BROOKLYN, NY—Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant is someone who could certainly rest on his laurels at this point in his career. One of the most influential musicians to ever pick up an instrument, Plant is by many accounts the greatest singer in rock history. But despite his success—which includes selling more than 100 million albums with the almighty Zeppelin—Plant has continued to march forward, and on Sept. 27, he made a trip to the Brooklyn Academy Of Music with his band, the Sensational Space Shifters, for the first of a two-night stay in support of his new album, Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar.
Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar is not the explosive, rock and roll soundtrack you could compare to early Zeppelin albums. Instead, Plant plays to his current strengths, with a softer, more intimate voice that still shines bright like a diamond. He brings with him some of the most decorated musicians from across the globe with the Sensational Space Shifters—guitarists Justin Adams and Liam “Skin” Tyson, drummer Dave Smith, bassist Billy Fuller, keyboardist John Baggott and one-string African violinist Juldeh Camara—and as you can tell from listening to the outstanding album, these songs were meant to be played live.
The night began just after 8 p.m. with Italian-born, English-raised multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney on acoustic guitar. As she went through her set, she frequently changed her instruments, going from guitar to piano to harmonium, while soaring to the rafters throughout with an extremely powerful voice. The talented artist looked focused and relaxed, and took the sold-out crowd on a magical journey with a nearly 30-minute, seven-song set. Plant would later praise Ms. Chaney for her exceptional showcase.
After a brief intermission, the legendary vocalist came out with his bandmates at 9:15 p.m. to a standing ovation, which lasted the entirety of his first song, “Poor Howard,” the eighth track on Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar. Plant—sporting a black dress shirt, maroon pants and a smile from ear to ear—looked and sounded great, his golden pipes still on full display at 66 years old. Violinist Juldeh Camara made his appearance felt from the get-go, playing his unique instrument right next to Plant and giving the audience a chance to hear something they’ve probably never heard before.
Taking it down a notch, the gang next played “Thank You,” the emotional Zeppelin hit originally recorded in 1969 for Led Zeppelin II. The camaraderie between Plant and his bandmates was solid here, with each member taking the spotlight at certain parts throughout the song. Guitarists Justin Adams and Liam Tyson excelled during their respective solos toward the end of the track, with Adams delivering a loud, crushing blow before letting Tyson counter with a smooth, powerful shot of his own.
Following up with the bass-heavy, tribal-like “Turn It Up,” bassist Billy Fuller completely took over, most notably during the rowdy chorus. Just as he showcased throughout Lullaby And… The Ceaseless Roar, Plant has no problem with letting his experienced and very talented Space Shifters join in on the fun, and the musicians seemed to be in their glory playing center stage while the vocalist stepped to the side to watch his crew go to work.
So it went throughout the 90-minute, 14-song set, with Plant and Co. mixing in original tunes, covers and timeless Led Zeppelin hits. Whether they were playing upbeat, hard-rocking tracks like “Fixin’ To Die” and “Whole Lotta Love”—which was part of a three-song medley with “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Who Do You Love”—classic Zeppelin staples such as “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Going To California,” or toned-down numbers like “Rainbow” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” the band was explosive and tight, which is certainly an accomplishment for a seven-piece outfit.
Unlike some fading rock stars who should have given up a long, long time ago, that is 100 percent not the case with Robert Plant, who somehow sounded even better inside the historic, 114-year-old opera house than he did last year at the outdoor Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn. The 66-year-old legendary Englishman has exhibited no signs of slowing down, and so long as he continues to tour, fans will flock to see one of the greatest vocalists of all time put on a dazzling show.