I’m going to start this review off by dispensing with the large, white elephant in the room: Led Zeppelin.
I don’t want to start a review of anything Robert Plant does by even mentioning the band; I don’t really even want to talk about it. Not because I don’t love them. I do. It’s just that so many people continue to compare poor Robert to the band he left close to forty years ago, it must be a horrible thing to compete with.
I know I wouldn’t want to continually be reminded of my first interview (actually with Robert) … But, he continues to cover songs from that part of his life and this film is no exception. So let’s talk about Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters at David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption DVD.Plant has a look, a sound, and a band that’s like nothing else. I wouldn’t compare it to anything he’s done way back when; I’d compare it with what everyone else is doing today. Game over! This is a great way to spend an afternoon. It starts out innocently enough, with two original and eagerly received numbers.
On the third number, without a hint of what’s to come, there’s a drone, and then the familiar retort of Black Dog, sounding as though he’s lifted it from a group that lifted it from him more than two decades ago: Dread Zeppelin. He settles into the familiar refrain of the song, with a fresh twist and a heavy dose of Reggae, and it sounds very reminiscent of Page/Plant from 1995, so if you liked that, you’ll love this.
If Plant does a Zeppelin song, and it has his vocals and a completely different arrangement and group of musicians, is he still doing Zeppelin? Does he need our permission? It’s not even the same audience. Honestly, if LZ had not ever existed and he just wrote this song it would still be an amazing tune, however it’s delivered. I actually kind of prefer these renditions because they aren’t stale.
At around the 25-minute mark, he breaks out a version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” that there really is no comparison for other than the original vinyl from 1968. This is better. Rather than a 4 piece, he’s got double that amount on the stage with him. Virtuostic guitar picking? He’s got that. Vocals? Yep. Bass work that would make Jonesy blush? It’s there. We don’t get treated to many live versions of this gem, so it’s a very welcome gift. Plant knows exactly what he’s doing. During the song, where those shrieking vocals would be, he looks at the audience, rolls his eyes a bit as if to say, “I’m not that guy any more, don’t look here for it. I am this guy however!” There is absolutely nothing missing.
OK, so now we’ve gotten the inevitable mention of Led Zeppelin out of the way. As a band in this current era of music, The Sensational Space Shifters are a tight band, very tight. Think about it. He’s Robert Plant and he could have the best musicians in the world with him.
Little Maggie, a mix of Celtic, bluegrass and country has an ethereal quality to it, with a hypnotic keyboard effect. The original numbers are very well orchestrated and performed.
Plant returns to his roots (presumably) with a spirited medley of Hoochie Koochie Man/Whole Lotta Love/Mona.
The final number is Going To California. Okay, no matter, there’s probably much less pressure, and you can actually buy a ticket to one of the shows. Like I said, there’s nothing or no person missing.
The show has a very airy sound to it at points and, frankly, it’s hard to classify this music as anything but very well played. If you like Led Zeppelin, World Music, Ambient, African Beats, or Bluegrass, you’ll like this. I honestly think that there is something here for everyone and it makes for great listening. It clocks in at just under one hour, and I’m hoping that while on his current tour they make a longer film, I’d sure as hell buy it! If only everyone were making music like this today.
The show took place in October of 2016 at The Ace Hotel as part of David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption. I actually remember wanting to go to this show and it being out of reach. Perhaps I’ll be in attendance when he plays here in Los Angeles at The Orpheum on March 2, 2018.
It’s very fitting that this was done for the David Lynch Foundation, an organization devoted to promoting well-being through a number of different efforts. I don’t think I could have picked a more suitable band for Lynch’s foundation.
As far as production values go, it’s one of the clearest concerts I’ve seen not live in some time. The lighting is great, the shots are crystal clear, and it looks like a photographer’s dream.
Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters “Live At David Lynch’s Festival Of Disruption” is available from Eagle Rock digitally and will be released in traditional format this Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. You can order/pre-order here.
1) Poor Howard
2) Turn It Up
3) Black Dog
4) Medley: The Enchanter / Rainbow
5) Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
6) Little Maggie
7) Medley: Hoochie Coochie Man / Whole Lotta Love / Mona
8) Going To California
Bonus Features include:
1) David Lynch on Creativity
2) David Lynch on Meditation
3) David Lynch on Music