Review of July 12, 2005 appearance at Universal Lending Pavilion–Denver, CO
Originally published in Denver Post
By Elana Ashanti Jefferson Denver Post Staff Writer
A balmy summer night Tuesday helped a rock godfather amplify his knowing mysticism.
Robert Plant called up a few theatrical tricks at the start of his Universal Lending Pavilion appearance. But some of the show’s most soulful moments were seasonal, as the worldly pop delivered by Plant and a storied collection of musicians dubbed The Strange Sensation served as a soundtrack to the distant, glowing bulbs from Six Flags Elitch Gardens and the dry wind whipping through the Pepsi Center parking lot.
Plant crept onstage under crimson lighting so murky it cast shadows on the big screens to his left and right, conjuring an opium-den vibe. Ambient, Moroccan-flavored electronica set a tone for the concert, followed by tribal percussions marking the beginning of “No Quarter.” Plant revealed no vocal deterioration during this Led Zeppelin signature that also served as the title for a mid-1990s Jimmy Page-Robert Plant reunion album.
This rendition featured a stripped-down arrangement that was characteristic of the night’s handling of classic Zeppelin material. Scaled-back instrumentation generally built momentum throughout each song - including the audience-friendly offerings “That’s the Way” and “Black Dog” - but never attempted to duplicate the original intensity. Wise. It lessened the risk that a band steeped in trip-hop and experimental rock might trespass on songs deeply buried in the collective music consciousness.
Simplified arrangements also might have been a response to respectful critiques from earlier in this tour that these musicians, who contributed to work by Portishead, Massive Attack, Sinead O’ Connor and Jah Wobble, brought a seductive sound to Plant’s latest album, “Mighty Rearranger,” but don’t necessarily elevate the Zeppelin catalog. Song two from the new album, “Shine It All Around,” with its creeping synth backdrop and gritty guitar hooks, captures the band’s charming cultural confluence but sounded watered down on Tuesday.
This crowd seemed pleased in spite of that, happy simply to take in a graying Plant’s nonchalant charisma. The entertainer capitalized on that energy by alternating between new songs and old favorites, often prompting the Led Zeppelin diehards in the crowd to raise cups and belt out tributes.
At 56, Plant is nothing if not a people pleaser. He yodeled a playful “yeehaw” after recounting the first time he played in the United States - at the Denver Coliseum - in December 1968. “It was the beginning of a love affair … with you guys,” he said.
Someone must have been moved: At the end of “That’s the Way,” a performance enhanced by planetarium-like light flecks scattered on the stage and overhead tent, Plant congratulated a front-row couple who apparently got engaged during the show.
Other highlights included the chugging ska beat and blues undertones during “Mighty Rearranger,” a toned-down take on “Gallows Pole” and the rousing set-closer “When the Levee Breaks.”
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