Catton Hall, S. Derbyshire
Well, this was supposed to be a review of the whole of Bearded Theory, but let’s just say the rest of the fare was largely slim pickings, but hey, when a festival is a 10 min drive from home, that surely counts for something, especially when you can put up your tent on Thursday night and go home to bed.
Plant was their big star this year, I feel, and the build up demonstrated quite how many were there on that account alone, topping saturday night at 9.30 odd. Sleaford Mods had the warm-up slot and were entertaining, if limited, allowing most to have empty bladders and full glasses for Mr. P.
I saw the last iteration of the Shapeshifters, with Juldeh Camara on world music shift, and they went down a storm on Plant’s Wolverhampton homeground, as described during the great drupal crisis of 2014 (https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2501405800039355454#editor/target=post;postID=2085129172658976132;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=11;src=postname)
This time, with Camara back on griot patrol, west country folk-fiddler Seth Lakeman was the ethnic focus, and I was agog to see how this played out in a live context.
The answer, as the band came on, was that tonight was arguably more about career reappraisal than the last record. Or indeed the last before that, although there were a couple from each. Hell, everyone knows, and now even Robert, that his old band is why most people come. So it was straight in with What Is and Should Never Be, from II, hitting the ground running with an almighty thunder, the twin guitars of Skin Tyson and, band musical director, Justin Adams tearing open the sky. Turn it Up from Lullaby etc followed, if only to prove this band was just as shite hot an ensemble as the old one. May Queen from the new one allowed the introduction and first appearance of Lakeman, and he shaped and shaved his strings to a near frenzy, definitely staking his claim to the right of being there. His earlier solo work has drawn comparison with that of his new boss, an acoustic Zeppalike, if you will, or of those parts of their repertoire that were. Then onward, he shared the spotlight, forcing the rest of the band to really fight through for attention. I felt particularly for Adams, a superb musician whose work I adore, at times reduced to posturing and posing as the young interloper threatened to steal the show. Mind you, Plant was at the top of his game, the hair tied back, the goatee now stretched out to a full beard in genesis, and looked match fit, in control and command, seeming to hit all the notes necessary, even if sometimes in a different key. In a slight change from expectation, we had a mid set rendition of his Alison Krauss album higlight, Please Read the Letter. And it was fabulous, ramped up to a shift of shapes that delighted. The ever morphing Gallows Pole followed, with Tyson and Adams jousting for peakcredibility of acoustica, however heavily amplified. Carry Fire, the title track, came next, Lakeman sawing for his life, before, the whole band dropping down a degree or two, to a sensational Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You. I don’t know how many of the capacity 8k were there, but I’ll swear twice that number were singing along and smiling. All to quickly, via a burst of Little Maggie and a consummate Fixin’ to Die, Plants vocals now magically that of 3 decades ago, or was it longer, and it was the end.
Of course there was an encore and what else could it eventually be. Der der der de, de de de de? Hell, yeah, with bits and bobs of others here and there, this was Whole Lotta Love with one whole lotta love, fiddle and guitar duels aplenty. 90 minutes. Gone, just like that.
Enthralled and reverential. All tribes represented, old rockers, old punks, old crusties, old folkies, all the usual Bearded Theorists. Even young people, fer chrissake.
It made me think..
Class. And I didn’t really ever like that Zeppelin that much.