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Review: Bluefest sideshow – Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters. Seth Lakeman support. Palais Theatre. April 2, 2018
Review by Greg Phillips. Photos by Mark Moray Wicked Rock Photography

Australian Musician had been at the Palais Theatre earlier in the afternoon, catching up with multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Seth Lakeman for an interview about his career and playing with Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (interview online here). A few hours later Seth took to the stage as Robert Plant’s support act. Lakeman’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed since releasing his debut album in 2002. In 2005 he was nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK and has won Best Album and Singer of the Year in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Tonight, his virtuosity and stage presence is on show, choosing assorted material from his eight solo albums to date, including his current album Ballads of the Broken Few. In a short space of time Seth effortlessly has the audience singing the lyrics “raise your glass to the one you love” from the tune Portrait of my Wife off his 2014 album Word of Mouth. Changing from violin and viola to tenor guitar and bouzouki, Seth offers a snapshot of his endless skill set, winning many a new fan along the way.

Strolling onto a purple lit stage to Link Wray’s Rumble, Robert Plant and band don’t waste anytime satisfying Led Zeppelin fans as they launch straight into The Lemon Song from Zeppelin II. Turn It Up, The May Queen and Rainbow from Plant solo albums follow, dampening any illusions that this is going to be any kind of Zep-fest. Or is it? With the opening lyrics “I don’t know how I’m going to tell you, I can’t play with you no more,” a beautiful version of That’s The Way is enough to melt any classic music fan’s heart.

At this point it’s obvious Plant’s voice is in good nick. Sure, reverb is his friend and maybe he’s not sustaining notes for as long as he used to but there’s no faking that legendary rock ’n’ roll voice. Just close your eyes and let it pour all over you.

Guitarists Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson and Justin Adams have an endless supply of gorgeous fretted instruments available in their racks, from classic Strats and resophonics to all manner of Gretschs, as they present a show and tell session of tasty tones throughout the night.

More than anything, the night highlights the extraordinary depth and quality of Plant’s solo material and his willingness to embrace other cultures, which he fuses so colourfully into his own music. The smattering of Zeppelin songs is a bonus, albeit a massive one.

Plant announces All the Kings’ Horses from his Mighty Rearranger album as “a pretty song” and it is that indeed. Please Read the Letter follows, a track he recorded in Nashville with Alison Krauss, further emphasising his versatility before Gallows Pole provides another Zeppelin cameo. Carry Fire, the exotic title track from his new album gets an airing, allowing his band to shine once again. Seth Lakeman takes a spotlight and jams with Adams and the heavily-bearded Tyson. Plant is visibly pleased with the musical combination he’s curated. His palpable joy is reflected in his audience.

Three simple utterances … baby, baby, baby are sung, signalling the beginning of the grand Zeppelin classic Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, as Plant and band proceed to blow our minds with an epically stunning musical treat. The Spanish flavoured acoustic guitar solo by Liam Skin Tyson is a moment the audience will not easily forget and worth the price of admission alone.

Exploring his celtic roots, Plant performs Little Maggie off the Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar album. Tyson adds energy and intensity on the banjo. Then it’s Plant’s southern American blues influences that are on display with the Bukka White cover Fixin’ to Die. What Is and What Should Never Be from Led Zeppelin II ends the main set in euphoric style bringing the audience to their feet.

The band return and give the new album another airing with track two, New World. A re-imagined Bring It On Home hauls the crowd back to their feet before the opening riff to Whole Lotta Love causes us to totally lose our shit.

It’s one thing to celebrate your musical youth in a sea of nostalgia, it’s something else to witness a legend still at the top of his game, still keen to travel, learn and explore life’s rich pageant.



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