Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters review – rock god reconnects with Celtic roots

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
The Led Zeppelin frontman tells stories of his time living in Wales but draws sounds from all over the map: Middle Eastern guitars, American blues and techno moods

As rock-god gigs go, tonight’s show in this postmodern Cardiff theatre is a “down-home” affair for Robert Plant – that’s the term he uses before a crowd just shy of 2,000. Tomorrow he’s in roaring-lion mode at London’s O2 Arena with Van Morrison, but this date in Wales’ capital reveals a fondness for his Celtic connections. He begins with a warm “noswaith dda” (good evening), reveals he used to live up the road (Monmouthshire locals regularly mention bumping into him at the chip shop) and happily pours into tales of his times with bygone Welsh rockers. These include hazy nights with 70s band Man. “They had a house that structurally looked sound, but inside the walls were covered in Bacofoil,” he explains. “Which they used to hide hashish in, of course.”

Despite the familiar tone, Plant is a boy of bigger, global visions, as tonight’s ambitious gig reminds us. He’s introduced by tribal chants, Berber drums and a fantastic light show – all reflective of the deep, dusty musical atmospheres of this 13-song set. Then there’s the Middle Eastern guitar figures of newer, sweltering songs, like his latest album’s title track, Carry Fire, a lament to the broken relationship that influenced that album, with the American musician Patty Griffin. “I was a stranger here inside your promised land,” he sings, “that turned me inside out.”

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