Dead End Drive-In: Now Showing - Led Zeppelin Print E-mail
Written by Jamie Richards   
Sunday, 21 October 2012 03:00

 

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Led Zeppelin - 'Celebration Day'

 

As much as I would've liked to have been at the O2 Arena five years ago to see Led Zeppelin, I have to say I've never hankered after a re-union. Led Zeppelin broke up when I was ten years old and I was still a couple of years away from even hearing about them, but what I have had the pleasure of is enjoying Robert Plant's solo career, and seeing him on around fifteen occasions since 1989. I've enjoyed it every step of the way, and I've also admired his strict refusal to be party to any re-hashed attempt at getting the mighty Zeppelin back in the air; let sleeping (black) dogs lie I say.

 

Robert Plant is the one man we can thank for keeping Led Zeppelin, in a word, special. His stance on the O2 show and its reason for happening was an admirable exception (as was the other exception - Live Aid in 1985), and his firm refusal to become ensconced during the aftermath of its massive success, and the rabid world-wide clamouring for more, was about as honourable and as dignified a human rock star could ever be.

 

Apparently the same cannot be said of the other two founding members, and Jason Bonham who completed the four piece that famous night, as they were so hungry for more they apparently went into rehearsals without him, and even - and just consider this horrific thought for a minute - approached the famous rock warbler Miles Kennedy to take the place of the Golden God on a prospective tour. Shudder. Thank god that never happened, and thank you again Mr Plant for preserving the legacy of the greatest, most pioneering and influential rock 'n' roll band ever to straddle the earth; and that includes not being in a rush to release any footage of that night in 2007.

 

Five years then, why wait five years? Well, why not I say - Led Zeppelin have always done as they like, and history dictates that it's usually been worth the wait. I will also admit to not being overly excited about a DVD release of the O2 show, why would I get excited about watching the Zeppelin play on my telly as old men when I could just as easily watch them on my telly from the Albert Hall in 1971, or New York in 1973? But what my head was turned by was the prospect of seeing them play as old men on a twenty foot high screen, and with a sound system that could blow the windows out of Manowar's conservatory. First thing I noted then, as the film began to roll, was that the sound could indeed have been a little louder in the cinema, but I'll not dwell on incidentals because in all honestly the performance of the four men wled_zep_300ho made up Led Zeppelin that fabled night in December 2007 was nothing short of brilliant, and it allayed any fears that advancing age may have slowed down or hindered the band in any way, to the point that I felt I might well have been watching footage from1973 at times.

 

Anyone familiar with Led Zeppelin DVD releases, or indeed history, will recognise the opening sequence of what is known as the Tampa News-reel footage, playing on an antiquated TV screen above the darkened O2 stage before the un-mistakable opening bars of 'Good Times Bad Times' are let loose to fly free in all their glory after decades of being held in shackles. The performance couldn't be more simple or more conclusive, and no doubt everyone will have their own favourite song - whether it be the crotch thrusting bombast of 'Whole Lotta Love', the sublime bluesy-ness of 'Since I've Been Loving You', the hippy-hippy shake-down of 'Misty Mountain Hop' or the distant battlefield smoulder of 'No Quarter'. Each Zepp-gem had obviously been carefully polished by the foursome in readiness for its scarce public outing; rehearsals took place under the shroud of Robert's then surprise hit album with Alison Krauss being all over the radio, and the fellas took full advantage of the time given, and left nothing, but nothing to chance - knowing that they would be allowed no screw ups this time; unlike Live Aid where poor preparation led to a rather below par plod. This London show was lauded at the time, but until now us mere mortals have had to take the word of the privileged and the fortunate who were in attendance as read; of its quality though, there is no longer any doubt.

 

Now there is no room for any nay-sayer or party-pooper to question the brilliance, the quality or sheer magnificence of this most revered of rock 'n' roll bands, because it is contained here, within two hours of sheer and absolute perfection in terms of performance and delivery. With absolutely nothing to detract, or distract - such is the simplicity of the stage production - no gimmicks, just four amazing musicians and their incredible songs. What was most interesting for me, as someone who only knew of the Zeppelin legend in the past tense and who has followed Plant's solo career, was to see Robert in the context of singer in Led Zeppelin, rather than 'former singer with Led Zeppelin'. I've seen him often, and I've seen him occasionally appear to be almost 'embarrassed' by his former self. To that token I've also seen him lose himself fantastically to those old songs, and as little as four months before the O2 show I danced crazily in a field in Crickhowell as he and his Strange Sensation band rocked out at least half a dozen or so Zeppelin numbers in their last ever show together, but to see him on a stage with his old pals Jimmy and John Paul, and to watch him comfortably slip back into his role at the front of the Zeppelin ship was the most heart-warming for me; that and Jason Bonham's moving contribution, in fact the camaraderie between all four men really does come across incredibly well to provide a dynamic worthy of the name they play under.

 

As I said, I was personally a little sceptical about the release of this concert DVD, but I have to say I now totally understand that it had to be released because it is simply just so damn good. It's the final piece of evidence in the case for Led Zeppelin being the most creative, most inventive, most influential and just down-right best rock 'n' roll band in the world ever. By some strange set of personal values though, I will also be very happy for it to be the last time it happens, because to me it should prove to be the final piece in the jigsaw of Zeppelin perfection; and even though it means I will personally never have the pleasure that those 18,000 did on that night, it will also mean that I will never wince as the Led Zeppelin story gets sullied, and becomes the corporate cash cow it inevitably would do once Live Nation/Ticket Master got their filthy, money hungry mitts on a re-union tour (hello Rolling Stones fans!).

 

Long live the legend, and long live Led Zeppelin. Now then Robert, about this new solo album....

 

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To pre-order your copy of 'Celebration Day' - CLICK HERE