There are concerts, and then there are events. Perhaps at times it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two. This time it wasn’t. Robert Plant coming to town is unquestionably an event. It’s easily far more than just a concert. Plant is one of the, if not arguably, “the” greatest frontmen to ever lead a band on stage. He’s pretty much music royalty.
Towards the end of the 70’s I was developing my own musical tastes. These were my formative years in that regard. I listened to any and everything I could. I wore out LPs and cassettes of Willie, Waylon and Kiss. Stevie Wonder and Emmy Lou. But from the moment I first heard the mighty Led Zeppelin, I was hooked. This was something very different. There was pure unadulterated power, swagger and brashness. The Swan Song angel logo the band used was ultimately the very first tattoo I had permanently inked upon my body at the ripe age of 16. So yes, I was a fan, and still remain the same. Unfortunately, I never saw Zeppelin live. But I did see Jimmy Page’s band back in 1988, and now I’ve seen Plant twice in the last three years. Undoubtedly, I’d go see both again tomorrow if I had the chance.
Plant has played Tulsa twice in recent years. About two years back, he played a sold out performance at Cain’s Ballroom, and this most recent performance graced the historic Brady Theater. The Brady is a stunningly beautiful venue. Completed in 1914, the venue has had several lives during this time, and hosted artists ranging from Tony Bennett to U2. It’s pretty much all you can ask for in a theater. The sight lines are fabulous, the sound is perfection and the staff is welcoming and friendly.
Plant in his years post-Zeppelin has proven himself to be a chameleon. The fact that he can be lumped into the Americana genre just shows the versatility of his talent, as well as the all encompassing nature of the genre. Plant took the stage just a bit past 9pm. Backed as he has been for several years, by the Sensational Spaceshifters, he quickly launched into “When the Levee Breaks.” Not one to rest on his laurels, Plant reinvents his Led Zeppelin catalog for his performance. They take on bold and different identities, yet remain comfortably familiar. At one time, it would be considered a special evening to hear more than one Led Zeppelin song at his shows. These days he seems far more comfortable with his legacy, and typically plays a handful each night, changing out one or another each time. As the entire state of Oklahoma was caught in torrential a downpour, the evening’s theme was rain. The aforementioned “When the Levee…,” “Rain Song,” and “Ramble On” all addressed the evening’s weather and each one was a highlight. Despite touring in support of his newest release, “Carry Fire,” Plant only played the title track. Instead, he spent the evening touching on various points of his career, both recorded and influenced. Always influenced by American blues, it was reflected by the covers of Leadbelly’s “Poor Howard” and “Got My Mojo Working,” an Ann Cole song, best know from Muddy Waters performances.
Surprisingly, my absolute highlight of the evening wasn’t one of the Zeppelin songs. Rather it was “Please Read the Letter,” from 2007’s “Raising Sand” album with Alison Krauss. Even though the angelic voiced Ms. Krauss wasn’t present, the rendition was stunning. In a strange twist, “In The Mood”, my favorite performance from Plant’s last visit, seemed somewhat lifeless this night, and overshadowed by the rest of the setlist. The truth is, there was a significant difference within the energy of the crowd at the Brady compared to the previous show at Cain’s. This performance, being in a theater led to much of the audience remaining seated throughout. The Cain’s performance on the other hand, was SRO and packed to the point of almost being uncomfortable. Yet, the energy at that previous performance was electric, and one has to assume that a band feeds off that energy to some degree. But with that said, Plant and band were obviously having a good time at the Brady. There were examples of Plant’s witty humor throughout, the trademark mike stand posing and jostling, as well as that iconic voice. And yeah, the Sensational Spaceshifters were breathtakingly good the entire night. In fact, they were beyond good. They were simply amazing.
Opening the evening was a solo performance by the newest member of the Sensational Spaceshifters, Seth Lakeman. Relying on multiple instruments, a kick drum as well as a variety of loops and effects, Lakeman warmed up the crowd before assuming his role on violin with the full band. His set was really enjoyable, and I would highly recommend checking out his new album “A Well Worn Path” which releases on October 26th. You can find more information on Seth Lakeman here: https://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/
Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters US tour is coming to a close soon, but then they’ll be heading back to the UK. You can find more information here: https://www.robertplant.com/home