"As silence descended they launched into the iconic riff of Whole Lotta Love, sending the crowd into a frenzy."
Seth Lakeman warmed up the stunning State Theatre last night, an English fiddle virtuoso with Celtic influences. The Bold Knight, about a legend that surrounds the forest where he grew up, was a moving ballad. Lakeman also plays the tenor guitar and bouzouki, an ancient Greek lute-style instrument, both of which are beautiful instruments. However, the "drinking song" Portrait Of My Wife, in which the crowd sang "raise your glass to the one you love", stole the show and the hearts of the audience.
Robert Plant certainly knows how to build tension. A booming hypnotic beat began and the audience shuffled to the edge of their seats. Then out came The Sensational Space Shifters followed by Plant, moving to the rhythm. There is certainly a mystique about the man and seeing him move on stage, despite his age, was simply entrancing. They kicked things off with The May Queen, highlighting their own brand of grandiose, atmospheric rock. With an interest in world music, the band blended influences from West Africa to Egypt and were truly sensational. Guitarists Liam "Skin" Tyson and Justin Adams in particular each took their fair slice of the limelight.
That's The Way was the first Led Zeppelin cover of the night and the crowd roared. It must be said that diehard Zep fans might have been slightly disappointed if they were hanging out for the soaring wails Plant is known for. But the man is 69 and he still put on an absolutely world-class performance. No points lost there.
All The King's Horses was a thoughtful acoustic meditation on love that showed how Plant has maintained the songwriting skills and hopeful poetics of his youth.
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Plant spoke about the rise of the blues and how it was crucial for rock music, citing such gems as '"The Rolling Stones, Hendrix and of course ABBA". The room was filled with laughter. He followed this with Led Zeppelin's cover of the Leadbelly-penned murder ballad, Gallows Pole.
Before the crowd could settle, Plant and co moved into Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, another epic classic, played here with an extended, swooning acoustic intro and outro. All the Led Zeppelin covers of the night felt reinvented, the bones of the old songs dressed in new skin. Plus, nobody was trying to be Jimmy Page because, of course, nobody could be.
Misty Mountain Hop closed the main set with some amazing lead guitar by Tyson and violin from Lakeman. Plant continued to move about the stage like a rock-possessed deity, which he almost literally is, and certainly left the crowd wanting more.
Again building tension, Plant waited just long enough before returning with a harmonica. Just as silence descended they launched into the iconic riff of Whole Lotta Love, sending the crowd into a frenzy. It was an exceptional reimagining with an explosive tempo change in the middle section, ending with a well-deserved standing ovation.