It was good news to wake up to, and share. Robert Plant playing shows in Auckland and Wellington next year (April, 2013 - tickets on sale from next Monday) - what do you think? I'm definitely excited about this.
I have no interest at all in a Led Zeppelin reunion - as I said here (and also here) the recent Celebration Day live DVD/CD was nothing special at all. And the chance to see Plant live is of far more interest than seeing an attempt at all the hits by the three-quarters of Led Zeppelin left.
Plant's solo career has been interesting and innovative - particularly the past decade. The early solo albums have their moments and when he was, in part, channelling Zeppelin (as on Manic Nirvana) there was some good material. But the best thing Plant has done is move away from the sound of Zeppelin, discover new found-sounds, go further back to the folk and R'n'B roots of his music, pre-Zeppelin; add desert-blues and other rock and pop flavours...
I liked Manic Nirvana and Fate of Nations, I liked bits and pieces of all of the albums before them (Pictures at Eleven, The Principle of Moments, Shaken'n' Stirred and Now and Zen) but it's from Dreamland on that things have become very interesting. Plant's cover versions are fantastic - and the new material across Mighty ReArranger and Band of Joy is brilliant.
Actually, 2003's Sixty Six to Timbuktu is a good starting point, a double-disc of pre- and post-Zeppelin material - I went back to Manic Nirvana, Fate of Nations and Dreamland because of that compilation. It made me look forward to whatever was coming next. And as well as Mighty ReArranger and Band of Joy there was Raising Sand, the duo album with Alison Krauss.
There's also been the bands. Plant keeps it fresh with new lineups. Actual bands - working units that live and grow and take on a sound and style that transcends the notion of simply being a backing band...there was Priory of Brion and The Strange Sensation. There was Band of Joy (borrowing the name from his earliest band). Now he has a new group, The Sensational Space Shifters.
This is, essentially, the band JuJu - check them out here and here. Amazing. Now imagine where Plant's material gets taken because of this band. The set will include plenty of Led Zeppelin songs too. But it's never a case of living in the past and phoning in lazy-but-aiming-to-be-authentic versions of the songs. It's about extrapolating, recontextualising, it's about continuing a dialogue rather than just repeating what has already been said.
This is why I've loved so much of Robert Plant's work - again, as I say, particularly across the past decade. There's a feeling that, somehow, he's getting better with each record. Finding new things to say and new ways to say them; that becomes particularly crucial when he revisits his earlier work.
Obviously we are - finally - getting to see Plant in New Zealand on the back of the rather stunning lineup that is the Bluefest in Australia. And it's very good news. A tour I'm really excited about; Bucket List-stuff for me - to use a term I don't particularly like but I know has come to mean something to a lot of people; an indication of the importance.
I'd rather see Plant and his great band than the geriatric Black Sabbath (as I said last week). This feels far more vital.
And Plant's solo albums mean something to people in a way that Pete Townshend's and Roger Daltry's and Mick Jagger's never could. There's no stiff tracing of the band he was famous for being in - it's a new sheet of a paper and a new set of colours to explore. And I like that.
And I'm sure - so sure - that his April shows next year in New Zealand will be one of the live concert highlights of 2013.
Are you keen to see Robert Plant, solo artist? Have you seen him before? Will you go to one or both of his Kiwi shows next year? What do you think of Plant's new albums and sound? What do you think about hearing (some) Led Zeppelin material in dressed in slightly different/new clothing?
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