Gig review by Toni Woodward with gig photography by Bianca Barrett

Robert Plant

On a very wet Friday evening, the Wolverhampton Civic Hall is the busiest I have ever seen it, all waiting in anticipation for local rock royalty to take to the stage in the form of Robert Plant. As the house lights fade, the stage takes on a purple hue whilst Indian folk music replaces Sonic Youth and after a few minutes the Sensational Space Shifters enter followed by the living legend himself. Dressed simply in a black shirt and jeans with his trademark hair tied back, Plant still has the stature of a true rock star.

Robert Plant

The first track of the set is the Led Zeppelin number Friends, which sees the audience erupt and certainly sets the standard for the evening. Plant’s vocal abilities have not faded in the 45 years since the track was first recorded and sees him still swinging the microphone stand in his inimitable style. As the evening progresses, Plant affectionately calls all the Led Zeppelin tracks folk songs, arguing that they were written long ago enough to justify the name. The set continues with a cover version of the Howlin’ Wolf song, Spoonful, which the band enhance with emphasised dynamics throughout and Plant encourages the audience to participate by clapping the rhythm.

Robert Plant

The Sensational Space Shifters are a select group of musicians including former Cast guitarist Skin Tyson, whose psychedelic influences work wonders throughout the set, and Massive Attack’s keyboardist John Baggott whose subtle and sensitive soundscapes bring a depth to the performance that flows throughout the venue. Plant is renowned for his interest in world music and his latest album includes Juldeh Camara from West Gambia who plays ritti (a single string fiddle) on a number of tracks this evening.

Robert Plant

The next two songs of the set, Turn It Up and Rainbow, are taken from Robert Plant’s latest album Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar both of which are received positively by the sell-out crowd. However, returning to his folk songs, the reception that Going To California receives is tremendous and rightly so, the beauty of the song is not lost especially with the additional call and response element towards the end of the song. Between tracks Robert Plant converses with the crowd, making jokes centred around locality, previous performances and dialect, which makes this enigmatic character even more charming, especially with his regular taunting of ‘hey hey’ leading everyone to think Black Dog was to be unleashed.

Robert Plant

Tyson’s flamenco beginning to Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You transfixes the audience into silence and then as Robert’s vocals kick you can see heads nodding in appreciation. The rhythmic and volume changes resound throughout the Civic Hall with power and drive courtesy of drummer David Smith and bass player Billy Fuller creating a phenomenal rendition. After being left breathless by such wonder, Plant gets the audience to partake in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday for his ‘lifetime friend’ Maureen, cheekily noting that she is in the royal box and had refused to buy a ticket.

Robert Plant

The set begins to draw to a close with Little Maggie and a cover of Dylan’s Fixin’ To Die both of which lead to the grand finale that starts with I Just Want To Make Love To You which smoothly segues into Whole Lotta Love. When the guitar riff kicks in, a tingle runs down your spine as it is truly epic and rightly classed as the greatest riff of all time. The track moves into Mona and Who Do You Love? before returning to Whole Lotta Love that sees Plant waving his hands in the air which is willingly reciprocated by the ecstatic audience. Luckily the band’s exit from the stage is brief and they return with Embrace Another Fall taken from the new album. This song has an eerie ambience that develops as it progresses, gaining weight through pertinent guitar snippets, tribal drum patterns and haunting keyboards. The final song of the night is the aptly titled Rock And Roll and the capacity crowd are truly rocking and rolling.

Robert Plant

There has never been any question regarding Robert Plant’s place in the history of music; but he consistently proves he holds a place in the making of new music. It is well documented his reluctance to reform Led Zeppelin and, even though his set consists of a number of Zeppelin tracks, he is reworking them, experimenting with instrumentation and exploring other musical avenues. I would love to hear Zeppelin tracks as they are on record but I totally respect Robert Plant’s desire and need to move on, and tonight’s performance demonstrates how deserved the title of vocal legend is.

Robert Plant

Set list:
Friends
Spoonful
Turn It Up
Rainbow
Going To California
Let The Four Winds Blow
What Is and What Should Never Be
No Place To Go
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
Little Maggie
Fixin’ To Die
Whole Lotta Love
Embrace Another Fall
Rock And Roll

Robert Plant

One Response to “Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK – 21st November 2014”

  1. Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Album Review: Carry Fire by Robert Plant Says:

    […] the more enchanted you become with its elegance and sophistication. I am truly excited to see how Robert Plant and Sensational Shape Shifters will translate this album to the live […]

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