In case you ever dared to doubt, it’s a yes. Emphatically, yes.
Robert Plant, legendary Led Zeppelin frontman and grizzled, music history-defining, rock-folkian warlock with the voice of liquid god proved he can still drop jaws, when he played to an enrapt Colston Hall this November, flanked by The Sensational Space Shifters.
The setlist was a rich combination of the 69 year-old’s eleventh studio album Carry Fire (issued October 2017, widely played on BBC 6 Music), with bright flecks of headline tracks from 2014 record lullaby and… The Ceasless Roar. There was a solid rendition of Please Read The Letter from Plant’s 1998 project with Jimmy Page, Walking into Clarksdale – given greater prominence by his 2009 Grammy Award-winning collaboration with US bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.
But most meltingly, of course, were those big Led Zep numbers, which actually came along far more frequently than you’d expect
But most meltingly, of course, were those big Led Zep numbers, which actually came along far more frequently than you’d expect. Whole Lotta Love gave the night its spine-and mind-tingling crescendo, bringing post-LZ heyday fans such as myself as close an experience to genuine LZ immersion as we’re ever going to know.
For me, the real throat grabber was Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, which saw Plant truly deliver the goods and crush hearts in rapture as he roared. He really went for it.
The vivid musical calibre of Plant’s band The Sensational Space Shifters, without a shadow of a doubt, lived up to Plant’s fabled pedigre
The vivid musical calibre of Plant’s band The Sensational Space Shifters, without a shadow of a doubt, lived up to Plant’s fabled pedigree. Particularly in the form of guitarists Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson (the magnificently bearded lead guitarist of Cast) and the prolific, long-serving Justin Adams. Both plentifully traversed in the diversity of genres and world influences that have long-been their leader’s want. The gig was also an enthusiastic homecoming for Bristol music royalty in Massive Attack keyboardist John Baggot and bassist Billy Fuller.
Together with Mercury Award-nominated Seth Lakeman – who also served as Plant’s fiddle-wielding one-man band support act – their slick performance often slid into improv jam session territory. Pure joy for the audience, and arguably making it hard to miss Jimmy Page’s presence (too much).
As warm-up, Lakeman looked like he was having the time of his life. Armed with his echoing fiddle, foot stomps, drone and at points Plant-esque vocal trilling, he served up soulful folk songs evoking South Westerly tales and imagery.
Carry Fire tracks stood up well against the back catalogue
On Plant’s latest material, the showcased Carry Fire tracks stood up well against the back catalogue. A particular favourite was Bones of Saints, which followed a Plant preamble hinting at the wincing pantomime of Trump’s presidency: ‘…Madness in the sky / Above the bones of saints / So much so nearly broken…’. Then there was the record’s opening track The May Queen, a pure hark-back to Led Zeppelin’s fixation with earthy Brit-folk mythologies and passion. Here is the eternal frontman cast ever as the besotted lover, lost to the wiles of his all-consuming goddess … music itself?
Just as Carry Fire conveys, as he approaches his eighth decade, Robert Plant’s light and legacy continues to burn ragingly bright.
Words by Daisy Blacklock