Jazz a Vienne, Vienne, France – July 1, 2014
Disc 1 (79:09) Intro, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Tin Pan Valley, Spoonful, Black Dog, Rainbow, Going To California, The Enchanter, Little Maggie, Introductions / What Is And What Should Never Be, Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die), Whole Lotta Love / Who Do You Love
Disc 2 (77:02) Satan Your Kingdon Must Come Down, Rock And Roll. Bonus Tracks: Bergenhaus, Bergen, Norway – June 12, 2014: Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Tin Pan Valley, Spoonful, Black Dog, Little Maggie, Going To California, Rainbow, What Is And What Should Never Be, Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ To Die), Introductions, Hoochie Coochie Man / Whole Lotta Love / Who Do You Love
Of the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant has certainly been the most prolific, his journey as an artist is ever growing, fueled by his deep appreciation, and love, of music from a broad spectrum of genres. He seems to live, and create, in the minute. This mantra allows him to work with a variety of musicians who share his vision, currently his band are called The Sensational Space Shifters and have backed him on two records, Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar and Carry Fire. This creativity does not stop in the studio, it extends to the concert stage where he mixes the new with the old and for anyone who has seen him perform with the Space Shifters, the result makes for a highly entertaining, and quite fulfilling evening of music.
This new release from the Rattle Snake label featuring a concert by Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters captures the ensemble’s riveting performance from the 2014 Jazz a Vienne, a Jazz Festival in the city of Vienne, near Lyon in France. The two week festival dates back to 1981 and this was Plant’s inaugural performance at the gathering, he performed on the main stage of the Theatre Antique de Vienne to an audience of 7,400 music fans. The source of this new title is a multi-track soundboard recording, I also believe the title uses an excellent audience source for the introduction as you can clearly hear the audience very close to the microphone. The quality is incredible and rivals an official release, it perfectly captures the vocals and instruments in a perfect balance and mixes in the perfect amount of audience for the perfect atmosphere, turn this up as it sounds incredible!
The band takes the stage and begins with a brief acoustic interlude that evolves into Babe I’m Gonna Leave You to rapturous applause. His love for the Anne Bredon folk classic runs deep and has been a constant in his live shows for decades. This recording picks up the very subtle violin of Juldeh Camara which adds a certain melancholy aspect to the song. Tin Pan Valley from his Mighty Rearranger record is much better live, it is much heavier and the Shifters lock in tightly, the song sounds like it could have found a home on his Fate Of Nations record. What makes Plant’s band so good are there spins on his old Zeppelin catalog, the version of Black Dog is really well done and has an African influence from Camera, whose backing vocals and violin finds a unique home amid the rhythm changes of the song.
The performance of Going To California is sublime, the song is a bit different that the original and this recording captures an intimacy of the performance perfectly, Plant has the audience in the palm of his hand during it, entranced by the Golden God. From acoustic folk to the Egyptian styling of The Enchanter, the song moving like a psychedelic trip in seven minutes and when coupled with their take on Little Maggie which takes bluegrass and mixes it with Middle Eastern influences making for a very satisfying portion of the concert, like a journey through far off lands and space. Psychedelia gives way to rock with a standard take on What Is And What Should Never Be and a Rockabilly version of Fixin To Die, the latter has the group hitting a groove and the audience respond with rhythmic clapping, really good!
Whole Lotta Love is a blues feast, the band starts with a bit of Smokestack Lightning as Robert sings lines for You Need Love, the audience is on the edge of their seats in anticipation until the band break into the iconic opening riff. They brilliantly mix in Who Do You Love with a chorus arraignment like The Band used to play in obvious homage, and brings the house down to end the main set. The encores begin with Plant giving praise to the warm surroundings and they play a roots version of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down and the concert ends with Rock And Roll that finds the audience not knowing what it is until Plant starts singing the lyrics, then its boogie time! The arraignment on the song is very unique and reminded me of Puscifer when I first heard it, the song gives the audience a chance to sing a bit and brings a close to a superb performance, the music obviously inspired by their surroundings.
The remainder of the disc is made up from a soundboard recording from a little over a week later. The recording features the majority of the set, Bron-Yr-aur Stomp, Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, and Rock And Roll are missing. Parts of this recording were broadcast on Norwegian radio Radio Rock, NRK P1. The sound is excellent, but perhaps just a notch below the Vienne recording, just a bit less expansive. The performance is just as good, the audience is really into it and the band play with ease, their skills in improvisation make for an enjoyable listen and while the set is the same, you do not feel they are repetitive.
The packaging consists of full color inserts adorned with pictures from the event, the front cover opens to a four page booklet with excellent liner notes about Plant circa 2014. This is an excellent title, the performance and recording are superb and makes for a great listen on a Friday after work while enjoying a well deserved cocktail or on a quiet Sunday morning while the sun slowly rises. Zep fans, Plant fans, go buy this title now, you will not be disappointed.