Robert Plant Flexes his R&B Muscles at SXSW

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Robert Plant at the Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Photo Robert Plant Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Credit Todd V. Wolfson

Robert Plant at the Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Photo Robert Plant Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Credit Todd V. Wolfson

Robert Plant showed Austin, TX and South By Southwest the magnetism of true star power late Wednesday night (3/16) with a three-song guest set at the annual Austin Music Awards. He appeared to pay tribute to local DJ Paul Ray, who passed away in January, and whose Saturday night R&B, soul and blues roots radio show Twine Time was “a buzz for me” while Plant was living in the Texas capitol city for a few recent years.

He took the stage at about 12:30 AM at the late-running show backed by blues guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan and his (augmented) band along with local hero and AMAs musical director Charlie Sexton (who plays guitar with Bob Dylan). What had been a rather sluggish affair quickly livened up as the former Led Zeppelin singer now turned solo star launched into a mightily swinging take on the 1957 Coasters hit “Young Blood” and got audience members up and dancing. He followed it with an obscure B-side of the sort that Ray was fond of playing on Twine Time – “When I Was Single” from the Jive 4, a song Plant said he “always wanted to perform.”

Showing his vocal prowess and finesse throughout and commanding the room, Plant wrapped up his performance with an upbeat take on Clyde McPhatter’s “Let the Boogie Woogie Roll.” Then he stepped back from the microphone and grabbed a tambourine to play along as the band did the theme song to Ray’s show, the Alvin Cash instrumental “Twine Time,” and brought the affair to a rousing close.

Robert Plant Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Credit Todd V. Wolfson

Robert Plant Austin Music Awards 3-16-16 Credit Todd V. Wolfson

Plant’s gesture honoring Ray – whose 1970s band The Cobras featured a then-unknown Steve Ray Vaughan – was typical of his unpretentious presence in Austin during his time when he was romantically involved with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin, a local resident. He was frequently spotted doing his own shopping in area grocery stores and even mowing the lawn of the house where he lived.

The other genuine star taking the stage earlier in the evening was actress and former Austin resident Renee Zellweger, who introduced a set honoring the SIMS Foundation, named for her former boyfriend Sims Ellison, who played guitar with onetime Geffen recording act Pariah. His suicide in 1995 inspired members of the local music community to start the foundation, which offers affordable psychological therapy as well as addiction recovery  and crisis counseling services to local musicians.

Here’s a clip with his tribute to Paul Ray and performance of “Young Blood”…

Plant returns to Austin on Monday (3/21) with his Sensational Space Shifters band to tape a segment of the PBS-TV concert show Austin City Limits that will also be live-streamed (click here to watch).

Read our Dennis Elsas Conversation with Plant.

Best Classic Bands Staff
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