Review: Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters, Sheffield City Hall

Robert Plant at the City Hall, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 6th December 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley.
Robert Plant at the City Hall, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 6th December 2017. Photo by Glenn Ashley.
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Robert Plant is a content and happy man. That’s obvious. And doing precisely what he wants, why shouldn’t he be?

“It’s nice to be back in this room,” he said. “I’m scared of this room,” maybe recalling an ill-fated gig in the mid 1970s when his voice gave way to illness.
To Plant, the only distinctions in music are between good and bad. His songs have Celtic roots, Arabic influences, North African rhythms, Indian textures and Delta emotion. Always the Delta.
He opened with New World from latest album Carry Fire. A new world colliding with old ones, in a galaxy where time and space are mere abstracts.
That’s The Way (from the third album) spirited out of Rainbow (from the penultimate one), with presentations merging flawlessly.
‘Similar but different’ would seem to be the company motto. An exercise in tribute nostalgia, this certainly ain’t.
Seth Lakeman joined the band for The May Queen, before adding violin to Gallows Pole. He transformed a traditional classic into an undiscovered jewel dredged from a Cajun swamp.
Babe I’m Gonna Leave You was a soaring stand out. Almost 50 years old for Plant, this could have been the song’s first airing. Lone voice and guitar for long passages, the delivery was spine tingling.
The Space Shifters are part of Plant’s furniture now, high quality musicians who give no quarter and expect none in return.
String masters Justin Adams and Skin Tyson are like fluid knights on a chessboard, defending their king at all costs and attacking when the time is right.
So the inevitable question for Plant remains. Will Led Zeppelin ever get back together?
The answer is a hammer-blow, god-like negative. On this showing, it’s a case of what is... and what should never be.

Andrew Foley