Saturday, June 24 , 2017, 6:20 am | Overcast 59º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Robert Plant Reaches Back to Led Zeppelin for Power Performance

Feeling right at home at the Santa Barbara Bowl, rock 'n' roll legend connects with his roots — and ours

During his concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Friday night, rock ‘n’ roll legend Robert Plant joked, “Welcome to another comfortable evening of soft rock.” Thankfully, this was not the case, with Plant revisiting songs from the Led Zeppelin catalog (and let’s be honest, this is what people wanted to hear) plus some rockers from his post-Zep career.

Most of the Zeppelin songs were pretty faithful to the original recordings, and hearing these was almost a religious experience to many in the crowd, including myself.

The opener, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” kicked things off nicely, with a bit of added flamenco flair. “Going to California,” a particularly appropriate song for this tour stop, had acoustic guitar and mandolin accompaniment as for the original. Likewise, “Friends” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” used the well-known Led Zeppelin arrangements.

The main set closer, “Whole Lotta Love,” mixed things up a bit, starting out slow and bluesy before hitting its driving riff. In the middle it cutely included a bit of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”

On the other hand, “Black Dog” was radically reworked to have a much more worldly rather than riffy feel, thanks to the contributions of Gambian musician Juldeh Camara on ritti, a one-stringed fiddle. Camara also made prominent contributions to the last song of the night, the raucous “Rock and Roll.”

In one big difference from his Zeppelin days, Plant didn’t attempt the really high notes — for example, the “wrath of the Gods” part of “Going to California” and the “Catch the wind, see us spin” chorus of “What Is and What Should Never Be.” But this is forgiveable; the man isn’t in his early 20s anymore.  And, heck, even when I was in my 20s I couldn’t sing like that, nor could many others, for that matter.

In addition to Camara, who also played African banjo and sang some vocals, Plant’s band, the Sensational Shape Shifters, consisted of Justin Adams (guitar), “Skin” Tyson (guitar), Billy Fuller (bass), John Baggott (keyboards), and Dave Smith (drums). The first three were along for the 2005 Robert Plant & the Strange Sensation album, Mighty Rearranger, which was represented by “Tin Pan Valley,” “Another Tribe” and “The Enchanter.”

There was also a visit to Plant’s early solo career with “In The Mood,” and an interesting electronic-driven cover of the blues classic “Spoonful.”

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals wasted no time captivating the audience at the Santa Barbara Bowl. (Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

The evening’s opener, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, lived up to their reputation as one of the best live bands out there, starting with an energetic performance of “Medicine.” Potter can belt it out like the best of them, including the young Robert Plant, and showed herself to be in the same league as Grace Slick with a smoking cover of “White Rabbit.” Potter’s organ work added a vintage vibe to several songs, but I’m partial to the rocking songs like “Sugar,” for which she complemented her sparkly white robe with the ultimate accessory, a Gibson Flying V guitar.

I have to point out a missed opportunity, though. Wouldn’t it have been great to have Potter join Plant for a rendition of “The Battle for Evermore?” Oh well, maybe next time.

Speaking of next time, Plant seems to like playing the Bowl, with concerts so far in 1993, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and now 2013.  Some lucky people might even remember Led Zeppelin playing at Earl Warren Showgrounds in 1969. I’m guessing he’ll always be welcome in these parts.

Setlist

Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
In the Mood
Tin Pan Valley
Spoonful
Black Dog
Another Tribe
Going to California
The Enchanter
Please Read the Letter
Friends
Funny in My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ to Die)
What Is and What Should Never Be
Whole Lotta Love

Encore

Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Rock and Roll

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >