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More than any of his fellow legendary artists, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant has turned his catalog on its side, pulled it inside out and freely twisted it into a morphing entity that can ring of the blues one night, world music another, or techno on a third. As a result, when Plant comes to town to perform his latest musical project, fans never know what kind of rich experimentation they might get.
Case in point: Plant’s most recent endeavor, the Sensational Space Shifters, who took the stage at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday night for a sold-out show. Sure enough, when the lights dimmed at around 9:20, the first sounds hear were that of a soft flamenco-flavored acoustic guitar. What came next, though, was unmistakably familiar as Plant and the six-piece band launched into a revelatory rendition of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” from Zeppelin’s first album. If anything, the biggest surprise was how faithful it was to the recorded version — even featuring some of the singer’s trademark microphone stand twirling as he buoyantly bounced around the stage.
After a deafening ovation from fans beyond to hear a Zeppelin classic performed in all its splendor, Plant continued the joy with a keyboard-laden take of one of his biggest solo hits, “In The Mood.” Indeed, Plant’s spirits seemed especially up as he addressed the crowd with a heartfelt, “Good evening, everyone, good to be back in this lovely town … Been a long time.” (Grace Potter and The Nocturnals opened, showing off their own impressive rock chops.)
From there, Plant and players delivered the kind of varied set fans who’ve followed his solo tours have come to expect, moving from the atmospheric blues of Howlin’ Wolf cover “Spoonful” to a rootsy interpretation of the Zeppelin staple “Black Dog,” which closed with a raucous mandolin solo.
Though there were many highlights — from a rousing version of “Please Read The Letter” and Zeppelin’s “Friends” to a cover of Uncle Tupelo’s “Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and the classic Zeppelin hit “Whole Lotta Love” that closed with the explosive instrumentation of the Zeppelin 2 version — the night’s other high point may well have been the equally faithful rendition of “Going To California.” Also introduced with just a solo acoustic guitar, the song was played with the full folksy beauty that makes it a continued favorite on classic rock radio more than 40 years after its release.
Plant is to be commended for the way he expands his song library on tour, an effort that makes him unique in the most positive way. At the same time, it’s hard to deny the incredible enthusiasm of audience members every time he breaks into a Zeppelin classic, reminding all within earshot of his band’s original glory. If he couldn’t decipher the giant wave of appreciation from the crowd’s frenzied screams, let it be said here and now: thank you!
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You
In The Mood
Tin Pan Valley
Going To California
Please Read The Letter
Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die)
Whole Lotta Love
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Rock And Roll
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