Robert Plant and The Sensational Shape Shifters at the Santa Fe Opera

Tommy Faulkner on October 3, 2018
Robert Plant and The Sensational Shape Shifters at the Santa Fe Opera

Seth Lakeman, folk singer/ fiddle player opened the night at the Santa Fe Opera with an authentic set of English working-class foot stompers that had the room moving.

After a short intermission, Plant and his accomplices sauntered on stage and proceeded to set the house on fire with “Good Times Bad Times.” His band was tight and raw and they immediately dispelled any notion that this was going to be a Zeppelin tribute by sliding into a mesmerizing rendition of “Turn It Up.” Then they led the crowd back into familiar waters as they chanted ritualistically to “Black Dog,” like it was imprinted on the entire room’s DNA.

Lakeman then re-appeared and brought the lightning. The fiddle during the Leadbelly burner, “Gallows Pole,” made it a very bluegrass affair in the best sort of way. Skin Tyson’s acoustic playing was world class, from the timeless sentiment of “Going to California” to his solo at the close of the Joan Baez classic, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” he left the room breathless. A bit later, Justin Adams’ solo during “Fixin’ to Die” was absolutely unhinged. The vintage tone from that old Harmony was insane, like a tiger on a leash itching to feedback, until it couldn’t be held any longer.

While some might have expected the show to have more of a Malian feel based on previous lineups, given the absence of Juldeh Camara, this dynamic only faintly appeared. With that being said, Seth’s viscous fiddle playing melted away any prior expectations.

The show closed out with a rousing “Bring It on Home/Whole Lot of Love/ Santianna” medley. Plant was loose, having a good time all the while reminding us why he is “Robert Plant.” Santa Fe witnessed one of the last great carriers of the flame.