Robert Plant Newcastle Academy 18th Nov 2014

Robert Plant Newcastle Academy 18th Nov 2014
robertplantadYou just know that Robert Plant is enjoying himself.
The Newcastle Academy was completely packed last night; packed to the walls, so you couldn’t move at all; probably the fullest I’ve ever seen it. I was right down at the front crammed close to the stage, and there were lots of Zeppelin veterans around, everyone talking about their memories of that legendary band. One guy was relating stories of Zeppelin gigs at the Mayfair and an early City Hall show in 1970. Two other guys were talking about Earls Court and Knebworth. The respect for Plant remains solid, immovable, deep and immense. But a Plant performance these days isn’t simply a Zeppelin tribute act; far from it, The Sensational Space Shifters are a band, and each of the members are great musicians in their own right. The set is a mix of tracks from the new album, blues, folk (“there is lots of folk music tonight”) and Zeppelin classics reworked (a little, but not too much). Shape Shifter music is an eclectic mix: the world music side is clear and exemplified by Gambian Juldeh Camara’s contribution to the performance on the “riti” (a single-string fiddle) and Robert and the others playing those large tambourine-like instruments (are they called a “daf”?), but it isn’t as simple as combining african instruments and rhythms with rock. robertplanttixThere is also rockabilly, particularly from crazy rock-out guitarist Justin Adams, psych, and the blues runs through everything, and screams from Liam “Skin” Tyson’s guitar. Oh, and of course, those familiar Zeppelin rock riffs come thundering through every now and then, as if we needed to be reminded where this guy’s roots lie. Plant looks great, his lion’s mane of hair intact and swaying, his voice as soulful, powerful and gentle as ever. You can feel that he is enjoying life and the music; he smiles and chats and jokes with the crowd, who give the band a roaring reception. The Sensational Shape Shifters give Plant the freedom, opportunity and space to safely bend the blues, rock, world music, mix it with excerpts from his back catalogue, and throw in all of the other musical influences which obviously run through his head, within a safe environment. The crowd know what to expect, and love it. We even get a snippet of House of the Rising Sun which prompts a massive singalong from the Geordie crowd. Amazing. Possibly the best time I’ve seen Plant in recent years.
Setlist was something like this: Friends; Spoonful; Turn It Up; Going to California; Embrace Another Fall; Rainbow; What Is and What Should Never Be; No Place to Go; Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You; Little Maggie; Fixin’ to Die; House of the Rising Sun; I Just Want to Make Love to You / Whole Lotta Love. Encore: Rock and Roll

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