Saving Grace performing at The Town Hall Birmingham on Sunday 22nd December 2019

Review by Kevin Cooper

The legendary rock god Robert Plant introduced his new outfit, Saving Grace, to a packed Town Hall in Birmingham last night. And showing that there is so much more to this innovative five piece band than Plant’s iconic vocals, they all proceeded to showcase their individual talents.

But when Plant walked on to the stage, he did so with fellow singer Suzy Dian who proved to be a wonderful foil to his familiar rich tones. And although the rest of the band is far from being household names, it was a band of equals that performed together on the Town Hall stage.

Taking the crowd from the echoes of American folk history, Appalachian bluegrass as well as some vocal harmony laden covers of more recent songs, Matt Worley and Tony Kelsey conjured the most beautiful atmospheric sound scapes from their stringed instruments whilst Oli Jefferson’s cultivated drums and percussion helped to weave simply hypnotic melodies.

Starting with Undone In Sorrow there was no doubting that the crowd were in for a very special evening. Announcing that the band were going to deliver their own interpretations of the songs of others, this was certainly not a covers band. Make no mistake that it is the songs that make Saving Grace so special. They are great songs to start with but this band just takes them to new places.

Plant and Dian dueted perfectly on Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down, which segued into the only Led Zepplin reference of the night, In My Time Of Dying which also saw Worley’s lightning strike banjo being a real driving force behind the song.

There was an emotional depth to Doc Watson’s Your Long Journey which Plant told the crowd was written on the occasion of his wife’s passing was a standout moment in an exceptional set as was the 1930 version of Soul Of A Man with lead vocals by Worley, written by the destitute and soon due to die Blind Willie Johnson which was simply awesome. Even the traditional Cindy I Will Marry You, by Johhny Cash and Nick Cave was delivered in such an emotional way that it could have ripped your heart out.

Other songs; Cuckoo, Move Along Train, Leave My Woman Alone and She Cried had been rocked and reworked with a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandolin and cuatro and were delivered with a great depth.

And when ninety minutes of wonderful music was brought to a close with all five of the band centre stage around two microphones for an a capella version of And We Bid You Goodnight, it was a spell binding evening that was more than deserving of the standing ovation from all present.