Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, St David's Hall, Cardiff
Fenech-Soler, Thekla, Bristol

Not as exciting as Led Zeppelin, but even at 62 this lion in dad's denim still knows how to work a crowd

The Aslan of hard rock roars once more.

Robert Plant is blessed with a voice which, whether by decades of direct association or because of some intrinsic quality (it's too late now to tell) seems to resonate with secret truths and esoteric mysteries. From anyone else, "When I get older, settling down/Will you come down to the sea?" (the "When I'm Sixty-Four"-like number from his 29 Palms album) would be unforgivably trite. But Plant could sing "Dem Bones" and we'd still be asking, "Ah, but what does it really mean?"

The leonine Led Zeppelin leader, his dad-like denims failing to de-sexify him completely even in his seventh decade, has – while the world wonders whether the 2007 reunion of his most famous band will ever be repeated – decided instead to revive an even earlier act. This was the Band of Joy, with whom he gigged around the Midlands before Jimmy Page invited him to join up with the rump of the Yardbirds.

It features no original members, but a number of seasoned old pros such as Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and Darrell Scott, and the project is a return to roots in every sense. The sextet specialises in sunny, Seventies-style harmonic country-rock with strong infusions of blues, folk and gospel, using such archaic instruments as a washboard, upright bass, pedal steel and what looks, from a certain angle, like an elephant's leg of kebab meat hanging behind the drum kit.

Their album, despite the handicap of its truly appalling desktop publishing graphics, is flying out of the shops. "You know you've made it," he wryly states, "when your album is a Tesco Special ...." It's dominated mainly by covers dredged from Plant's exhaustive knowledge of American traditional music, as is the live show, with added non-album tracks like "Twelve Gates to the City" by Blind Boy Fuller. Why were so many bluesmen blind? Is it like piano tuners? Does the loss of sight make you more receptive to 12-bar song structures?

It's all wholesome, tasty fare, if not quite as exciting as Page stuttering into "Communication Breakdown", Bonzo bashing into "Kashmir" or JPJ doing whatever JPJ does. We do, however, get countrified reworkings of a scattering of Zeppelin tracks including "Tangerine", "Houses of the Holy" and an everyone-on-their-feet encore of "Rock and Roll".

And, despite the deceptively casual stance of a tall man crouching, Plant knows how to work a crowd, from his sword-fencer's facility with a mic stand to his cleverly localised banter. The man who recorded some of his best-known work in the Welsh hillsides acknowledges applause with a "diolch yn fawr", reminisces about the original BOJ opening for Jeff Beck in Llanelli in 1965, jokes about one song originating from "the Delta of Machynlleth" and explains "Misty Mountain Hop" as "a flippance in Snowdonia ... it's a bit like a bustle in a hedgerow".

Can he still hack it at 62? He seems as relieved as anyone to find that he can. As he says: "I haven't needed the defibrillators yet ...."

One of the Holy Grails of my vinyl-collecting habit is to track down a hilariously appalling single by Linda Jardim called "Energy in Northampton", released in 1979 by the council elders with the intention of boosting civic pride and promoting the town's potential, and based on the premise that aliens beamed down there are amazed by what they find. Type "Energy Northampton Anglia" into YouTube and it's the top result. You'll thank me later.

In reality, apart from all of Bauhaus and one of Steps, Northampton hasn't given much to popular culture. Perhaps that's why Northants electro newcomers Fenech-Soler have opted for a name that suggests a collaboration between a tall-eared Saharan fox and an attacking midfielder from the stylish France team in the 1982 World Cup (although, to be fair, one of the quartet actually is called Daniel Soler).

Fenech-Soler, inset below, first came to most people's attention when singer Ben Duffy guested on Groove Armada's sublime "Paper Romance", but their own single "Lies", playlisted by Radio 1 and just about everywhere else, is an equally persistent earworm. "Demons" is lined up to follow from an impressive debut album which they play in its entirety tonight.

In the bowels of Das Boot moored on the Bristol waterfront, their Klaxons-meets-Calvin rave-pop reaches sphincter-shaking volume, and Duffy, Holly-oaks-pretty in his low-slung V-neck and designer stubble, gamely yells "Come on, Bristol!" when all but a couple of hundred locals are two squares of the A-Z away watching the Manics.

Over Duffy's shoulder, bathed in red or blue light, are three mirrorballs sticking out from the back wall, spinning on horizontal axes rather than suspended vertically. I know a metaphor when I see one: the tropes of traditional dance culture, with added lateral thinking. That's Fenech-Soler, right there. Maybe those aliens had a point.

Next Week:

Simon Price sees Big Boi, no longer "the other one" from Outkast, and finds out whether Rumer is to be believed

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions