Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant rocks Brooklyn with fearless show

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Pearl Gabel/Pearl Gabel/ New York Daily News

Musician Robert Plant played at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on July 27, 2013. (Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News)

Robert Plant keeps ramblin’ on.

Saturday night at the Prospect Park Bandshell, the singer fronted his fifth band in the last decade. In some ways, it ranked as his most fearless.

The Sensational Space Shifters follows Plant’s stints with The Strange Sensation (who did blues and folk covers), Alison Krauss in their “Raising Sand” project, the reconstituted Led Zeppelin (who allowed just one show at London’s O2 Arena in 2007) and Band of Joy, who issued a single, understated album in 2010.

The Space Shifters haven’t recorded any music yet but they’ve been touring the world since last year in a run that culminated in Brooklyn. While the six piece group offered no original songs at this show – which doubled as a benefit to support the “Celebrate Brooklyn!” fest – they performed radical enough surgery on familiar pieces to deserve writing credits of their own.

As with both the Krauss project and Band of Joy, Plant found fresh ways into old Zeppelin gems by turning their rhythms upside down, re-imagining their moods, or deconstructing them with different genres. Material from that band’s vaunted catalogue made up the bulk of this hour and 45 minute show, alternating with pieces from Plant’s solo career and a few blues touchstones.

Musician Robert Plant played at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on July 27, 2013. (Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News)

Pearl Gabel/Pearl Gabel/ New York Daily News

Musician Robert Plant played at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, on July 27, 2013. (Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News)

Never has the singer brought a fresher/stranger/more abstract touch to songs this well-known. The Space Shifters allowed Plant to do so by bringing a trio of fresh influences to the table – British trip-hop electronics (via band members borrowed from Portishead and Massive Attack), American funk, and West African string music.

That last bit came courtesy of Gambian musician Juldeh Camara, who played the ritti, a one-stringed violin, and the kologo, an African banjo. Both instruments provided a fresh corollary to the fiddles and banjos Plant explored in his Americana projects with Krauss and Band of Joy (which included alterna-country mainstays Patti Griffin and Buddy Miller).

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In “Black Dog,” Camara’s spiraling ritti traded places with hard rock guitars, adding a fierce and hypnotic new texture to the song’s classic stop-start riff. Camara’s work in “Friends” gave this already forbidding piece a sinister new hue. To egg him on, Plant added his own talking drums. In a sense, the sound recalled the worldly expansion Plant brought to familiar songs in his mid-’90s, semi-Zep reunion with Jimmy Page that featured a host of Arabian musicians.


Music & Arts – NY Daily News

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