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Robert Plant Presents…….Sensational Space Shifters – Wellington, NEW ZEALAND – TSB Bank Arena

9 April 2013 6,010 views One Comment

414809 Picture Simon Cross

Robert Plant Presents…….Sensational Space Shifters – Wellington, NEW ZEALAND – TSB Bank Arena

Friends, Tin Pan Valley, Another Tribe, Spoonful, Black Dog, Going to California, Born Yr Aur Stomp, The Enchanter, Four Sticks, Ramble On, Fixin To Die, Whole Lotta Love inc Who Do You Love
Encore: What Is And What Should Never Be, Rock & Roll


Robert Plant stands and delivers
Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters
TSB Bank Arena

Reviewed by Simon Sweetman
In the 30 years since Led Zeppelin called it a day nobody has worked harder at honouring the legacy whilst creating distance from it – and attempting new runs on the board – than the voice of the band, Mr Robert Plant.
And if it is hard for some audience members to fathom that Plant had a career pre- and post-Zep then it seems the erstwhile Golden God, now a contemporary artist offering up his own twisted take on where folk and blues musics bisect with rock, has his past fully reconciled.
And by the sound of tonight his future will in fact reference his past more than has previously been the case.
So it was to a Led Zeppelin-heavy set but with see-if-you-can-spot-this versions of Black Dog and Four Sticks and Whole Lotta Love as Plant found new ways to tunnel into the blues.
It was an amazing performance, with standards recast to show that the evening was as much about where Led Zeppelin songs had come from as it was an act of seeing where exactly they could go.
An almost terrifying transmogrification of the Willie Dixon-penned Spoonful was an early highlight and later with Fixin’ To Die Plant paid tribute to his early career, pre-Zep.
There were new songs and pieces that existed away from the Zeppelin canon but it was those heavy metal moments that people kept calling for.
Even if one over-zealous fan screamed hoarse for When The Levee Breaks and was told by Plant to get his voice checked out; he was concerned someone was choking the wannabe-heckler.
Lead guitarist and bandleader Justin Adams bent country licks into a rockabilly feel, swooping and rocking, pulling at his guitar to create new psychedelic blues clothes for the bodies of old tunes.
Ramble On rode in on a subverted samba groove but its chorus was faithful.
Going To California and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp were more instantly recognisable as coming straight from the source material.
Encore versions of What Is And What Should Never Be and Rock’n’Roll were further highlights.
Returning blues to its African routes via oscillating keyboard textures and a creeping future-funk feel, Plant’s new set of found sounds made for an amazing recontextualisation.
One of the best gigs I’ve ever seen.


Robert Plant: It’s been a long time
Rock god and former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was last in New Zealand in 1984. Ahead of his Wellington show as part of The Sensational Shape Shifters, he talks to Steve Scott about the band and whether Led Zep will re-form.
Robert Plant has an unquenchable thirst for music that moves him.
From his golden- haired, rock-god days as frontman for Led Zeppelin to his latest British urban, West African-inspired incarnation, The Sensational Shape Shifters.
“Try combining West African rhythms with Led Zeppelin-fired blues,” he explains ahead of his April show in Wellington.
It will be Plant’s third visit to New Zealand. Speaking from his home in Machynlleth, Wales, he reveals his life as a musical nomad.
“I feel a bit like a bird in springtime, you know, I jump around a lot. I enjoy the fruits of one thing, then I move on to another one.
“I have gone from working with Patti Griffin and The Band of Joy, which was a beautiful and incredibly melodic driven-band, to this other world of the Shape Shifters, which is an entirely appropriate thing to do.”
“It’s a great place to be, to have so many different friends who love music, and play in so many different ways.”
With little memory of the 1972 Led Zeppelin concert at Auckland’s Western Springs, he is clearly surprised his last visit here was in 1984 promoting his album The Principle of Moments and its hit single, The Big Log.
“Jesus, that’s like nearly 30 years ago, it’s amazing how you can find your way around the planet after that length of time.” However, Plant has found his way – musically and geographically.
He has travelled from North Africa to the back streets of Paris.
“From playing in Marrakesh with Jimmy Page (No Quarter, 1994) to experiencing performing in the back streets of Paris with the band Tinariwen, and now playing with Juldah Camara from Gambia in Shape Shifters, they are all incredible experiences.”
It was long-time Plant collaborator and Strange Sensation guitarist Justin Adams who introduced Camara to Plant.
“Justin introduced me to Juldah Camara not long after I said goodbye to my previous group, Band of Joy.
“He was playing this far-out stuff on a one-string fiddle. I put my voice to it, glued it on and it was magic, so then I brought in Johnny Baggot from Massive Attack to bring some loops in, Liam “Skin” Tyson is from Cast, Billy Fuller came in from his adventures with Portishead, and we have Dave Smith.”
He says all the members of Shape Shifters have a special charm and kindness, and are great players.
“So what do you do? – you have just got to get it right.
“I feel I can just bring my gift to the table, it sounds a bit cheesy but I’m only a contributor and the only reason you are speaking with me is because I’ve got the biggest name.”
Rock fans the world over know Plant’s name from his years with Led Zeppelin. It all came to a halt when drummer John Bonham died in 1980.
In 2007 the band reconvened, with Bonham’s son, Jason, taking his place on the drum stool for a one-off appearance at London’s O2 Arena, in honour of late Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun. Celebration Day, a DVD of the concert, was released late last year, stirring up hopes that Led Zeppelin would use it as a launching pad to tour again.
However, Plant had already made plans to record with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss, and it was time to move on.
Plant says he enjoyed his time at the 02 Arena and agrees they put on a great show, and he was “part of something that was magnificent”.
“But after it was over, I got out of there. I am better off just doing fresh things and seeing where they take me, and that is what has happened in my life.
“The bottom line is, when you do something and you don’t expect anything to happen, which is what happened with Led Zeppelin, Band of Joy and [the album] Raising Sand with Alison Krauss, then all the better.
“So, at this time in my life, I am happy to be involved in things that intrigue me and that’s when I will have a go.”
Plant and Krauss did attempt a follow-up to the five-time Grammy Award-winning Raising Sand, but it did not work out. “We honestly did try with a second album but it just didn’t work.
“Actually, I got an email from Alison’s agent asking me do I want to do a summer tour of 25 dates with her.” Then, in a sudden burst of laughter, he says: “Well, she didn’t ask me for a start and I think that’s terrible; she should have wined and dined me and held me up against the wall and said, ‘Robert, let’s go’.”
Whether utilising his powerful and full-bodied rock vocal in Led Zeppelin, adopting more gentle and yearning, bluegrass tones with Krauss, to revealing a “British urban, West African-Led Zeppelin-fired blues-trance thing” with the Shape Shifters, Plant’s vocal remains a compelling instrument – 40 years into his career. “The actual physical demand of singing in The Sensational Shape Shifters is much more demanding than with Band of Joy, because I am up there pushing it all the time, we are relentless.
“That’s not something I did with Zeppelin because there were spaces in the music.
“But now I am really pushing it, so it’s a good thing to know my voice still works, and it’s a good thing not to push it to the degree where you go ‘oh God, I hate it now, but leave room so you want to do some more’.”
Looking back on his 40-year career, he says it was all down to a “strange crackling on the radio” that turned him on to music.
“You know, when I was a kid, I had no idea of what was out there in the world.
“I used to deliver papers before I went to school in the morning on my bike and I got to listening to radio late at night, like a lot of people did of my generation – there wasn’t a lot of choice. But there was something out there crackling through the darkness and I heard this music.
“It was this black American music, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy, so I got this stuff and I got the drift.
“I began to love it so much and I have no explanation for it, but I wanted as much as I could get, and I became a huge fan of the delta blues.
“In Led Zeppelin we turned the blues upside down and little did I know that this romance of mine, with this dark, beautiful music, would one day take me to Mali and into West Africa and allow me to sing in the desert at night outside of Timbuktu with Ali Farka Toure, out there in infinity just doing this beautiful stuff . . .”
“Now I am doing it with The Sensational Shape Shifters.”

Rock And Roll

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One Comment »

  • andrew johnson said:

    Just an amazing show. Plant was in fine form as was the band who are very well named as they took some Zep classics on a daring new journey. Hard to pick a highlight from such a good night but The Enchanter was , as my darling wife observed beside me – “transcendental” Fixing to Die was intoxicating and Ramble On nearly took the roof off when the chorus kicked in. Just sublime. Juldeh was awesome with him adding all sorts of new textures and grooves to the night. So there you go , its been a very long wait since 1984 but well worth the wait and hey , getting to meet The Great Man the next day as he wandered about the Wellington waterfront is going to take some beating I can tell you.

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