Photos by Katrina Lat
Legendary Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant is back touring after last year’s solo release Carry Fire, which was his second album with his backing band the Sensational Space Shifters, a group that combines world music theory with folk and transcends it to an otherworldliness. The band went out on stage first and the golden god himself strutted on stage looking as cool as ever to sing New World… a track from the new record. Just like how his famous band from the 70’s took blues music and reinvented it, he continues to do so today with whatever style he decides to try out.
Throughout the evening, Plant would often discuss the inspiration or meaning behind songs. Before playing May Queen, it was described as a song dedicated to the rites of spring and the beginning of summer, something we all are hoping will come sooner rather than later in this dreary February. A violin player came out to add a touch of Celtic-ness to this Pagan song and he would subsequently come out anytime more fiddle playing was needed.
Despite not being in the public eye very much like he used to be, there was a surprising amount of warmth and generosity to his performance and quips. He stated that he hoped the audience “have a great time, because we always have a great fucking time”, which of course got a roar of cheers from the crowd. That’s the Way, from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III was the first Zeppelin song of the night. For someone born almost a decade after the band broke up (after John Bonham’s unfortunate death) hearing songs I grew up listening to but never thought I would see performed live is about as surreal as music can be. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and Misty Mountain Hop were two much better known Zep songs played, and while Plant no longer is able to hit the high yelp’s of yesteryear, it was beyond a pleasure to the crowd to hear them.
The adaptable band was able to go full country as Plant played Please Read the Letter from his duet album he made with songstress Alison Krauss, Raising Sand that came out in 2007. Plant joked about how this will be the closest he would get to Nashville on the night. Much like he praised Krauss for influencing him, Plant also took the time to recognize all the great black artists who influenced him not only today but from the beginning of his career. He played the traditional song Gallows Pole, a song made famous by early 20th century black delta blues singer Lead Belly.
For the encore Plant and his band started out with a deep dive on his solo career playing In the Mood, from 1983’s The Principle of Moments, from Plant’s era of experimenting with synth pop. The night finished with a medly of songs that was anchored both from the start and end with Whole Lotta Love, the massive Led Zeppelin song from 1969’s Led Zeppelin II. The crowd cheered and sung loudly along during the chorus. The band was unbelievable tight all night long, played hard and soft, fast and slow, straightforward rock and experimental dance music was played. Robert Plant at the ripe age of 69, still is a master of his craft, and someone that has managed to adapt and take over genres like few others have. He seems to be at a career sweet spot with the Sensational Space Shifters and I can only hope that their partnership doesn’t end any time soon.