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Robert Plant counts Space Shifters band to help get the Led out

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

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Robert Plant might not want to be in Led Zeppelin anymore, but he still wants to be in a band.

The Sensational Space Shifters are that band for him at the moment. And guitarist Justin Adams, who's been playing with Plant since the early 00s, says fans can rest assured the Shape Shifters are indeed a band.

"It could easily be that we're a bunch of employees," Adams, 54, notes by phone from his home in Bath, England. "If you look at it from the outside, you could go, 'OK, there's this kind of legendary rock star figure playing with a bunch of English musicians, nobody knows who they are. It would be very easy for him to just appoint a musical director, give out a list of 50 songs and just say 'Learn these' and then he could show up and do the shows.

"But it's not like that at all. Robert likes us to express ourselves, be ourselves, come up with ideas. He's doing it because he loves it, and he's set up the band so that it is a band that he's a part of, not just backup musicians."

The Space Shifters, in fact, all have writing credits on 2014's excellent "lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar," the group's first studio album. In concert, meanwhile, anything goes, including the septet's take on Led Zeppelin songs that clearly leave fans buzzing.

"Pretty much all of the Led Zep material and most of the tunes from Robert's solo career are based on kind of traditional roots music in some shape or form," explains Adams, who's released several albums of his own and has worked with Sinead O'Connor, Brian Eno, Tinariwen and many African musicians. "It's not a kind of abstract pop construct, if you know what I mean; they're more rootsy things that lend themselves to interpretation.

"I just think what's lovely is at shows when there's a few moments where we drop in particular Led Zeppelin riffs, and the audience goes crazy and that's very exciting and great. But there's also moments we just do musical moods and things that also make the audience go nuts, and it's just because it works musically. When you can see an audience feels that, it's very exciting."

Adams says Plant and the Space Shifters are particularly looking forward to making up the original June date at the Meadow Brook Music Festival that was postponed due to Plant's vocal problems. "We had a bit of a punishing schedule, nine shows in 11 days or something like that, with lots of flying, and Robert was really pushing his voice -- a little too far, I think," Adams recalls. "We were all sitting there in Detroit really ready and wanting to play a show. It never feels good to cancel a show you know? You don't know what to do with yourself."

The Space Shifters will be playing into the fall, and Adams says there's talk about a follow-up to "...The Ceaseless Roar," although Plant's muse has been known to take him in other directions as well, such as 2007's Grammy Award-winning "Raising Sand" with Alison Krauss. Nevertheless, Adams says he and the other Space Shifters are ready for just about anything.

"I've known (Plant) for about 15 years, and I'd never consider that something is definitely going to happen until it happens," the guitarist says. "The will is there and the idea is there and we'll dip a toe in the water and see if we feel like writing, and if that starts coming together we'll take it from there.

"We're all open to enormous changes of direction. This isn't a production line. It's not a standard kind of band. It's more free-flowing than that -- which is what Robert put this together to be, really."

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters and Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10.

Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills.

Tickets are $79.50 and $39 pavilion, $30 lawn. Tickets for the postponed June 9 show will be honored.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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