Robert Plant: Blending the New With the Old in Charlotte
Robert Plant: Blending the New With the Old in Charlotte
There are some people who just have “it” whatever that “it” is.
“It” is a charisma that strikes you when you are in the presence of a person and you are immediately drawn to them. The people who have that power are few and far between. The people who have that and never lose that are even fewer and farther between.
As soon as Robert Plant hit the stage, you could see where it all began.
The confidence in the eyes. The long golden locks. That voice.
The larger than life persona that we all know as Robert Plant is unmistakable. Women love him and men only wish they could have walked a day in his shoes.
I can only imagine seeing him walk onto stage on April 7th, 1970 in the Charlotte Coliseum, which still stands next door to Ovens Auditorium. Although, from the article I read, it didn’t seem that the young band received the classic southern hospitality or the most rousing welcome to the city. From reviews of the show that I read, it seems that Plant had to remind the crowd why they were at the show.
“Why don’t you people shut up and listen to what you paid for.”
Of course after an extended Page guitar solo, bass lines by Jones, a thrashing of the drums by Bonham, and Plants frontman stylings, the Charlotteans were going nuts wanting more as the wrapped up the show 2 hours later.
On Sunday night, we may not have had Page, Jones, or Bonham, but we had Robert Plant for one more night again in Charlotte. This time, there was not need to scold this crowd. We were all there to see the legend again, almost 50 years from that first show right next door.
Kicking off the evening, we did get a special performance from English folk musician Seth Lakeman. Best known for his work on the fiddle and tenor guitar, Lakeman has been around the business professionally since the early 90’s when he started performing with his two brothers. Seth brought a smooth calming style that made me yearn to go back to my homeland and listen to the British accents singing about songs of the Old Country in the pubs. Seth has fiddle skills. There is no doubt about that. He also was able to get the crowd that was there to see a legend in the mood for greatness. He walked away from his mic, fiddle in hand, headed to the side of the stage, and began a sing along that had the entire crowd filling the venue with the sounds of their voices. It was honestly a nice moment, and certainly set up the rest of the night to come.
As the blue hue flooded the stage, I desperately wanted to get down closer to the stage to catch Plant as he walked out. I was on a catwalk, perched above the crowd on the right side of the house, so I was a good distance away as he came out. Hair bouncing, still a whole lotta strut to him, the crowd jumped to their feet and let out a roar for the “Golden God” as he slowly made his way center stage.
All eyes up front.
As I scanned the crowd, they were young and old. I even saw a few people that may have been still trying to do their best impression of Plant. They may have had the hair and the clothes, but they didn’t have “it.”
Plant’s set gave us some of the new songs from his latest release “Carry Fire,” New World, The May Queen, and of course the title track. After many years, there is still a lot of creativity in Plant’s new music and his vocal control seems to only to be getting better. He did a great job of integrating the new songs with some of his older work and some of the classic Zep tunes with a twist to keep them fresh. Hearing “That’s the Way,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “Baby I’m Going to Leave You,” from the lips of Robert himself made the crowd jump up, dance and sing like no one was watching. Old or young, man or woman, Plant gave a sly grin at the crowd as they moved in tune with his signature, flawless vocals, and gyrations that made him famous and no one else has been able to emulate no matter how much they wanted to or how hard they tried. “Percy” can still rock out with anyone.
The Sensational Space Shifters put on a tight performance, with a special treat from Seth Lakeman joining in on the festivities. It turns out this was Seth’s first trip to the states, and his fiddle added an extra dimension to the already amazing Space Shifter groove. With a beard that would make Billy Gibbons proud, Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson, on Plant’s right was holding down the guitar sound while his counterpart on Plant’s left, Justin Adams, has pelvic thrusts that would have made Elvis blush as he slammed the fretboard of his guitars all night.
The rhythm section was on point all night. Billy Fuller on Bass, Dave Smith on Drums, and John Baggot on keys gave us that rhythm section that any Robert Plant song needs to keep it driving forward all night. I will give Mr. Plant some additional kudos. One would think a star of his status would want to be in the spotlight at all times, but just like the days of the past when Jimmy stepped up front with his Les Paul slung all the way down to his knees, Plant took a step back and let his band mates shine and highlight their gifts. He did however join in and move his hips to the music with band. I was really impressed at his respect for the rest of his mates. I also respect mixing the new songs with some of the all time greats he has created. I thought there was a perfect mix of current and the past.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a mother and daughter duo who made the trek to Charlotte all the way from north of Carbondale, Illinois. That is over a 600 mile drive to see Robert Plant. Sherry Hill-Palmer and her daughter Tia Haugh-Eubanks jumped in their car together to start their journey to the Queen City. They had bald tires, left in the pouring rain with a low tire light blaring in the night to see the man himself perform. They also claim that the road is uphill both ways to and from Illinois. I can’t confirm nor deny that claim. Sherry is a nurse and wanted to remind Robert of the shirt he wore back in the day that said “Nurses Do It Better.” I can’t confirm nor deny that statement either. She never had the chance or means to see Plant back in the day, so Sherry and Tia decided this was their chance to make an unforgettable mother daughter memory and see a rock legend. They went for it.
She did make a good point as we chatted. We have lost so many amazing icons recently, who knows how many chances we will have to see greatness, so this was the perfect opportunity to make that happen. The two did confirm with me that they made it back home, uphill, safe and sound, even with that low tire light gauge shining as a beacon in the night.
Back in April of 1971, as Led Zepplin left the stage to the sound of thousands screaming at the top of their lungs for more, they did finally come back out. I am sure Plant was giving that crowd his grin of “I knew we would win you over if you would just listen.” That night started out as with a bunch of rowdies who didn’t have a clue what they were witnessing and ended up turning the crowd into lifelong Zep fans They closed out the encore with one of the most iconic songs of all time, “Whole Lotta Love.” Just like it was a tribute to the crowd from the 70’s, Mr. Robert Plant closed out our show again with “Whole Lotta Love.”. As soon as “Skin” crouched down and laid into that classic riff, the house rose up as one, just like I can imagine everyone did in 1971. There wasn’t one person in the building who wasn’t singing along with the chorus. It was an honor to cover this show and see one of the greatest singers and songwriters ever.