t think of anything better to define the Toronto audience although he’d already referenced our appalling winter weather that day referring to Toronto as being a city in the Arctic (or something like that). Anyway a fabulous balanced set-list comprising an eclectic mix of folksy/country/blues and rockabilly with just enough sprinkling of Zeppelin and Plant numbers to rev up the audience during this very classy laid back performance Finishing the encore set beautifully and irrevocably with “And we bid you Goodnight” – inspired!!