Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant isn’t living in the past — he is embracing it and reinventing his own future.
Plant brought his blues and folk roots to the stage at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh on Friday, accompanied by his backup band, the Sensational Space Shifters. The show was the opening night of the U.S. “Carry Fire” tour, and featured a setlist with a unique blend of music from the Led Zeppelin catalogue and new songs from his solo career.
With the exception of people who had seats on the floor, the sold-out crowd sat for the majority of the 100-minute show. It was clear that they thrived on the Led Zeppelin classics and were brought to their feet with a roaring “whoo” the second a recognizable note was played.
The classics included an unplugged, acoustic version of “That’s the Way,” an incredible banjo-fueled, folk rendition of the 19th-century origin “Gallows Pole” and a riveting encore closer of “Whole Lotta Love” featuring a violin solo. A highlight of the show was “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” which started and ended with a shining spotlight on guitarist Liam "Skin" Tyson as he played the recognizable tune of the song.
Plant didn’t hide his charm and wit. He spoke several times to the audience and shared stories and tangents behind many songs. One of those songs included “Please Read the Letter.”
“I came over to America a few times in the last 50 years, and I got to know some girls here," Plant said. "One of them played the fiddle. Me and Alison Krauss got together and made a recording … Axl Rose has quit so (now) she’s joined AC/DC, and this is a song we sang together before she went her way.”
The most endearing and satisfying elements of Plant’s voice are still going strong today. It’s evident that his voice has aged, yet he still managed to hit several impressive high notes for a 69-year-old man. The tone of his voice remained mysterious, raw and enlightening with every mumble and howl that echoed throughout the room.
Robert Plant is considered one of the greatest singers of all time. However, the focus wasn’t just on him. There was a strong emphasis on the Sensational Space Shifters as they jammed through several instrumental solos. The band is responsible for bringing Plant’s new sound to life — a sound that consists of progressive rock, Middle Eastern, folk, rural blues and acoustic-heavy influences. I was surprised by the high energy that circulated from beneath the colorful, flickering lights on stage to every inch of the venue. Plant even played a hand drum and a tambourine.
“I play the tambourine now — fancy that,” Plant said.
Plant’s once-golden, free-flowing locks were now gray and pulled back into a bun. I felt that I was in a time machine to the 1970s — minus the epic lineup starring Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, and with a little less heavy metal. Nonetheless, Plant’s presence on stage persisted with a mystical charm to it. Maybe it’s because he’s a living legend, or maybe it’s because he’s just that unearthly.
I feel lucky to have witnessed such a pivotal rock figure in his element on stage. Classy and prompt, rebellious and astounding.
And to the burly old man in the crowd screaming “I love you so much” to Plant — I’m 19 years old and I’m right there with you.
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