Robert Plant & Sensational Space Shifters in Tahoe June 23

Tahoe Onstage

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters played several songs from Led Zeppelin’s first four albums on July 4, 2013 at the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy. The band will perform at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys on Saturday, June 23.
Tahoe Onstage photo by Tim Parsons

Hurry, before the levee breaks, score some tickets to Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters on Saturday, June 23, at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys. Oh yeah, Los Lobos will be there to warm things up.

On Monday, Plant announced additional dates for his Carry Fire tour. Presale tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Tahoe show begin Thursday, March 8, at 10 a.m. with a password of “carry.”  Prices are $139.50, $89.50 and $59.50, plus fees and taxes. General sales begin Friday, March 9.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll, Plant, 69, served as lead vocalist and lyricist for Led Zeppelin. He still garners a whole lotta love from fans across the globe. That includes the Sierra Nevada, where the frontman played with Allison Krauss and T Bone Burnett at Harveys in 2008 in the bluegrass project Raising Sand Revue. He also performed at High Sierra Music Festival on the Fourth of July in 2013 with the Sensational Space Shifters.

Before the Lake Tahoe show 10 years ago, Plant said he was having the time of his life. “Sometimes I want to pinch myself and say, ‘Am I really in the middle of this?’ ” he told Tim Parsons, now publisher of Tahoe Onstage. “There is such a great cacophony of sounds and style. I couldn’t wish for anything better than this.”

The word from his handlers:

Though Plant has returned to the Welsh borders, he retains the sensibility — and the soul —  of an itinerant troubadour. His diverse musical points of reference stand out like pins on a map, from Austin, Texas, to Timbuktu, Mali. Plant treasures transience.

On his second Nonesuch album, “Carry Fire,” Plant reflects on the experiences, the emotions and the sounds of where he’s been, and he ruminates on where he — and our world — might be headed. Bittersweet songs of love remembered and of time passing, are juxtaposed against cautionary tales, of people and nations that have failed to learn the familiar lessons of history.

“I’ve filled many British passports,” Plant said. “It’s like I’m just moving through the spheres. I feel like a mariner who has spent so much time in so many different ports of call, experiencing so many different adventures and scenarios. So perhaps this collection is more ‘pictures at twelve’ rather than ‘pictures at eleven’.”

Once again Plant collaborates with the Sensational Space Shifters, his well-matched band of brilliant, eclectic players with whom he’s been touring, on and off, since 2002: longtime guitarist Justin Adams, keyboardist-programmer John Baggott, bassist Billy Fuller, drummer Dave Smith, and guitarist Liam “Skin” Tyson. Collectively, the group — which evolved out of an earlier Plant backing combo, Strange Sensation—has its roots in folk and world music, and the still-influential Bristol Sound of Massive Attack and Portishead, propelled by the juggernaut Howling Wolf/Led Zep legacy.

Even before they’d developed a repertoire of their own, Plant and the Space Shifters had a unique live sound, a heady mix of American roots music, Celtic folk, reverberating trip hop, and hypnotic Middle Eastern and African grooves. They employed this sonic arsenal to reinterpret old blues standards, Led Zeppelin classics, and Plant’s earlier solo work at festivals and on concert tours. That exploratory approach became the foundation for Plant’s acclaimed 2014 Nonesuch debut, lullaby….and the Ceaseless Roar, his first album of original compositions since 2005.

On “Carry Fire,” Plant and the Space Shifters make what Plant calls “a mélange a trois”: “It’s a very British thing, the Bristol thing and then the element of North African and West African drum rhythms brought together with plaintive melodies.” Plant added a new voice to this polyglot sound by inviting fiddle and viola player Seth Lakeman, a luminary of the British folk scene, as a guest star on these sessions, much as he did with Gambian musician Juldeh Camara, on lullaby.

While Plant wrote the words, the group collectively brainstormed the basic tracks, encouraged by Plant to bring the same sense of fearlessness and spontaneity they display on stage. As guitarist Justin Adams told the New York Times, Plant “can create an atmosphere where suddenly lightning is more likely to strike. In collaborative music, it’s often not a question of careful writing and composition and all these sorts of things. It’s more the spirit of the moment when things come together in a flash. And he’s an expert on that.”

Plant has never been an artist to rest on his laurels. He’s a multiple Grammy Award winner, most recently for Raising Sand, his collaboration with Krauss; as a member of Led Zeppelin, he’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; and, in a 2011 Rolling Stone poll, readers named him the top rock vocalist of all time. On the closing track, “Heaven Sent”—a song he calls “the anthem of my being”—he describes a restless, journeying spirit: “All that’s worth the doing is seldom easy done/All that’s worth the winning is seldom easy won…”

“It’s about intention,” said Plant of his latter-day career and his current work. “I rejoice in my previous work but must continue the journey to new worlds, after all there are so many songs that are yet to be written. The whole impetus of the band has shifted, moved on its axis somewhat to allow more air and light to come in. Ultimately that makes for more exciting, and interesting landscapes of mood, melody and instrumentation.”

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

  • Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters 2018 Tour Dates
    June 8 – Atlanta, GA — Venue TBD (with Elle King)
    June 10 – Richmond, VA — Virginia Credit Union LIVE! At Richmond Raceway (with Elle King)
    June 12 – Columbia, MD — Merriweather Post Pavilion (with Sheryl Crow)
    June 13 – Forest Hills, NY — Forest Hills Stadium (with Sheryl Crow)
    June 15 – Toronto, ON — Budweiser Stage (with Sheryl Crow)
    June 17 – Chicago, IL — Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion (with Jon Langford)
    June 19 – Vail, CO — Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater (with Seth Lakeman)
    June 21 – Berkeley, CA — Greek Theatre (with Jim James Solo Acoustic)
    June 23 – Stateline, NV — Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys (with Los Lobos)
    June 24 – Pasadena, CA — Arroyo Seco Music and Arts Festival
    June 26 – Troutdale, OR — Edgefield (with Lucinda Williams)
    June 27 – Redmond, WA — Marymoor Park Amphitheatre (with Lucinda Williams)
    June 29 – Vancouver, BC — Vancouver International Jazz Festival (with Seth Lakeman)
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Tara Payne displays Robert Plant’s High Sierra Music Festival set list in 2013.


About Randy Hashagen

Tahoe Onstage copy chief Randy Hashagen, a former Bay Area journalist, walked away from his career to become a crazy cab driver. He's still barnstorming, but his wing-walking days are over. Lately, he has been watching the world flow through Lake Tahoe since 2012.

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