Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters at The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 24th November 2014
Week after week more and more musicians are sound-biting and further fuelling the “Is rock music dead?” debate. But when standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow rock enthusiasts in a sold out Olympia Theatre, one has to wonder what all the worry is about. So in many ways it feels appropriate when support act The Last Internationale play a rendition of the Neil Young classic Hey Hey My My, where lead singer Delila Paz delivers the iconic and seemingly prophetic line “Rock n’ roll can never die”.
It could certainly be argued that Robert Plant is the embodiment of this almost immortal rock spirit, a champion still pushing rock music forward. Leaving aside his already substantial contribution to the genre with Led Zeppelin, an eclectic solo career has further legitimized him and his tour with the Sensational Space Shifters offers a solid rock show with a twist.
A distinguished Plant takes to the stage with a subtle gait and eases his way into the Zeppelin classic Friends. While maintaining a youthful vocal exuberance, his general demeanour and style is very much akin to an older soul. He seems comfortable and confident.
Having developed a fascination with exotic rhythms Plant can often be seen very gently clapping along to the songs, not even to foster crowd participation but simply to engage with the music that is being played. It has an almost hypnotic effect. Decades may have passed and bands have come and gone but he still carries this unique mystical air on stage.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that his solo career of late has been so diverse and experimental. The psychedelic qualities of the new material really suit him and really pack a punch when brought to life on stage. The sound and style may be different but they are delivered with the same fervour as when Plant revisits the old rock n’ roll ghosts from Zeppelin past.
There is a lot of song diversity in the set ranging from the new, to the old and to the older. Included in the “older” category are the Willie Dixon number Spoonful and the old Delta blues track Fixin’ To Die which demonstrate the height of Plant’s charismatic, yet subdued stage presence.
He takes a small handful of tracks from ‘Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar’ including Embrace Another Fall and the folk-inspired Little Maggie. The crowd is highly receptive to the new material and the call-and-response from the audience in Turn It Up is thunderous which is a testament to the new material which has to stand alongside some of the most highly regarded songs in rock.
Most of the Zeppelin covers are fairly close to the original, with the exception of a wonderfully obscure rendition of How Many More Times, which is given the full Space Shifter treatment. However, it is a thrill when Plant revisits the classic Page, Jones, Bonham styles, especially for Going To California, What Is and What Should Never Be and Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.
For a finish, Plant lets his hair down (literally) for Rock N’ Roll where he sings “It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled”. It certainly didn’t seem like it. There is no doubting a man of Plant’s credentials and at the age of sixty-six, he can still put on one hell of a show.