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ROBERT PLANT AND THE SENSATIONAL SPACE SHIFTERS OPENING NIGHT OF THEIR UK TOUR IN NEWPORT REVIEW

10 November 2014 4,306 views 11 Comments

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Opening night of the Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters UK tour – on the spot report and photos via Richard Grubb for TBL

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – Newport Centre – November 9th, 2014

Setlist: No Quarter, Poor Howard, Thank You, Turn It Up, How Many More Times, All The King’s Horses, Black Country Woman, Embrace Another Fall, What Is And What Should Never Be, Rainbow, Fixing To Die, Whole Lotta Love

Encores: Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Little Maggie

27 years after my first live Robert Plant experience on the Now And Zen tour, a return to the Newport Centre is long overdue. And what a difference 27 years makes.  Long gone are the days of big choruses and wild guitar solos, replaced instead with a style more becoming for the advancing years.

Despite my usual gushing praise for all things Sensational and Space Shifting, unfortunately this show doesn’t go down as a vintage performance. Handicapped by a poor sound at least form where I was (Editors note: other reports indicate the sound as being perfectly acceptable) and a crowd that seemed barely alive at times (even Robert noticed I think), last night’s show was a useful opener for testing some changes to the set list which has been need of an overhaul but it didn’t quite hit the heights we know can be achieved.

The band open with No Quarter, and it’s a fairly faithful version, with some added electronics, but loses the extended exploratory section that made it such an exciting listen in the summer. Poor Howard follows and is almost forgettable, apart from some static problems for Skin’s electric banjo which are really distracting.

Things improve drastically with Thank You, where the sound mix improves (it couldn’t get any worse), and this version is HEAVY. Two big guitar solos threaten to rob it of its delicacy, but the new approach gives it a different purpose, one of driving intent and it works really well.  Turn It Up is next and the sound goes awry once more. The balance between the electronic rhythms and the guitars is completely off, the guitars being way too loud.  A great song though, sung with conviction.  You really feel that the sentiment of the lyric is something he’s wanted to get off his chest for a while, and The Voice is now in full flow.

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A real surprise next: How Many More Times which is barely recognisable from the Led Zeppelin version, save for the opening lyric, but as it progresses it incorporates a lot more of The Wolf’s How Many More Years. The potential for the Space Shifters to hit their groove here is enormous, but somehow it doesn’t take flight as it might.  I hope it hangs around in the setlist and they can forge something special from it, but last night it sounded very much like a work in progress.

 

All The Kings Horses is played straight, almost identical to the recorded version and is a highlight. Sometimes it’s enough to leave things alone and they get this one bang on. Very delicate and beautiful, it’s a welcome relief.

Whilst the acoustics guitars and mandolin are in hand, we get Black Country Woman, which takes on a more country than folk arrangement, Robert delivering it with an almost Nashville twang.

Another highlight follows, Embrace Another Fall, with a guest appearance from Julie Murphy singing the Welsh poem (well, we are in Wales) section beautifully. This is a multi layered song, with many component parts and for the first time tonight, everything clicks for me. It helps that it’s my favourite song on the new album as well.

Glastonbury Abbey opener What Is And What Should Never Be is next and the crowd (finally) wake up, especially in the stereo guitar outro, but you sense Robert wants more from them, encouraging (demanding?) with some fierce “C’mon!” baiting.

Catching his breath with band introductions and a thank you to the crowd for getting “…lullaby” to number two in the UK album charts, “that bastard Sam Smith” gets a special mention for preventing it hitting number one, but it’s tongue in cheek and as Robert says, they’ve still got years ahead of them to try to get that elusive number one (ahem). Rainbow is next, all gang vocals and hand drums, it’s becoming a favourite in the set and goes down well.

Bukka White’s finest hour starts the wind down of the main set and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. More psychobilly guitar and snaky limbs from Justin, who rallies the crowd in his own inimitable style, and then it’s Whole Lotta Love with the Hoochie Coochie Man / I Just Want To Make Love To You intro.  Impossible not to get carried away in this, it’s mandatory to enjoy yourselves and we do.  Jazz hands are a little off-putting, in danger of reducing the greatest riff of all time to a cabaret, but the home run is thrilling and primal.

A short break at the end of the set and the encores are Nobody’s Fault But Mine and Little Maggie. So no room for Rock And Roll tonight and I’m sure Gary Foy will be relieved that Black Dog appears to have been given a well earned rest!

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Overall it was a night of hits and misses, but it’s the opening night of a lengthy UK tour and if sound problems don’t appear at other venues, and if the crowd can give back some of the energy coming from the stage there will be many treats ahead no doubt.

Richard Grubb

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Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters at the Roundhouse – TBL pre gig meet:

The TBL crew are aiming to pitch up for the London Roundhouse gig on Wednesday November 12th. We will be meeting in the The Enterprise, 2 Haverstock Hill, Camden, London, NW3 2BL. 1 minute walk from Chalk Farm Tube Station  (Northern Line, Edgware branch) and only minutes away from the venue. We look forward to seeing all that can make it along.

Robert Plant tour watch: If you are attending any of the Robert Plant SSS gigs on the UK tour, we welcome your feedback and pics on the TBL Facebook and website.

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You Tube Clip:

Thank You at Newport Centre:

 Until next time…

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – November  10th, 2014.

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11 Comments »

  • Mark Williams said:

    Robert will be cooking up some sensational space-shifting in South America next Spring, but fear not fellow Zep- heads, confidence is high that ‘ Something wicked this way will come’ from an ex. companion in 2015 – patience will prove to be a virtue.

  • Plantfan said:

    Hate to be the downer on Plant related reviews, but, it’s a bitter pill to swallow if you have to go to several shows to hear what might be a personal favorite from his new album. Even though I give him credit for a great new album and a great band, I can’t agree with dropping so many songs from the current album from each set. Also, how hard is it to get decent sound quality live with today’s technology? The last time I saw him was in the USA in Philadelphia back in 2005. The sound was ear blisteringly loud and mixed terribly. No, that’s not rock and roll. Guess I’ll skip the US leg next year based on this review.

  • Martin Bagg said:

    Saw last nights gig in Bournemouth with a significantly different set list. No Quarter, Poor Howard, All the Kings Horses, Black Country Woman and NFBM were all missing. In came Going to California, Spoonful, Rock n Roll, A Stolen Kiss. We got 100 minutes of fantastic music which the crowd really enjoyed. There was even some audience participation. Roberts voice was as good as it has been for a long time and you could see the whole band was having fun. Anyone going to see this tour is in for a real treat.

  • Peter Williams said:

    …attended the Newport gig too (you can see my head rocking at the front in the “Thank You” vid!) and have to firstly say thanks for jotting down the set-list, I was hoping to get hold just to remind myself of any flashback moments! But secondly the review was a little wet around the edges for my liking! A little toooo critical for my liking!
    It’s rock ‘n roll mun! It’s not meant to be ‘perfect’! I’ve got the studio versions for that! I want to hear dropped chords, mis-timings with acknowledged grins, raw works in progress….
    The quips and banter from RP were great fun (“…this is the greatest love song ever – written by us!!” and “The last time I was here I think I opened for Depeche Mode (pause) …and when I say ‘opened’…!!!”)
    The set-list was refreshing, unexpected in parts, and Whole Lotta Love blew me away! The band are tight-knit, that’s plain to see. The buzz coming off them kept me grinning from ear-to-ear throughout!
    I’ve been lucky to catch a lot of RP’s incarnations over the years – including the Unledded tour with JP….but there’s something different about this set up. something special. It’s almost like a culmination of everything RP has picked up on his life journey and he’s saying ‘here you go, I’m putting it all out there!’
    And it’s pretty darn offensive to some incredible band-members to keep up this re-union talk! It suggests this is just a side-line in his musical career…when it’s evidently so much more than that! The smile on his face says it all!
    It’s a good time to enjoy all that the LZ family tree has given us…and for any RP/SSS ticket-holders – you’re in for a great night!!!!

  • Roger Berlin said:

    Thank you Dave, for the news.
    Roger

  • Del said:

    Saw them in Bournmeouth last night at what used to be called Boscombe Ballrooms where Zepp played in 71 on the back to the clubs tour. Wasnt sure what I was gonna make of this show because to be honest I hav’nt been that taken with what Ive seen on the telly of Robert is doing at the mo (Glstonbury & Jools Holland). But I have to say it was a great gig he was on great form between songs with football banter saying how well Bournemouth were doing (through gritted teeth) and ended with what I think may have been a swipe at the Branson offer with “I would rather be in Bournemouth than New York” The band opened with a storming four sticks, great to hear that voice live again!!! high light of the night for me was Going To California sung as though it was the eary 70s again. He has surrounded himself with a great set of muscians who all seem to get on very well, although still not too sure with the instuments that look like they were made backstage before the gig?!?! All in all a big surprise for me because I didnt think I was gonna enjoy it, that’ll teach me for doubting the great man!!

  • Vic Morgan. said:

    Saw Robert in Bournemouth last night. The show was great really enjoyed it. What’s more the band seemed to enjoy it and you can’t ask for more than that. The Last Internationale the support band were also excellent so much so I bought their LP. Good night apart from the horrendous drive back to Devon in appalling weather. This really is one of the best spells in Robert’s career in my humble opinion and the Sensational Space Shifters are great musicians. What with the reissues of his former group coming out etc. as Dave often says it’s a great time to celebrate being a Zep fan.

  • Jodeo said:

    There’s a rumor going around that Robert was paid $800,000.00 in other people’s beer tabs to play this gig. Of course, it’s just a rumor.

  • marcus porche said:

    Agree/disagree with Richard, the crowd did barely move, which was frustrating, but Robert was full of energy and almost managed to carry them. Some great stories too, especially “opening” for Depeche Mode!

    All the Zep tunes were interesting arrangements, and I was glad there was no Babe Im gonna leave you” which has been overplayed over the last years. Best version of Thank You for some time and to hear Black Country Woman was a first for me in a live format, and for that reason alone was a joy. A good rendering too. What is and what should never..was simply brilliant and the joy was obvious for Robert. The guitar solos were a little more “jazzy” and fun than the original. I couldnt help but think that Robert would certianly have more fun playing it in this way, than trying to do a serious replication with a reformed Zep line up. I think this was really evident, that Robert and the band are really enjoying what they are doing and making some great music. I cant imagine him having more fun with a reformed Zep. Of his solo stuff, All the Kings horses was sublime and turn it up was a highlight. With Little Maggie quite rightly held over for an encore-it was great. I just think what Robert is doing is more in the spirit of Zep now than what he has been doing for many years and long may it continue!

    So after a long slog in the rain to get to Newport, I was rewarded by another excellent night in front of Robert & Sensational the Space Shifters

  • Caroline Clarkson-Drake said:

    Thank you for the review of the first night of the Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters Tour and it it definitely nice to know what the set list is and there are definitely some wonderful songs to lift our souls. I will be attending the concert at the Cambridge Corn Exchange and I am sure that the sound system will be great, how could it not be in Royal Cambridge? I have one special request and that would be if the song ‘Stolen Kiss’ could be played. Robert Plant should definitely be the Lord of Glastonbury and if the concert at the Glastonbury Abbey is anything to go by then I am sure we will all be in for a real treat with the forth coming concerts.

  • Graham Rodger said:

    Thanks for the excellent review Richard. Can’t wait to see Robert in Newcastle on the 18th. We’re a pretty lively bunch up here in the North East, so lacklustre crowd syndrome won’t be an issue (we’re gonna groove!).

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