Robert Plant and Saving Grace review: Top class ensemble made for a memorable night at the Everyman in Cork, writes Joe Dermody
Elation was the general mood of the sated crowd exiting this epic Saving Grace show in Cork, a theatrical performance for which The Everyman was the ideal setting.
Packed to the rafters with Led Zeppelin fans, there's so much more to this innovative five-piece band than Robert Plant's iconic vocals, which thankfully have lost little of their powers over the years. He was in top form too, thumbs in the pockets for 'spit jug' barn dancing and really engaging with the audience.
“I hear there's a pub around here called Fred Zeppelin's. I've been in Ireland around 5,000 times, but this time it feels different. Maybe I've just no memory of the previous visits,” says Plant, an advertisement for energetic 70-year-olds everywhere.
Brushing aside his still epic and equally iconic mop of curls, he quickly apologises for this rock 'n' roll “bullshit” and says he'd been doing so well saying nothing up until that point. From here on, he still engages but mostly talks just about the music.
A few songs in, Plant tells us to expect a night of lesser-known American folk songs and spirituals, many sourced from backwater archivists around the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
The night, however, took us from these echoes of American folk history right up to vocal harmony-laden covers of more recent songs by folkster Patty Griffin and indie rockers Low.
And herein lies part of what makes Saving Grace so special. It's the songs. In a word, they're great. They're great songs to start with, but this band (and it is very much a 'band', in no way a 'victory lap' platform for Plant) takes them to new places.
— The Everyman (@EverymanCork) July 22, 2019
For what it's worth, the set included Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, Leave My Woman Alone, Cuckoo and a cover of Doc Watson's Your Long Journey, a real highlight for most of us. Zeppelin fans had to be content with a snippet of the band's 'In My Time Of Dying'.
While you could hear the swampy origins, the magical thing is the way this set is rocked up and reworked with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandolin and cuatro, all delivered with great depth and colour by Tony Kelsey and Matt Worley.
Both also do backing vocals, with Worley's lead vocal on Soul Of A Man winning huge applause. Kelsey makes up for the lack of a bass by playing some excellent baritone guitar. Oli Jefferson's percussion is understated and everything this night needs.
The biggest cheer is reserved for Suzi Dian, whose vocals are rightly described by Plant as being among the finest in the modern era, and certainly among the finest to grace this oaky hokey cokey genre.
A word also to The 4 Of Us, the two-piece whose warmup show went down a storm. Half music, half chat and numerically half the original band, brothers Brendan and Declan Murphy won over the Zep fans with songs from Sugar Island, their new album all about discovering music and teenage love growing up in Derry. Also well worth checking out.