sat 17/03/2018

Robert Plant, Royal Albert Hall review - the voice remains the same | reviews, news & interviews

Robert Plant, Royal Albert Hall review - the voice remains the same

Robert Plant, Royal Albert Hall review - the voice remains the same

Led Zeppelin frontman and his Sensational Space Shifters are joyously joined by Chrissie Hynde

Plant: still on fire

“Back in the Sixties, before I was born…” Robert Plant has always been as amusing a raconteur as he is a deft weaver of different musical styles, and last night’s show at the Royal Albert Hall was no exception. In amid the music – which jumped effortlessly from past to present to positively ancient (a cover of Leadbelly’s “Gallow’s Pole”), the only way he knows how – Plant regaled the audience with stories of the Sixties (“we were fighting political corruption”) and occasionally let his band take over, watching with absolute admiration from the centre or even side of the stage.

Make no mistake, we may all have been here to see Plant (and judging from the age and enthusiasm of the audience, many have followed him their entire lives) but he was here for the blues and the band camaraderie. So there was music from his excellent new album Carry Fire, searing, spine-tingling takes on Led Zeppelin classics (there were four originals plus “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”, including an absolutely pitch-perfect Almost Famous take on “That’s The Way”) and the odd cover version, like “House of Cards”, played in loving tribute to Richard and Linda Thompson.

Midway through the set, Plant brought on a very special (and entirely spike-free) guest: the great Pretender Chrissie Hynde, here to perform their duet from Carry Fire, a liquid-cool cover of Ersel Hickey’s “Bluebirds Over the Mountain”. Hers is a voice that remains as powerful and unchanged as ever. “Bluebirds…” was followed by a take on her own early Eighties Christmas classic “2000 Miles” (“In these frozen and silent nights, sometimes in a dream, you appear”). Plant, ever the amiable performer, said he was happy to be directed so when Hynde sang, “it must be Christmas time”, he was happy simply to layer his own vocals behind hers And then sadly she was gone, back to a place where, hopefully, the bells are still ringing.

Two things really become clear during the 17-song set. One: that Plant really feels relaxed and comfortable in among his well-drilled Shape Shifters, who include Justin Adams and Liam "Skin" Tyson on guitar, John Baggott on keyboards. Billy Fuller on bass guitar. Dave Smith on drums and of course Seth Lakeman playing the fiddle. Lakeman took centre stage more than once, lifting the overall performance to another level. Two: we can’t forget the main reason people have come - to witness Plant in action and hear that voice, which resolutely refuses to be worn down by time.

The voice has been carrying its own brand of fire since the 1960s, so has been in public service for over 50 years. His is an incredible instrument that, aged 69, is now happy to play its part in the band. And it’s this band which will continue to get in the way of Led Zeppelin reunions, huge financial temptations and all talk of one-off shows at Knebworth. Further shows follow in America and Australia in early 2018. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that Liverpudlian guitarist Tyson (a former member of Britpop players Cast, believe it or not) is arguably the most incendiary player on the stage. He has performed with Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters since 2005, and on the evening’s closing number – a rabble-rousing take on ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – the entire audience, from 16 to 60, jumped to their feet. “His voice hasn’t changed a bit!” exclaimed one punter on the way out. No one went home short-changed. 

It’s this band which will continue to get in the way of Led Zeppelin reunions


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I was at this gig too and thought there were some exceptional moments especially 'that's the way' and 'Babe I'm gonna leave you' I was hugely disappointed however with RP's choice of support. Especially as such an iconic venue. I'm not a fan at all of Seth Lawson and having to endure an entire solo set and him popping up on most of RP's set was at times too painful and I had fingers in ears a couple of times. In my opinion he was looking constantly to steal the show from RP. Also, the new version of Misty Moutain Hop was awful.

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