By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

Robert Plant

The marquee at the Palladium Ballroom shows the legendary Robert Plant before Thursday’s show. (Photo: Chuck Cox)

When Robert Plant finally took the stage at the Palladium around 9:15 on Thursday night, it took a couple of minutes for my brain to make sense of the fact I was seeing one of the biggest rock icons ever perform before my eyes. And in such a small venue.

As Plant made his way through “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” to open the first show of his North American tour with his new band, the Sensational Space Shifters, I was taken back in time to when one of my junior high friends introduced me to Led Zeppelin‘s music. I remembered being absolutely blown away by so many songs that sounded like nothing I had ever heard before — songs that sound as amazing and fresh today as the when they were recorded.

Even with all of the cool instrumentation going on with his six-piece backing ensemble, taking my eyes off Plant, 64,  for more than a second or two throughout the 105-minute show was nearly an impossible task — especially since it was my first time to see him live.

Although I would have been happy to hear him sing the phonebook, Plant did a very good job mixing up the set list, and he seemed like he was having just as much fun as the jam-packed crowd. He obliged with several Zeppelin tunes, although several of them had different arrangements than the originals. All of them sounded incredible. My personal favorite was the sublime “Going to California,” which he stayed true to the original on. It was incredible.

He also treated the audience to “In the Mood,” from his 1983 solo album The Principle of Moments, along with the stellar “Please Read the Letter,” from the 1988 Walking to Clarksdale collaboration with Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page in 1988. Plant also talked a little bit about spending time in Dallas throughout the years, which was really cool. At one point, he referred to the Million Dollar Saloon, a former Greenville Avenue nightspot.

Plant, who still looks and sounds fantastic, also did a cover of Los Lobos’ “Angel Dance” and Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” He wrapped up the night with a two-song encore consisting of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and, appropriately enough, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”

As many shows as I attend, this one will always be one that stands out for me. Even when it was all said and done, I still couldn’t believe I finally got to see Plant. Very cool. By the way, openers Lil’ Band O’ Gold, a cajun band from Louisiana, were very cool. I was also spared seeing my beloved San Antonio Spurs lost to Miami in Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night. I waited until 11 p.m. to check the score. Bummer.

I’m headed to see Cheap Trick tonight, so check back early next week for my thoughts on that show. And Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field is less than a month away.