Robert Plant & The Sensational Shapeshifters Live at The Marquee

Robert Plant - Live at the Marquee, Cork

The incomparable Robert Plant took a trip to Cork yesterday. Here's what I thought about it all. I (vaguely) promise, there's a review in there somewhere.

I've always been a completist. Hours, days and - in some cases - weeks lost fulfilling ludicrous tasks trawling through shifty sweet-shop and newsagent counters amid the desperate need to fill the latest Panini sticker album (Ghostbusters, GI Joe, World Cup Italia '90 to name but a few futile, sticky sagas), marathon sittings through scores of fantasy novel series and don't even get me started on my pathetic compulsion to attain 10 stamps in exchange for a free coffee. Wednesday - or Humpday as I prefer to call the bridge to the sunnier side of the working week - tested my ache for absolution to the end.

I'd been soaked to the skin by a sudden downpour on the way to work, disappointed upon arriving in all my sogginess to find the office safely intact, another 8.5 hours of same lay ahead, and the funds situation had grown so dour that the lunchtime meal consisted of a wretchedly wrinkly tomato and a stale, suspiciously gnawed pitta bread. This so happened to be a 24-hour period that I eagerly wanted over with, but being the aforementioned, OCD-tinged completist that I am I decided to see the day through. Cue my own personally delivered deus ex-machina.

It seemed like I was only closing my 'invite-to-review' email when suddenly I was down in the docklands gawping up at a 20-foot psychedelic portrait of Zeppelin legend, Robert Plant, now stalking steadily around the stage, the lion's mane a little greyer but nonetheless impressive as 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You' roared out.

The voice of arguably the first great rock group not to mention the mainman of my fantastical-if-fictional band I toured with for many a year (in my room), with a plugged in guitar so shoddy it didn't have the courage to bare a brand name ( I bought it from a fella who called himself "The Bumblebee" - think Fender with a 'ph').

Well, that snake-hipped seducer of melody and screaming servants of 70s rock is indeed not around and tonight it was time to get acquainted with the man who's silvery presence stands in his place. Gone is the hedonism day and in its place resides a man still readily willing to reinvent himself. Less backed by a batch of brilliant British misfits (and one Gambian) Plant's unswerving itch to create anew over rehashing old songs is an inspirational thing. Plant has nothing to prove which probably best explains the essence of him simply loving playing music on a stage, maybe more now than during Zeppelin's so-tagged heyday. And what places him apart from past associates is the pure fact that this music remains relevant.

Gothic gospel gem 'Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down' from 2010's reincarnated Band of Joy project and the desert-dragged trance folk of 'Little Maggie' and 'Rainbow' from the upcoming first release with The Sensational Shapeshifters never even nod in the direction of Mr. F Iller . The presence of luminaries such as Skin "King of psychedelic guitar" Tyson-led and Justin Adams only seem to inject beams of light into the set-list and even when the "big guns" such as 'Going to California' and an almost Massive Attack-manipulated 'Rock and Roll' (cheekily introduced as the national anthem of Timoleague, an ode to a friend from the west Cork village) feature with an Eastern, Plant-ian twist with Juldeh Camara's ritti (single string violin) parts taking unexpected but entirely welcome Zeppelin favourites to loftier climbs and hidden heights.

Even when 'Whole Lotta Love' (a personal, shivery music moment) fell forth to end the  set, a bluesy breakdown into 'Hoochie Coochie Man' followed by a cosmic space jam before returning to the unmistakable, era-defining chorus which lit up the little striped tent in the big grey car park. Plant and his crafties keep you guessing but mostly, you find, he wants you to have fun- not in a 'here's the hits' way, more of a 'come on a magic carpet ride with me' tour resembling that of my dreaming Plant band days. Back out beneath the night's sky delirious from witnessing a staggering and startlingly fitting rendition of 'What Is And What Should Never Be'. To paraphrase long-time publicist and Plant confidante BP Fallon who poetically provided the introduction to the night's proceedings:

"I believe in moving forward
I believe in can what can't
The Sensational Space Shifters
I believe in Robert Plant.

For more on Robert Plant visit:

- Robert Plant's new record lullaby...And The Ceaseless Roar will be available from all good records shops from 9th September 2014

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