Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters | Riviera Theatre | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters 

When: Thu., Oct. 2, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: sold out
It seems as if music has opened up over the last decade for Robert Plant; the singer who long ago adapted the blues to his own ends has been able to reimagine traditions from rural America and ancient West Africa in his own distinctive way. On Lullaby . . . and the Ceaseless Roar (Nonesuch), his first new studio album of original material in nearly a decade, Plant has rejoined members of his last working band from England. Among them is the remarkable guitarist Justin Adams, who in recent years has gained acclaim for his deep understanding and love of so-called desert rock from Africa, producing records for Tinariwen and collaborating closely with Juldeh Camara, a Gambian singer and master of the riti (a primitive bowed single-string instrument). Plant’s new band also includes keyboardist John Baggot and bassist Billy Fuller, integral players in the development of the Bristol sound espoused by Massive Attack and Portishead, to name a few. The album is bookended by two very different versions of “Little Maggie,” the American rural classic made famous by the Stanley Brothers. One version is dominated by Camara’s piercing riti, the other pounded by down-tempo beats and laced with Gambian’s Fulani-language vocals. The rest of the songs are exquisite originals that reflect the feminine beauty of Plant’s post-hard-rock singing. The heartbreak of “Embrace Another Fall” is bathed in cinematic textures, with a gorgeous cameo in Welsh by singer Julie Murphy and an imploring melody that sounds like it’s lifted from a lost James Bond theme. The stuttering modified Bo Diddley groove of “Turn It Up” is the closest in spirit to that old band Plant used to front in the 70s, but its collision of African minimalism, Delta blues, and blown-out electronic grooves sounds characteristically contemporary and syncretic, with the leader masterfully reconciling sounds and traditions from different eras and continents within a single primal stew dominated by his commanding voice. —Peter Margasak
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