Jan. 25, 1975: Led Zeppelin, consisting of Robert Plant on lead vocals, Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar plus any of the more than twenty instruments he can play, and the late John Bonham on drums played at the Market Square Arena, promoting their album Physical Graffiti. After that, Zeppelin never toured through Indiana again.
While the chances of a Led Zeppelin reunion tour are slim to none, Robert Plant gave Hoosiers what is probably the closest they’ll ever get. With his band The Sensational Space Shifters, Plant gave his audiences renditions of songs off of his album Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar, as well as Zeppelin fan favorites, such as “Dazed and Confused” and “The Rain Song.”
The opening act, JD Mcpherson, a high energy rockabilly group, was an interesting choice to open for someone who is arguably one of the biggest names in rock and roll. Despite the difference in genre, the opening band held the audience's attention for the duration of their set.
After about an hour, JD Mcpherson finished and the audience was eager for Plant to come onstage. However, the wait wasn’t quite over. While crew members worked to set up the stage, audience members talked, and drank, amongst themselves until about nine o’clock.
Then, a spotlight shined down on Liam “Skin” Tyson, the Liverpudlian guitarist for the Space Shifters. As he began to play a familiar tune, a silhouette of Plant appeared center stage, and the audience was ready to get the Led out. To kick off the show, Plant performed “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” from the 1969 Led Zeppelin debut album. As the audience screamed out the lyrics, people left their seats to form a crowd as close to the stage as security would permit.
After doing several songs and introducing the lineup, Plant continued to surprise the audience with renditions of Led Zeppelin songs, blues classics, and his own material.
If audience members were somehow not enthralled with the musical performance, the light show was surely enough to keep their attention. Blue, white, and red lights exploded at high points of songs, spotlights stayed focused on Plant, and, after songs were finished, complete blackouts engulfed the audience.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the show were the generational gaps within the audience. There were people who listened to Led Zeppelin when Robert Plant was still a 21 year old rookie sitting next to high school students covering the show for a music class assignment. Looking around during the show, everyone, regardless of age, was completely jamming out to music that some had only heard before through a radio.
In terms of voice, Plant still has an amazing range and great technique. He hit high and low notes with complete ease. For many, the highlight of the show was most likely Plant’s rendition of “Whole Lotta Love,” the 1969 hit from the album Led Zeppelin II. Sparking an amazing audience interaction, Plant shoved the mic out from the stage, encouraging the audience to sing along to the words everyone knew. Although many of the Led Zeppelin arrangements had Plant’s own twist to them, the huge crowd didn’t seem to mind.
After the final song, which was a medley consisting of “Whole Lotta Love,” “Smokestack Lightning,” and “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” Plant put both hands in the air, seemingly waving to the audience.
“Forty years later, thank you Indianapolis,” Plant said, referencing the 40 year gap between shows in the city. With that, the stage went black, and the audience roared. After the audience screamed for about five minutes straight, Plant and his band returned to the stage and performed an encore of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come down” from Plant’s time with the Band of Joy, and the Led Zeppelin classic “Rock and Roll,” which sparked a huge eruption from the crowd. After vibrations from the speakers ripped through the audience and flashes of light proceeded to blind them, the show came to an explosive end.
Despite the flak that many aging rock stars get about continuing to tour, many audience members from Tuesday’s show left the Old National Center with a sense of nostalgia for a band that they may or may not have been alive to see perform on stage. Many formed a deeper appreciation for the new music that Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters continue to release.
At 67 years old, Plant proved that he can still put on one hell of a show.