Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters
Qantas Credit Union Arena
He doesn’t want to talk much about Led Zeppelin’s future (if, indeed, there is one), but Robert Plant was more than content to dig deep into said rock icons’ catalogue at this show. Accompanied by the mighty loose Sensational Space Shifters collective (including ritti and kologo-sporting, Gambian multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Juldeh Camara) the legendary vocalist is not the shamanistic figure of yore, but a weathered, self-effacing performer, appearing like he’d just rolled out of bed. Vocally, he didn’t push himself too hard, but at 60-plus that’s more than understandable. He rarely misfired either, however.
How much one enjoyed these 90 minutes hinged on pre-gig expectations. Despite how the setlist appeared on paper, anyone unrealistically anticipating note-for-note renditions of Zeppelin classics would have felt short-changed. Going To California’s acoustic folk and What Is And What Should Never Be were largely faithful to the originals, but were the exceptions. Besides opening with a double shot of psychedelic-drenched solo cuts and lovingly covering bluesmen Howlin’ Wolf and Bukka White, Plant and cohorts focused on new interpretations of Zeppelin. Much guitar wankery ensued throughout extended rootsy jams and the new, electronica-infused arrangements turned decades-old songs upside down. Occasionally this lent an exciting new life (a hypnotic Black Dog, a grooving Heartbreaker) to proceedings, although some lost much of their vitality in the translation, being rendered unrecognisable to the masses. Plant even joked as such, remarking that the performance was a case of “spot the tune”. Teasing Whole Lotta Love united the room – punters stood up, sang along and shook their behinds en masse, before it rapidly veered in another, tribal-inspired direction, much to the chagrin of many.
Musically impressive and still well-received overall, after performing this material for eons Plant has surely earned the right to mix things up. It just wasn’t what some in attendance needed, or wanted, on this night.
Written by Brendan Crabb
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