Live At David Lynch’s
Festival Of Disruption

Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters

The more demand increases for a Led Zeppelin reunion, the more Robert Plant pushes into another direction. Since 2002, when he returned to his solo career after a relatively underwhelming reunion with Jimmy Page, Plant has consciously distanced himself from the hard rock idiom and taken a more rootsy musical route. He’s led various combinations — Strange Sensations, Band of Joy, The Sensational Space Shifters — and explored everything from country and blues to folk and world. Before he recorded his 2017 studio release, Carry Fire, Robert Plant and his band since 2012, The Sensational Space Shifters, covered the international live circuit. One special gig that took place in late 2016 at David Lynch’s inaugural Festival of Disruption in Los Angeles was captured on film and has now been released as Live At David Lynch’s Festival Of Disruption.

Roving back and forth between Plant’s solo tracks, mostly from the 2014 album lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar and reworked versions of Zeppelin favorites, the hour-long show is an endearing display of dazzling versatility and pure, unblemished musicality. Plant has clearly surrounded himself with likeminded players, many of whom have been with him since 2005, who share his vision for music that transcends labeling and easy-to-use categorization. Guitarist Justin Adams angles from straight blues rhythm to rockabilly rave-up leads without breaking a sweat, while Juldeh Camara permeates the verses with the goje, an African one-string instrument for which he is a recognized master. As the music fills the spaces, Plant’s vocals cut through, as tantalizing and emblematic as they were at the height of Led Zeppelin’s reign.

Even though he has continually resisted the idea of reforming Led Zeppelin since 2007 when the band last performed, Plant hasn’t turned his back on the songs, albeit with a slight twist to the arrangements and presentation. The quirky, ominous loops John Baggott incorporates into the opening of “Black Dog” don’t dig in until the rest of the band plays the song’s famous refrain, offering a familiar, yet refreshing take on a timeless classic. With accompaniment from Liam “Skin” Tyson on acoustic, Plant provides a more straightforward read of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” reassuring the masses that he still has the pipes to tackle some of the more tactile songs from the Zeppelin arsenal. The same could be said for “Whole Lotta Love,” which posits the most Zeppelin-like stance before morphing into an enticing stab at Bo Diddley’s “Mona” that undoubtedly blew the minds of at least half those in attendance.

Encoring with a truly euphoric “Going To California” in Los Angeles is probably the most predictable thing Plant did at this benefit, which helped raised funds for the David Lynch Foundation. Everything else performed on the Live At David Lynch’s Festival Of Disruption DVD and digital video release was pretty much left to the imagination, suspended by the singer’s defiance of being a boxed-in screecher. As the years pass and the rumors of a Led Zeppelin reunion dry out, one should take comfort in knowing that Robert Plant is still pushing the envelope, rather than surrendering to the tried-and-true to enrich his bank account instead of challenging his artistry. There simply isn’t enough respect in this world to pay to someone with such high standards.

~ Shawn Perry

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