VIENNA, VA (Wolf Trap), July 25, 2013 – Robert Plant made his Wolf Trap debut this week offering an eclectic retrospective to a career that spanning nearly five decades. Plant, the erstwhile frontman of Led Zepplin, one of the most influential bands in music history, was that generations “Chairman of the Board” helping to guide rock and roll into the exaggerated decadence of the 1970s,
Now looking like eccentric uncle Robert in his Latin linen “wedding shirt,” Plant seemed quite the subdued chap, bantering and teasing with the audience and ribbing his band.
Subdued that is until he sang.
Then, the bearded lion with golden locks, roared and took a near capacity audience back to the days of Led Zeppelin, when he was considered the archetype of a rock god, with a little help from some mightiful reverb and assorted effects, supplied by keyboardist John Baggot.
Although he may be in the twilight of his career at the age of 64, Mr. Plant displayed a mirthful acceptance of his fate, comparing the performance to a night of soft, middle age rock, telling the audience to expect REO Speedwagon covers and joking over his afternoon nap saying “You can’t imagine how great it is to have an afternoon nap and then do this!”
The elder statesmen of rock belied the puns with a renewed vigor as he ripped through 15 songs, nearly half of which are from the Zeppelin catalog, along with characteristic mic stand twirls and stepping back to admire the musician ship of fellow band mates, particularly the acoustic offerings of Liam “Skin” Tyson and bassist Billy Fuller.
Even so it was an eclectic evening of song.
One moment fans were appreciating “I’m In the Mood” from his 1983 break out solo album, “The Principle of Moments” next a pounding version of Willie Dixon’s 1960’s blues standard “Spoonful.”
Or, some current original fare from 2005 with “Tin Pan Alley” (a dizzying mix of shrieking and guitar shreds) that quickly moves to a quiet and acoustic Zeppelin homage with “Going to California” before another eruption with “What is and What Should Never Be.”
All told, over 90 minutes of sonic, somewhat psychedelic action delivered with great help from a youthful and merry band behind him, including drummer Dave Smith, celebrating his birthday while guitarist Justin Adams also celebrated his, complete with candled cakes following the encores, the Sensational Space Shifters.
The group aided from time to time by Gambian instrumentalist Juldeh Camara, freely jamming on his Ritti, or one-string African violin Kologo, the African Banjo and vocals, gave many a song both an African tribal and Middle Eastern quality. Adam, Camara and Plant had fun adding percussion to songs with the handheld talking drums.
It was very reminiscent of the days when Mr. Plant toured with the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmie Page in the mid 1990s and presented a new world musical take to many of the band’s hits.
For example, the quintessential hard rock song “Black Dog” was a rhythmic experiment highlighted with violin while the opus “Whole Lotta Love” still retained the edgy riff but often broke into percussive mayhem with Mr. Plant crooning to Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” during mid-stream.
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifter closed with an encore of what the singer called an “old English folk song,” his venerable classic “Rock and Roll.
It turned into an audience sing along and reminded the crowd at Wolf Trap just one of the many reasons why Led Zeppelin and its lead singer will never be forgotten.
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