Robert Plant’s had one hell of a career. Singing in the Sixties, he joined Led Zeppelin in 1969 and went on to forge a legendary series of albums with the band. While they were best-known for their heavy rock, drawing from timeless blues classics, they also turned out many a calming folk tune, often written in a cottage named Bron-Yr-Aur nestled in the heart of Wales. And the end of Led Zeppelin didn’t mean the end of Plant; in the years since, he’s not only endured but matured, broadening his body of work with elements from across the globe.
Music from all across that career was performed here, from the earliest days of Led Zeppelin to the album ‘Carry Fire’, the latest from Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters. Songs that sounded excellent on recording were brought into life: pounding, heavy rhythms and wild instrumentals were drawn together with the earthy sound of Plant’s voice. Even in the top circle of the Royal Albert Hall, the music was all-consuming, and not a single soul in the audience was immune.
A definite highlight was the band’s showstopping rendition of ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’, alternating between gently plucked single notes on the guitar with Plant’s soft singing and furious, powerful thunder. Skin Tyson of the Sensational Space Shifters is to thank for that, for weaving the song through light and shade with his invariably outstanding guitar work.
But Robert Plant was the focus, the one who drew the band together and kept the audience entertained even in the downtime between songs. He is known for his witty stage patter – “Plantations”, as his quips are affectionately known – and that was by no means in short supply here. “We’ve been very fortunate over the past 16 years,” he said of the band. “Some of us still talk to each other!” And it didn’t stop there: “We thought about reforming…but we did.” Laughter accompanied all of this, and the atmosphere in the hall was always warm.
(Appreciation must also go to Seth Lakeman, the warmup act: he has a fine line in heavy, pounding folk tunes that had the whole audience in thrall. Even got us singing along!)