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Live in London July '12
[Click above for album images]

Tired of rock, but somewhat superficial in his flirtations with world music is how Robert Plant came through this evening. Add to this his urge to distance himself from the intensity and the drama of the legendary band which made him a rock god, and at the same time his inability to get away from those songs, and you'll get an idea of the limbo Plant finds himself in these days.

A possible way out would have been to explore more the ethnic music direction he has been leaning towards for years now, but tonight things didn't go any further outside of the non-Western paradigm than tranced chants, grooves and riffs, and having Juldeh Camara – a Gambian member of the band – play a few traditional instruments. As soon as the door into traditional Gambian music was beginning to open slightly wider than simply adding an exotic accent to rock, the proceedings would elegantly return to Plant's habitual comfort zone – back to familiar (albeit charming) rockabilly crooning, American folk numbers (tastefully performed by Patty Griffin) and songs from the Strange Sensation catalog.

And when time came for Led Zeppelin numbers, you could instantly sense Plant's reluctance to go back to the initial impulse which spawned them. This is how Gallows Pole or Black Dog were tonight turned into a New Age hodgepodge of rock, ambient, and world music entwined to support the complex pose Plant now assumes toward his past.

With the core of this new project comprised of musicians from Strange Sensation, the band provided a comfortable, safe framework for the star attraction. And so Plant sang with convincing flair, despite the complex equilibrium he was maintaining between different genres and different eras of his career. The shift of emphasis from real emotional punch – which Plant can still occasionally deliver – to nuanced understatement has more to do these days with the change in his inner realities, rather than the change in his vocal ability compared to his younger days. Where before he could kill with one sustained high-pitched note, now it's all about intonation – something he has been a master of practically since day one, but which today is his method of choice. It's just that now the songs he sings are sequences of sumptuous (and deliberately constructed) episodes rather than a spontaneous flow of inspiration. But with inner continuum as complex as Plant's, winging it on impulse is perhaps not an option anymore.

One thing this show has proved is that with an artist such as Robert Plant nothing can remain hidden. It was all laid bare – him having departed emotionally from hard rock, but still searching for a valid alternative. And just the way it's difficult to describe where he finds himself now artistically, it's equally difficult to put your finger on who Robert Plant's fans are these days. There were punters in Zeppelin shirts this evening who came to see the legendary singer of the iconic band. The vast majority in the crowd were over 45, and few looked like world music aficionados or even folk music fans. The most ecstatic reception was given to the Led Zeppelin numbers, so it's certainly this material which remains the biggest draw. Between the past and the present, between hard rock and world music, it's a peculiar in-between state Robert Plant is in these days – unable to forget, unwilling to resurrect, and reluctant to dedicate himself to a completely new genre.

-Alissa Ordabai, HardrockHaven.net
Statistics

Released:
July 13, 2012

Tracks

1. Fixin' to Die
2. Tin Pan Alley
3. 44
4. Friends
5. Spoonful
6. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
7. Ohio
8. No Bad News
9. Standing
10. Black Dog
11. Somebody Knocking
12. Witchdoctor
13. Whole Lotta Love > Steal Away > Bury My Body
14. Another Tribe
15. Gallows Pole
Quick Fact

This was Plant's first solo live album release in a non-DVD format.
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