The Ulster Hall, Belfast
2nd December 2017

It’s been three years since Robert last graced the stage of the Ulster Hall and we were pretty excited about seeing him again and hearing live material from his new record ‘Carry Fire’.

Plant, along with The Sensational Space Shifters, took to the stage promptly at 8.45pm and straight away something didn’t seem to work. Below par versions of ‘D’yer Mak’er’, ‘New World’, ‘Turn It Up’, and ‘The May Queen’ clearly indicated there were sound issues out front as well as on stage as the band seemed to struggle to gel and Robert Plant himself fluffed a few lyrics.

Luckily ‘All The King’s Horses’ and ‘That’s The Way’ were scheduled early enough in the set to allow for the sound issues to be worked on during quieter acoustic versions of the songs.

Sound problems rectified, the band quickly settled and we were treated to a cover of Richard Thompson’s ‘House Of Cards’ and a re-arranged, uptempo Americana version of ‘Gallows Pole’. During the latter, we were joined in the audience by three tractors boys from way out in the country. The tractors boys were enjoying themselves, although when they shouted for ‘Strawberry Fields’, we couldn’t help have a chuckle at them. Further chuckles came when they recognised ‘Gallows Pole’, but were totally thrown by the timing in the rearranged version as they tried to sing/shout along.

An outstanding version of the Arabian themed ‘Carry Fire’ made clever use of lighting projected onto the ceiling and rear wall of the venue as well as some very fine violin playing from guest artist Seth Lakeman.

A Moog-drenched version of ‘Little Maggie’ captured the attention of the tractor boys and they uttered their approval of Skin Tyson’s Banjo skills.

See that boy on the banjo? He’s the boss.

The rest of the Ulster Hall crowd whooped and hollered their approval. The song was also noticeable for violinist Seth Lakeman and guitarist Justin Adams trading licks.

A Spanish guitar influenced version of ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’ totally threw the tractors boys and they registered their disapproval by leaving for the bar. The rest of us loved it.

A full-on, rocking cover of ‘Funny In My Mind (I Believe I’m Fixin’ to Die)’ quickly followed before a stomping folk country version ‘Misty Mountain Hop’. Suddenly it was encore time.

The encore served up memorable versions of ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’, ‘Bluebirds Over the Mountain’ and ended the night with a ‘Whole Lotta Love/Santy Ano’ medley.

While not as enjoyable as the 2014 concert, over-all it was a strong performance by an artist who really has very little left to prove. He’s clearly keen to move on with fresh new material, yet with clever rearrangements of his back-catalogue, he shows that he is comfortable with his past, knows what his audience wants and appears to genuinely enjoy what he does.