Robert Plant brought his new band, Strange Sensation, and songs from his new album to the Greek Theater on Thursday. Just as surrounding himself with younger musicians in the studio has him sounding revitalized on “Dreamland” (Universal), Plant and crew performed onstage with determination and purpose as part of a tour that’s half idol nostalgia, half musical honorarium.
The set opened with a psychedelic, Middle Eastern-tinged take on the new album’s centerpiece, “Win My Train Fare Home (If I Ever Get Lucky),” originally written by Mississippi bluesman Arthur Crudup. From the get-go, the backing musicians were united in purpose, with guitarist Justin Adams delivering pentatonic noodling over a one-chord drone from keyboard player John Baggott, who throughout the night broke through songs with bursts of rich, textural playing.
The band played with such conviction it was easy to occasionally forget Plant was up front; his musicians carried the show nearly as much as he did. That was never more clear than during a guest spot from violinist Lili Haydn on Love’s “A House Is Not a Motel.” As she noisily and passionately assaulted her instrument, the band deftly improvised around her, building and deconstructing its own intensity along with the soloist.
Rumors of Plant’s vocal deterioration have been greatly overstated as his bottoms-up wail was in fine form for most of the night. Interestingly, it sounded more convincing on the band’s new numbers than during the Led Zeppelin songs played — “Misty Mountain Hop,” a rarity on this tour, felt under-delivered.
Buffalo, N.Y.’s moe. opened with a too-short set that never found the band quite hitting its noodle-dance stride. The group’s sound is firmly rooted in the trademarks of various ’70s iconic acts, including the two-guitar harmonic attack of the Allman Brothers and Frank Zappa’s inclination toward polyrhythmic improvisation. However, the band’s solid songwriting, on display in the lazy stop-start groove of “Kyle,” is what puts them a cut above most of their jam-rock peers.