Robert Plant at The Olympia Theatre – Review and Photos
Robert Plant has been at pains to separate his solo career from his past life as frontman of the biggest rock act of all time, Led Zeppelin. While Jimmy Page still clamours for a Led Zep reunion, Plant seems to be completely at ease with his mid-life career path. Considering the astronomical sums apparently on offer for a Zep re-union, it’s admirable to see the guy shunning the mighty dollar for self content. The latest incarnation of Plants solo band play a quirky mixture of blues, folk, Moroccan, Celtic, world music and rock’n’roll with a small helping of heavy rock thrown in for good measure. Plant is pushing musical boundaries with this more eclectic mix of music compared to his days as the Golden God and it works really well. The band are currently promoting their ‘Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar’ album (which apparently reached number 1 for one week in Ireland, according to the man himself). It’s a strong album, but it’s obvious that most of the crowd are hoping for Zep songs. They weren’t to be disappointed.
The house lights dimmed and a Moroccan rhythm played as the band took to the stage. A casual entrance turns to adulation as Plant walks on, still oozing stage presence and charisma after all these years (even with his hair tied up!). No doubt who the star is here. Plant is a regular visitor to these shores and if his stage banter is to be believed, he really enjoys his visits to Ireland, likening it strangely, at one stage, to the Mississippi Delta. The Moroccan beat gives way to the first big cheer of the night for a fabulous rendition of ‘Friends’ from LZ III. A good start for the Zep fans. We’re treated to a mix of songs from the new album (Turn It Up, Little Maggie, Rainbow) , a couple of old blues standards like ‘Spoonful’, ‘No Place to Go’ and a fair smattering of Zep songs throughout the evening. A haunting version of the old gospel number ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ was familiar to the audience for obvious reasons. Plant was constantly cajoling the crowd to sing and clap along and the first hint of crowd participation came with a stripped down version of ‘Going to California’, accompanied by just acoustic guitar and mandolin.
The Sensational Space Shifters consist of Justin Adams (guitar), John Baggott (keyboards and general ‘Know all’ according to Plant), Billy Fuller (bass), Dave Smith (drums) and Liam “Skin” Tyson (guitar) with sporadic appearances from Juldeh Camara on the Riti (a single string fiddle). They give the Zeppelin songs a new twist which freshens them up without straying too far from the originals and it’s apparent the Plant is happy to share the stage with his fellow band members, allowing them their turn in the spotlight on a couple of occasions. The set finishes with the Bukka White song ‘Fixin’ to Die’ but it’s not long before they’re back with a bang…starting with Muddy Waters’ ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ which gives way to an explosive version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’…how to put a smile on the faces of your audience! The band make way again and return for a second encore, which Plant informed us they had worked up backstage before the show. It turned out to be (a slightly reworked version of) ‘Rock’n’Roll’ to the obvious delight of the sold out crowd. Plant and his band seem genuinely enthused about what they are doing and have the appearance of a band really enjoying themselves on stage. At this stage of his life, why would he want more than that? He finished with a promise to be back soon, let’s hope it is soon, on the basis of tonight’s show.
Review by Tony Martin
Photos by David Doyle.