ROBERT PLANT and the SENSATIONAL SHAPE SHIFTERS
The Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
June 2, 2015
Writing and Photography by TourBusLive.com
Being in the audience watching the singer of one of the most iconic bands in rock music history is enough to make you a little giddy. But when that singer is none other than ROBERT PLANT from LED ZEPPELIN, it’s just enough to actually buckle your knees. And although it was 2015 and NOT 1973, trust me, this house was just as holy on this beautiful Southern California summer night.
Sure, we’ve seen this living legend perform many times before, but the pleasure of watching a dear friend not only see Plant for the first time, but also witnessing that friend’s first experience under the stars at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, reminded us just how lucky we are to live in a time and place when and where all this good still happens. And beneath the shimmer of the full moon, which was also a “Strawberry Moon” (due to its timing with the strawberry harvest AND its slightly pink hue which, coincidentally resembled the color of Plant’s younger-man’s locks), ROBERT PLANT and the SENSATIONAL SHAPE SHIFTERS glittered in the moonlight as they kicked off the KLOS SUMMER CONCERT SERIES at The Greek.
And what a magical night it was. After a brief but welcomed introduction by KLOS DJ GARY MOORE, singer-songwriter JD MCPHERSON (who hails from the American mid-west) and his band opened the show. With a style that melded together some R&B, a little alt-rock (I swear I heard a Pixies vibe), and a whole-lotta rock and roll, this band is something to check out if you have the chance.
But as most of the members of the slow-to-arrive audience would agree, the thrill of the evening came when ROBERT PLANT and the SENSATIONAL SHAPE SHIFTERS took the stage.
Sure, Plant didn’t get THE band back together, but he did patch together the great lineup he worked with prior to his last touring band (the Band of Joy) – the same band who essentially were the “Strange Sensation”. Now known as the SENSATIONAL SHAPE SHIFTERS, amply supporting Plant on this tour are LIAM “SKIN” TYSON on guitar, JUSTIN ADAMS on various instruments including guitar and mandolin (when you see the mandolin, you know the good stuff is coming up), BILLY FULLER on bass guitar, JOHN BAGGOT on keyboards, and drummer DAVE SMITH. Also joining the Shifters is West African musician JULDEH CAMARA, who beautifully plays the nyanyeru (a one-string fiddle) – making a soulful sound that tugged on my heart on more than one occasion on this night.
Together, Plant and the Shifters worked through a set list that was nicely littered with a few songs (such as “Turn It Up”) off their latest album LULLABY AND… THE CEASELESS ROAR (2014), as well a few covers (mostly by American blues legends – to whom we give thanks for Zeppelin in the first place!), and a series of inspiring reworks of songs from the Led Zeppelin catalogue. As they powered through beautifully revised versions of “Black Dog”, “The Lemon Song”, “Going to California” (which literally had me in tears), and “What Is and What Should Never Be”, the crowd was lost in the waves of nostalgia (and a haze of smoky contraband) that kept them on their feet, dancing and grinning, through most of the show.
And as satisfied as the fans were, it was equally clear that the 66-year-old Plant was probably having the most fun of all. He spent much of the night smiling, connected often with audience members, laughing and joking with the band, and telling interesting and amusing stories in between the music. Remarkably, the man who is regarded as one of the most iconic figures in music history seems right at home in his own comfortable, albeit aging, skin. So comfortable, in fact, that Plant easily stepped away from the microphone a few times, allowing his band members to take over at center stage, while he gracefully moved behind them to dance or play a bit of the bodhrán (an Irish drum).
But returning to where he belongs at center stage, it is also clear that Plant belongs there still. Despite the avoidance of a few of his higher notes and trademark yelps, Plant has not lost his signature voice over the nearly 50 years since we first heard him. And it is also clear that the fans have not lost even one ounce of excitement over the music, or the man, that many of us were raised on. After a well-deserved encore (that was only slightly disturbed by a lingering helicopter overhead), the band aptly ended the evening in the most appropriate way: ROBERT PLANT gave us “ROCK AND ROLL”.
That IS what is and what should definitely be. Forever.
SPOTTED IN THE CROWD:
OZZY and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY guitarist ZAKK WYLDE, QUIET RIOT bassist CHUCK WRIGHT, SWEET singer JOE RETTA, CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO member PAUL RICHARDS, WEEDS actor ERIC CADORA, and a thrill for your humble reporters – long time Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin photographer Frank Melfi from Nashville, Tennessee!
- The Wanton Song (Zeppelin)
- Turn It Up
- Black Dog (Zeppelin)
- Going to California (Zeppelin)
- Spoonful (Willie Dixon cover)
- The Lemon Song (Zeppelin)
- Little Maggie
- No Place to Go (Howlin’ Wolf cover)/Dazed and Confused (Zeppelin)
- What Is and What Should Never Be (Zeppelin)
- Fixin’ to Die (Bukka White)
- Whole Lotta Love (Zeppelin)/Mona
- A Stolen Kiss
- Rock and Roll (Zeppelin)