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It might not have been SXSW, but there was still a long line of patrons waiting to get into the Continental Club in South Austin during the weekend, as a certain hometown couple put on a pair of sold-out benefit concerts in support of local musicians.
When news that beloved Austin singer/songwriter/chef Michael Fracasso had been hurt in an auto accident while on tour and would be unable to perform for a couple of months, singers and lovebirds Patty Griffin and Robert Plant immediately volunteered to do a Saturday night benefit concert for their ailing friend. With the willing and flexible cooperation of the Continental Club, the thoughtful couple quickly added a second show, on Sunday, to benefit HAAM — the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Needless to say, the small roadhouse venue sold out both shows in the space of one generous heartbeat.
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On Saturday, Griffin opened the show supported by Austin musicians Dony Wynn (on drums), bassist Glenn Fukanaga and guitarist David Pulkingham. She spoke highly of Fracasso as a friend and a musician and joked about him being the first person to hire her as a backup singer (which also led to her current relationship with Plant). Griffin’s solo segment was focused and powerful, including a bluesy, passionate version of “Flaming Red”; a plaintive rendition of “Poor Man’s House”; and tunes from her forthcoming album American Kid. It was on one of Griffin’s new songs, “Ohio,” when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer finally joined her onstage, playfully wearing a chauffeur’s cap in lieu of Griffin’s anecdote about Robert now being her “driver.”
The ever-confident Plant was in high spirits and immediately put the band at ease with his good-natured banter. He joked about Led Zeppelin’s recent visit to the White House, taking regular naps at age 64 and his band gaining weight while on tour in Europe. Plant also received applause for his sly references to life as an Austin resident.
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Drawing material from his earlier solo work, his Grammy-winning album Raising Sand with Alison Krauss and especially Zeppelin, Plant and his singing partner Griffin were in sync, with Griffin taking on the higher parts and Plant’s voice residing in middle range for most of the set. Of course, each time Plant did raise his iconic voice an octave, it was met with howls of approval from the audience.
Loving and playful with girlfriend Griffin, Plant’s obvious affection for her shone through on their moving version of the Zeppelin classic “Going to California.” Pulkingham was a standout throughout the night on both acoustic and electric guitar, and there were several highlights for the Zeppelin fans in attendance, including folk-rock incarnations of “Black Country Woman,” “Tangerine” and “What Is and What Should Never Be.”
The Austin crowd was duly ecstatic by the time the group concluded with “Angel Dance” from Plant’s 2010 album Band of Joy (on which Griffin also appeared). Kicking things up a notch, they returned to encore with a driving version of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” When it was finally time to leave the stage, Plant reminded their dear friend Fracasso that he was not yet off the hook for the kind favor, exclaiming, “Michael, you better make us one hell of a meal!”
For more information on how to help these Austin musicians, head over to Michael Fracasso’s page at chipin.com.
House of Gold
Love Throw a Line
Poor Man’s House
I’m Going to Miss You When You’re Gone
No Bad News
In the Mood
Black Country Woman
Cold as It Gets
What Is and What Should Never Be
Going to California
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