There is no name more synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll then legendary front-man of Led Zeppelin Robert Plant. At 69, his body of work has transcended generations, becoming one of the most influential figures in music to date. And with the 50th anniversary of Zeppelin, fans packed Toronto’s Massey Hall to celebrate the success and longevity of Plant’s career.
Touring for his 11th solo album ‘Carry Fire’ with the Sensational Space Shifters, and special guest English folk singer/instrumentalist Seth Lakeman, the release came in quick succession after 2014’s ‘Lullaby and The Ceaseless Roar.’ So it was fitting that Plant chose to open the show with performances of ‘New World’ and ‘The May Queen’ from ‘Carry Fire,’ and ‘Turn it Up’ and ‘Rainbow’ from ‘Ceaseless Roar.’ The tracks, along with the rest of the albums, are woven together by elements of bluegrass, Americana, and British Folk that felt like a breath of fresh air when heard live.
What stood out was ‘The May Queen’ for its’ Middle Eastern, West African influences. Highlighted by Plant’s melodic voice, the song featured rich instrumentals from the likes of guitarist Liam Tyson and the very talented Lakeman with his viola. But credit must be given to the entire ensemble. At times, even Plant himself had to take a step back to let the Space Shifters rock the stage.
The atmosphere in the building catapulted to new heights once Plant performed the first Zep song of the evening, That’s the way. The audience rose from their seats to watch Plant perform the music that made him the legend that he is today.
The true highlight of the evening came with Plant singing ‘Baby, I’m Gonna Leave You.’ A few members of the audience were physically moved, gasping as Plant proceeded to hit notes that sent shivers down their spine.
And the party didn’t stop there. Plant performed a 1940’s Bukka White song ‘Fixin’ to Die,’ first recorded by Plant for his seventh solo album ‘Dreamland,’ and can be found in the melodies of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in Zep’s BBC Sessions. This was followed by the final song in Plant’s set ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ for which Plant called a song “about the times we got fucked up in the park and nobody care because we didn’t have any grandchildren.”
To cap the night, Plant’s encore featured a rendition of a ‘Whole Lotta Love’ with ‘Bring it on Home’ and ‘Santy Anno.’ It was a crowd-pleasing tune that summed up a stellar performance from the ageless rock star.
Overall, there was a natural progression in Plant’s set list that featured a mix of his early and contemporary work that felt like a journey, or rather, an unforgettable experience. Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, with special guest Lakeman, gave everything that one would want in an evening of music.