Published on theMusic.com.au, Apr 2018
Pic by Hugh Buttsworth
Robert Plant, Seth Lakeman
A sniffer dog at Perth’s Riverside Theatre? It’s to be expected when there’s such a large congregation of Led Zeppelin fans.
“Who’s that? Who’s that?!” whispered a worried punter to a friend as UK folk singer and one of the Sensational Space Shifters, Seth Lakeman, appeared as the evening’s opening act. He’d obviously slipped by the K9 force at the entrance undetected.
Armed with a fiddle and stomp box, Lakeman had the audience on side well before the chorus of opener The Hurlersrolled around.
The storyteller painted vivid pictures with poet lyrics delivered via defined and powerful vocals.
The intimate verses of Silver Threads were thrown into chaos by its big choruses, while the dramatic wall of noise that was The Bold Knight transported punters to a place of Game Of Thrones epicness.
The energy in the room prior to Robert Plant’s arrival was electric, and with all the cheers, whistles and screaming, it felt like a massive outdoor festival.
The historical figure shimmied across the stage while The Sensational Space Shifters played 2017’s New World…; an early indication that new material would take focus throughout the show.
Soaring guitar lines from Liam “Skin” Tyson and Dave Smith’s booming tom beat matched the crowd’s enthusiasm, and there was little time to regroup before Turn It Up kicked off, Plant swaying in the darkness to the 2014 single.
Judging from his movements on stage, it was clear how connected Plant was to the music, truly embracing every second of it and singing with an honest, engaging conviction few other live performers deliver on the stage.
It was back to last year’s Carry Fire LP with the quirky twang of The May Queen welcoming Lakeman back to the stage. The harmonised chorus hooks were taken to the next level with another voice in the mix, and the song itself proved a refreshing exercise, toeing the line between alt-rock, folk and pop.
Its outro was one of few moments in which Plant’s voice reached a high octave that took Zeppelin fans back to the good old days.
The crispy, gritty guitar of Rainbow was the focus while the song’s vocal melodies took a back seat; it was a dynamic that summed up the band well, as Plant often fell into the shadows while his cohorts took the spotlight.
“Let’s go back a couple of hundred years,” Plant said, taking punters back to ‘75 with rock’n’roll number Black Country Woman, complete with mandolin and upright bass.
An over-eager fan thought he’d commemorate the evening with by snapping a selfie upfront, which didn’t end well. After causing a scene, he was eventually removed from the gig during the opening lines of Alison Krauss collab Please Read The Letter.
Telling the story behind 1994 classic Gallows Pole, Plant was rudely cut off by an obnoxious punter yelling “play some Led Zeppelin”, to which he responded, “Can somebody please help that guy to the door?”
A swift and unexpected turn to Carry Fire changed the mood drastically, which further highlighted Plant’s diverse back catalogue and that disgruntled heckler finally got his fix with an outstanding performance of Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (although still technically not an original Zeppelin song).
Tyson continued the acoustic onslaught with a fingerpicking journey that was as rocking as it was romantic, teasing punters with numerous false resolves back into the song’s epic finale, which saw a standing ovation.
The energy didn’t relent from there, carrying over into Little Maggie and Bukka White’s Fixin’ To Die, the latter transforming into a fully-fledged jam session, before fans were treated to another rare Zep offering in What Is And What Should Never Be.
Everyone was well In The Mood for one final party as Plant (hair loose and wild) remerged for an encore dedicated to the “police department and all the sleeping fascists”. He channelled that distaste for authority into the final epic lines of Whole Lotta Love, solidifying the evening as one of the more memorable performances to grace the venue in a while, despite some serious setlist omissions.