Robert Plant's solo career has taken many interesting turns, continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible in a rock music context. Backed since 2012 by his excellent band, The Sensational Space Shifters, the former Led Zeppelin front man has mixed rock, blues, folk and world music, combined with a healthy dose of African rhythms and exotic instruments to create a sound that is uniquely his. The fact his music has remained powerful and relevant nearly 40 years after Zeppelin's demise is a testament to his talent and vision.
In October 2016, while on tour for his Lullaby And... The Ceaseless Roar LP, Plant and his group performed at David Lynch's Festival of Disruption. Taking place at the Ace Theatre Hotel in Los Angeles, the show benefitted the David Lynch Foundation, which promotes Transcendental Meditation. The show was filmed and makes up the excellent concert DVD Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters - Live at David Lynch's Festival Of Disruption, the proceeds of which also benefit the David Lynch foundation.
The show opens with a pair of tracks from Lullaby, "Poor Howard" and "Turn It Up." The former is an exercise in tribal rhythms used in a rock context, gradually building with intensity as each new instrument is added to the mix. Plant gives a spirited vocal and the band adds some excellent harmonies on this strong opener. On the latter, the group veers into more familiar territory with the song's bombastic chorus and power chords, all while keeping the rhythmic element.
"Black Dog," one of four Led Zeppelin songs in the set, follows. While the song keeps some of the original's classic elements, including part of the guitar riff and the vocals, the verses take on a trippy quality not found in the original. If the fans expected spot-on renditions of the Zeppelin songs, they didn't seem disappointed judging by their response to these reworkings. In some places Plant knows where to leave well enough alone though, such as in his killer rendition of "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," which plays close to the Led Zeppelin arrangement and showcases a strong vocal from Plant, who pushes the upper echelons of his range.
Plant goes back to his blues roots with a medley that includes "Hoochie Coochie Man," Whole Lotta Love" and "Mona." The songs are both familiar and different, incorporating familiar elements, while pushing sonic boundaries in unexpected places, It is on tracks such as these that Plant has managed to take classic rock staples heard countless times and make them new and exciting.
The show closes with the Zeppelin classic "Going To California." Plant is in strong voice here and while the song plays it close to the record, it ends with an extended jam never attempted originally. It makes for great stuff and a great way to end the show.
The DVD is well filmed and sounds great. Bonus features include interviews with David Lynch on meditation, creativity and music. The bonus features were not made available for this review.
Robert Plant continues to forge exciting new trails in rock music. Rather than rest on his laurels or perhaps cash in on the ever-present Led Zeppelin reunion tour offers, he instead continues to try and prove himself when he has nothing to prove to anyone, which is commendable and has made for some incredible moments. Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters - Live At David Lynch's Festival of Disruption is a show filled with many of these incredible moments.