Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

7

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver

Geoff Anderson By

Sign in to view read count
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
Fillmore Auditorium
Denver
October 4, 2014

Robert Plant's new album, Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch, 2014), is an atmospheric affair; music suitable for horseback riding at twilight in misty woods while on the lookout for the Headless Horseman. Perhaps the Led Zeppelin tune most closely matching the feel for many of the songs on the new album is "No Quarter." So it was entirely appropriate that Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters began their concert Saturday night with... "No Quarter." Plant and his band went on to perform five or six (or maybe even seven) more Zeppelin tunes, depending on how you count. More on that later. Most of the rest of the program was drawn from the new album.

Plant formed the Sensational Space Shifters in 2013 after his extended dalliances with Alison Krauss and, later, Patty Griffin whom he married. After about five or six years of harmonizing, he decided to get back to his roots and dig seriously into the blues. The Sensational Space Shifters were actually a reconstituted Strange Sensation, the band he put together for Mighty Rearranger (Sanctuary, 2005). The new band swapped out drummers with the old one and added an African multi-instrumentalist, Juldeh Camara, to further develop a world beat sound to augment the ever present blues. Lacking a new album, last year's Space Shifters tour featured plenty of reimagined Zeppelin tunes interspersed with a number of tunes from Mighty Rearranger. Now with a new album, the 2014 tour swapped out the Mighty Rearranger tunes for new ones.

But, as he has for many years now, Plant reworked a number of Zeppelin chestnuts. If it's possible, Saturday night's version of "No Quarter" was even spookier than the original. In contrast, "Ramble On" had a sunny, stroll-through-the-park feel; interrupted occasionally by violent hailstorms. Actually, that sun/storm contrast was a technique that Zeppelin used with some frequency and two other examples of that were on Saturday night's bill. "What Is and What Should Never Be," which, like "Ramble On" was originally on Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic, 1969) switched back and forth from the mellow to the manic, as did "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" from Led Zeppelin I (Atlantic, 1969). The upbeat sides of these tunes were the closest Plant's current band got to the trademark Zeppelin heaviness, with the possible exception of "Whole Lotta Love."

Led Zeppelin's primary influence in the early days was the blues. Saturday night's show drew heavily from that genre. After finishing "No Place to Go," Plant credited Howlin' Wolf with writing it. However, the song also formed the basis for Zeppelin's "How Many More Times," another one from the first album, with the lyrics declaring, "How many more times you gonna treat me like you do?" So does that count as a Zeppelin cover? Another blues cover Saturday night with Zeppelin overtones was "Fixin' to Die," a Bukka White composition. This one never appeared on a Zeppelin studio album, but in concert they often threw it into the middle of "Whole Lotta Love" along with other blues classics.

Speaking of "Whole Lotta Love" and blues classics, Saturday night's rendition of that hit from the second album featured gems like "She's 19 Years Old," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Who Do You Love?" and the main tune's inspiration, Willie Dixon's "You Need Love."

Many of the songs from the new album had more of a folk music feel (although Plant said everything he was playing was "folk music" which, in a sense, is true). The evening's closer, "Little Maggie" was a good example. Plant explained it was a tune from the Great Smokey Mountains, but it probably really came from England. Perhaps that view could be chalked up to his English heritage, but much of the music indigenous to Appalachia can be traced back to the UK. A Zeppelin classic that fit this mold, at least sonically, was "Going to California."

Much of Ceaseless Roar has a Celtic meets Africa vibe, but the blues are ever present, of course. One of the early selections Saturday night was "Poor Howard" from the new album. It's a song the album explains is derived from "Po' Howard," a Leadbelly tune. "Turn it Up" is one of the better tracks on the new album and it also appeared early Saturday night. Plant sang about driving around America on "Charley Patton highway" a reference to an early blues pioneer. He also bemoans that, "I'm stuck inside the radio/Turn it on and let me out!" A reference to the continuing popularity of Led Zeppelin on the radio, even all these years later?

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Never Alone: Reflections on the 2018 Winter Jazzfest
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center Live Reviews Tierney Sutton Band at the Newman Center
by Geoff Anderson
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Vorcza at Nectar's Live Reviews Vorcza at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read "Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter Apfelbaum at FlynnSpace" Live Reviews Robinson Morse's Sound of Mind Featuring Peter...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Rene Marie at Dazzle" Live Reviews Rene Marie at Dazzle
by Geoff Anderson
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "John Beasley’s Monk’estra At SFJAZZ" Live Reviews John Beasley’s Monk’estra At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: November 12, 2017
Read "Ambrose Akinmusire at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Ambrose Akinmusire at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: July 3, 2017
Read "Instant Composers Pool at The MAC" Live Reviews Instant Composers Pool at The MAC
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 8, 2017