Here’s what we thought of Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters at the Orpheum.
There are 2 reasons to stop asking Robert Plant about a Led Zeppelin reunion. Reason #1: He continually says it’s NOT happening. Reason #2: His ‘Carry Fire’ tour featuring the Sensational Shape Shifters played Boston’s Orpheum Theater Friday night, showcasing Plant’s continued musical evolution. (Bonus Reason #3: Not to be ageist, but in the 50th anniversary year of Led Zeppelin, do we really want to see Robert in those 1976 nut-hugger jeans and open shirt next to a Millard Fillmore-haired Jimmy Page trying not to get a hernia holding that double-neck Gibson SG with a butt draped out of his mouth? OK, that is ageist, but you know it’s kinda true. That image was awesome then, but it’s 2018 and time marches on.)
So how does Robert Plant march on with time in 2018? Quite awesomely, thank you. He puts together an incredible ensemble of musicians playing a wide-range of instruments over a 15 song, 100 minute set containing Zeppelin album cuts (That’s The Way, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Misty Mountain Hop) Plant solo material (In The Mood,) and traditional songs. Some reworked and re-imagined, some straight-forward, some both. Some Americana, some vibey, some heavy. You can try to label it, but as he said in a recent radio interview “From 1968 to now, it’s just making music.”
It’s an absolute treat to watch this legend on-stage. His voice is still pristine, hitting a lot of notes most 69 year-olds would shy away from. He’s cool, comfortable, relaxed, intense, and so very confident (I mean, he’s freaking Robert Plant.) But he’s also a music FAN. You can see the joy on his face as he smiles, claps, struts, swings the mic stand, while genuinely getting pleasure watching his amazing band mates. The between- song banter was like having a museum curator walking you through the history and origins of the songs and artists (including hilariously saying he ran out and bought a song called ‘Little Maggie’ the day it came out in 1929.) He never mentioned it by name, but recalled playing in Boston “not here, but a place down the street,” a reference to Zeppelin’s late 60’s Boston Tea Party shows. He goes from gentlemen to Golden God to troubadour to folkie and everywhere in between.
This evolution is not new. Let’s not forget that he and Alison Krauss put out one of the most, if not THE most compelling albums of this century (so far) in 2007’s Rising Sand. If you don’t own it, buy it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Hey, thanks for coming back. In summary: Let’s face it: Led Zeppelin‘s not walking through that door, folks. Robert Plant COULD do it (because he’s in Zep shape) but he doesn’t HAVE to, and doesn’t WANT to. That was then, this is now. Besides, he’s recently given props to a young band called Greta Van Fleet, which can carry that torch now.
Luckily for us, we still have a pillar of the Mount Rushmore of rock alive, well, and continuing to evolve playing music he loves. Can we really ask for more? (We could, but why piss the guy off?)
Ken West is the Program Director of 105.7 WROR. In the 80’s, he ruined the value of his ‘In Through The Out Door” album by water-coloring the inside record sleeve. Did anyone else do that?