Gig Review: Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters Perform in Los Angeles

Legendary rock singer Robert Plant and his ensemble, the Sensational Space Shifters, were in Los Angeles Wednesday, June 26, to perform at the Shrine Auditorium near the University of Southern California. Joining them was opening act Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Doors opened at 7 p.m. At 8, Grace Potter and her band hit the stage in an attempt to warm up this easily distracted Shrine crowd. Potter, with her shiny white dress, smoky vocals and high level of energy, dominated the performance. Their overall sound was reminiscent of Atlanta-based band Royal Thunder.

With her vocal delivery style and stage movements, plus the strobe lighting, background projections and a competent backing band, Potter created a heavy psychedelic rock feel. She also delivered a great ballad while playing the piano and played a solo guitar piece near the end that lead into a heavy percussive segment featuring the entire band. It was a fitting crescendo to the 45-minute set.

After a 35-minute break, Plant and his group kicked off their set with Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.”

Obviously, the Zeppelin classics were to be expected, but I also was looking forward to seeing what else Plant would perform. Sure enough, the eight non-Zeppelin tunes chosen were a fair representation of Plant’s solo career and collaborative efforts, past and present.

Led Zeppelin were known for their use of musical elements from outside the world of rock, and Plant embodied the same principles during this diverse set as his group infused unconventional instruments into what still sounded like a proper rock show.

"Please Read the Letter," from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' successful Raising Sand album, was one of the highlights of the non-Zeppelin segment of the set and was performed with true expression by Plant. Songs like "Tin Pan Valley," "Spoonful" and "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" sounded delightful as well.

There were seven tunes from the Led Zeppelin catalog, each one performed differently from the original version, which is what made them interesting. To expect exact replications of the studio versions would be silly. Among these, "Black Dog," "Going to California," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Rock and Roll" drew the biggest crowd responses. And for people in the crowd seeing Plant for the first time, these were unforgettable moments. But aside from that, the three deeper Zeppelin cuts were wonderful surprises; "Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp" in particular, with its crowd clap-along, was a joy to experience.

The performance was top-notch, and even though the arrangements of the Zeppelin tunes were changed, Plant proved he still very much has the voice that made him a legend. However, I was more than slightly miffed by the venue and the crowd. Somehow the Shrine just doesn't have the vibe that befits a rock show. The crowd was drifting in and out the whole time, and the atmosphere was that of commotion rather than decorum.

Most ridiculous of all was the majority of the crowd’s fixation on the Zeppelin tunes. People were walking out of the theater as soon as a non-Zeppelin song would kick in, and during the Zeppelin tunes they were busy recording with their smartphones. If people are willing to pay $100 to get that kind of a concert experience, more power to them.

Anyway, it was an incredible show from start to finish. It didn’t get the respect it deserved from the crowd, but it won the hearts of the small number of true music lovers in attendance.

Set List:

  • 01. Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You (Led Zeppelin)
  • 02. In the Mood
  • 03. Tin Pan Valley
  • 04. Spoonful (Howlin’ Wolf)
  • 05. Black Dog (Led Zeppelin
  • 06. Another Tribe
  • 07. Going to California (Led Zeppelin)
  • 08. The Enchanter
  • 09. Please Read the Letter (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss)
  • 10. Friends (Led Zeppelin song)
  • 11. Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die)
  • 12. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp (Led Zeppelin)
  • 13. Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin) (w/"Who Do You Love" snippet)

14. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down (traditional)
15. Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)

Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.

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