By: Alex Wood
Though Robert Plant’s Riviera performance proved that Zeppelin’s singer still has the golden vocal cords that made him famous, the show was unmistakably removed from the era the singer was best known for.
Plant and his six-piece band, The Sensational Space Shifters, performed songs from his recent release, Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, as well as covers and Led Zeppelin hits to an audience consisting mostly of middle-aged men packed into the sold-out venue.
Opening with “No Quarter” was a treat for Zeppelin fans, its unmistakable guitar riff creeping in as Plant takes the stage, his vocals dead on and instantly followed by huge applause. The Space Shifters performed the song with precision, as though having memorized every nuance of the original.
Though everybody in the venue wanted to hear the singer perform Zeppelin classics, the band truly shined during their originals.
“Poor Howard” was soft and catchy, distinctly British in its fiddle-centered composition, even leaning toward Celtic music. “Turn It Up” was performed as a crunchy electric-blues song, reminiscent of Zeppelin as Plant sang “baby, baby, baby” sensually.
The 66-year-old singer obviously loved being on stage, a smile constantly on his face as he dragged the microphone stand across stage, lifting it high into the air and dancing around. Soloists moved in and out of the stage’s center and musicians switched instruments often to fit the mood of Plant’s diverse music.
“Rainbow” featured pounding percussion, with Plant, the keyboardist and the guitarist all beating drums atop the drummer’s part as the crowd clapped along.
The choice of Zeppelin covers was excellent and always highlighted Plant’s vocal delivery. “Going To California” found the singer’s voice vividly changing dynamics with the moving vocal line, while “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” was possibly more dramatic than the original, accompanied by impeccable acoustic-guitar work.
The set’s end found Plant and his band covering blues classics. Of particular note was “Fixin’ To Die,” which was transformed into a massive guitar-focused jam, band members seemingly more comfortable soloing over the traditional song than the Zeppelin numbers. The musicianship truly shined here, easily making the song a highlight of the evening.
A short, reserved cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You” became the inimitable guitar riff of “Whole Lotta Love,” which slyly became “Who Do You Love,” the interpolations a clear nod to Plant’s initial blues influences.
A short encore began with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” the most interesting of Zeppelin covers performed that night. Among the last songs to regularly find its way into Led Zeppelin sets, the band performed the track with the vigor it deserved and required.
“Little Maggie” closed the show and felt like a cool-down after the electric rockers that preceded it, though the track appropriately featured the wide range of instruments and styles that Lullaby and Plant’s discography contain.
As a whole, the show reflected how many directions a talented group of musicians could take a genre as simple as the blues. Just as Led Zeppelin used the genre to transform rock ‘n roll forever, Plant continues to push the envelope of how one can challenge the confines of the blues, creating something familiar yet entirely his own in the process.
Stream The Show
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1. No Quarter
2. Poor Howard
3. Ramble On
4. Turn It Up
5. Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)
7. Going To California
8. A Stolen Kiss
9. What Is And What Should Never Be
10. How Many More Years
11. Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
12. Fixin’ To Die
13. I Just Want To Make Love To You > Whole Lotta Love > Who Do You Love
14. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
15. Little Maggie