Into the Mystic with Robert Plant

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I have seen Robert Plant in concert six times throughout his adventurous solo career. As I watched Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters with my family February 20 at The Riviera Theatre, I thought of the lyrics to the Traffic song “Dear Mr. Fantasy”:

“Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything, take us out of this gloom

Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy”

I sat in the upper recesses of the dark, crowded Riviera Theater alone, as my family and I could not find seats together. To pass the time waiting for the golden lion to take the stage, I got lost in my mobile phone, foolishly getting immersed in the news of the day. It’s harder and harder to go to a concert and block out the ugly realities that define modern-day American society. We live at a time when school children practice active shooter drills and adults fear they cannot afford the cost of growing old. Shutting off the stream of depressing headlines is not always easy in the digital age.

But the moment Robert Plant stepped onstage, I was pulled out of the darkness and transported to another time and place. For watching Robert Plant is like being with a beguiling Elizabethan minstrel who charms the audience with charisma, swagger, and song.

Tuesday night belonged to the fiddle, the dobro, the bendir, the tambourine, and to Plant’s voice, willowy and sweet, tinged with huskiness. He brought us into the mystic, with songs in the tradition of blues and folk such as “The May Queen,” “Little Maggie,” “Fixin’ to Die,” “Gallows Pole,” and “That’s the Way.” He played music of the earth, which he has described as music that grows organically from a mélange of sources, such as folk, world music, and blues. As he shook his mane, glorious and golden, he would not have been out of place playing in the streets of a Renaissance Faire.

He moved about the stage as if he were born there, a shaman comfortable in his own space, nodding with encouragement to his fellow Sensational Space Shifters, such as when guitarist Skin Tyson performed an extended flamenco guitar workout during “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.” For a brief moment, he seemed to gyrate in sync with fiddle player Seth Lakeman and guitarists Billy Fuller and Justin Adams, almost like snakes entwined. He and the Sensational Space Shifters made the stage their own world, emanating shafts of across the dark auditorium.

I sang. I cried. I laughed. I forgot where I was as I willingly joined Robert Plant’s brotherhood of song for a night.

Robert Plant is more than a musician. He is a magician who casts a spell of song to take us out of this gloom. He scatters songs into the air like flower petals for us to catch, hold, and savor, before they flutter back to earth to be reborn.

Here are more posts I’ve written about Robert Plant:

The Golden Shaman: Robert Plant’s Journey,” September 25, 2015.

Are You Willing to Fly Blind? Career Advice from Robert Plant,” September 2, 2010.

2 thoughts on “Into the Mystic with Robert Plant

  1. Nicely written, David! Having never seen RP before – he was last in Minneapolis 7 years ago with the Band of Joy – I had the pleasure of seeing RP and the SS’ers at the Orpheum theater 2 days after you. Not knowing quite what to expect – other than that I had been binging on RP’s stuff via Apple Music – I went in with an open mind and was totally blown away. Starting with Seth Lakeman’s beautiful Cornwallian voice singing about the renaissance world in Southern England, RP and his team did indeed take me on a journey throughout my past (Zep), the Bayoux and the South, and exposed me to how someone can truly sound better in-person than in an engineered manner (like many, many of today’s artists cannot do). The SS’ers are truly a solid counter to RP’s interest in experiencing and creating new from the old. Totally amazing and one of the best concerns I have ever been to.

    Another comment – and I’ve shared this with you. RP didn’t use his stature and respect to preach. Unlike many of today’s newer rock and country idols, he didn’t take the stage to preach a message (yes, I know… I like Roger Waters too) – he took the stage to elevate our minds, ears, and hearts with the music of the SS’s and his voice. He made you picture what he was talking about (nice plug he made about the land of the ice and snow in Minnesota!) as they played…. setting a solid memory that I’ll remember forever whenever I hear the song or music.

    THAT is what a concert and music is all about. I wish more of our artists today realized this and did their jobs that way. He said he will be back. I plan to be there again.

    • Thank you, Bob! I am glad you mentioned Seth Lakeman’s role. When he opened for RP in Chicago, I could sense some members of the audience growing restless. Little did they realize that he was also going to be an integral part of RP’s performance. Lakeman’s presence really set the pace and established the pastoral feel for many of the evening’s songs. RP always uses his concerts to expand our horizons, and here was a perfect example. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the concert.

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