Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
ACL Live, Austin, TX, October 1, 2018
By Stacey Lovett
I don’t know that Robert Plant can really be put into words – or is meant to be – or, perhaps if he is, it would require volumes, however there is a certain mystery that does and always has surrounded him and sometimes mysteries are better left unsolved and enjoyed for what they are.
It may be more fitting to leave the review at that because if you have never actually experienced his live show, I don’t know that there is any way to translate the level of energy and magic he and his band transmit. This is a bucket list show for anyone who appreciates music and I’ve been lucky enough to share this twice with my father – the man who raised me on Zeppelin & sparked my love for music early on – and it’s safe to say he still remains my top musical experience of all time, for more reasons than one.
Plant has a gift of attracting amazing artists to accompany him – drawing back to his roots with this lineup that is the Sensational Shape Shifters, reinvigorating this self-proclaimed British condition, and proving those roots run deep. The organic passion that came through was thick throughout the entire set – the dynamic of the Shape Shifters projected just that, weaving global esoterica with their diverse musical elements in with reclaimed Led Zeppelin tunes, transcending space and time and reinvigorating the love of music from music from the core in a potion of vision and inspiration. Each stand-alone member of the band embodies phenomenal musical talent and when they come together in a collective it creates pure musical alchemy. Liam Tyson is also beyond words with everything he touches – a beast with any incarnation of strings, any style of playing – another pivotal vehicle into the spiritual experience of the show and alongside Plant creates a synergy that anyone within earshot absorbs and takes with them. Just as he always has in musical history, he harbors transformation – not of the person or product as that essence remains in different levels of incarnation – but more as a study in his own evolution. And these powerful collaborations spread this vibration, this progression, throughout music genres and touch listeners in a way that resonates in a deeper realm. All the more reason to experience his music live at least once in your life.
“Time doesn’t stand still.” Plant’s message of wisdom – of acceptance – to meld the old with the new, to be present and inside the illusion of the moment. The performance continually challenges one’s perception – of the music, of the experience, of time and space. Beloved Zeppelin favorites thrown in but not quite as they once were, he added a twist, a nod to the past and a celebration of the present. Robert Plant continues to transform and develop music with his investigations into different genres, with every new project, grasping the essence and pulling that into his score. The primal mysticism of Carry Fire circles back to an intrinsic core – this same element underlying in his performance. – one which recognizes and embraces his own origins and spirit, not in reinvention but in growth. The supporting elements he adds in today amplify the intrigue that has always surrounded him. The overall experience Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters, or whatever incarnation he’s fronting, is magical – astral – a defiance of space and time yet Plant brings such a grounding force to it. Nonetheless, sensational.
While time is fluid and some mysteries must remain, it’s no contest that Robert Plant still endures as the Golden God of rock. Gracing the stage of Austin City Limits not one, but three, nights left this music city resounding with the talent and gift that has spellbound music lovers for decades. An experience never to forget and always to continue to seek.