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| 1 February 2013 | Reply

Label: Atlantic/Warners
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day CD-DVD

Opening with archival news footage of the mighty Zeppelin travelling circus arriving in Tampa for a mid-Seventies record breaking show, the scene at the O2 is set for something special – 18,000 seats filled to overflowing after around 20 MILLION entered the ticket ballot for this gig to celebrate the life of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.

With John Bonham’s son Jason thumping the tubs in fine style – at moments you can close your eyes and imagine the elder Bonham pounding away, such is the might and power Jason brings to the task.  He’s respectful, playing the songs as laid down by his Dad, but as with the rest of band, he has the roll up to eleven along with the rock – he plays with feeling, with swing and above all, with soul, inhabiting classic tunes enough to bring freshness to them.

Plant is once again the Golden God out front of one of the greatest bands ever to have graced a stage, and whilst his voice may not reach the higher notes like in his shirtless youth, it has the warmth and depth of legend now.  Mostly letting the music do the talking, when he does speak the emotion is obvious and immense – he is humble and nervous to start with, making no secret how overwhelmed he and the rest of the band must have felt at the loss of their good friend and mentor Ertegun, and at not only the response to the show’s announcement from the world’s media and fans, but also the sheer magnitude of interpersonal issues involved with reconvening the band after such a long absence.

Page has always seemed to come alive whenever he touches Led Zeppelin material, a spark he has failed to bring to his other projects in even close to such a degree.  He is the quintessential guitar hero throughout this performance, showing such light and shade as most artists could only ever dream of capturing in a body of work.

John Paul Jones also seems reinvigorated to be treading the boards again – it’s worth noting that he formed Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme and Dave Grohl a year or two after this DVD was shot.  Although inexcusably not invited to be a part of the Page/Plant albums of the mid-late nineties, it is immediately obvious that Jones is the only choice for this material.

The track listing is monolithic – 16 tracks that define and defy rock convention, from Good Times, Bad Times and Dazed and Confused from their 1969 debut album, through to Nobody’s Fault But Mine and For Your Life from 1976’s Presence, only the In Through The Out Door album and posthumous odds n’ sods collection Coda are ignored.

The tracks chosen are mostly immediately recognised uber-classics, songs which would probably all be included in any Essential Thousand Rock Songs list: Black Dog, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Misty Mountain Hop, Kashmir, Rock And Roll.

They even effortlessly showed a million guitar shop butchers and suburban garage cover bands how to put new magic and light to the most butchered song in the world – Stairway To Heaven, Plant commenting, “We did it, Ahmet”, to the spirit of his friend.

Of course, they could have chosen a completely different set of sixteen songs and it would have been equally fascinating and classic, such is the depth of their catalogue.

After a theramin-studded Whole Lotta Love, Plant leans into the microphone, as conspiratorially as one can with 18 thousand people in the room, and casually asks “What do you think Dave?”, acknowledging the his lifelong friend Dave who was in attendance despite being ill with cancer.  Dave sadly died a few days later.

The look on all four faces as they take a bow after Kashmir, and again as the encore finishes, is priceless – THEY DID IT!!!!  Post concert rumours flew for years about whether the band would undertake a proper tour with this line-up, though come the encore Plant’s demeanour says it all: he’s proud they did it, finally dispelling or at least reclaiming the stigma associated to the band – addiction and violence; death and disorder; years of members stubbornly refusing to play these songs in any format under any banner; the disastrous unrehearsed Live Aid reformation and the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show which was also a shambolic affair.

Plant has arguably fought his Zeppelin heritage more than any of them, and proud he may be, his lionine mane regal and dominant, but as he thanks everyone involved and recalls the glory days of Atlantic Records, he seems content that what is done is done, and already eager to move on to the next project: a project, perhaps, without so much baggage and such a suffocating weight of history and compromise.

Those rumours continue to fly even now, with nary an interview going past where one or the other of them isn’t pressed for the merest hint of possibility that the legendary Led Zeppelin juggernaut could roll again.  There’s been talk of Jones, Page & Bonham auditioning alternate singers after the O2 gig – although Jones has declared that he and Page “couldn’t agree” on the right guy for the job, so in light of all that, Celebration Day is likely to be a full stop point in the band’s active career.

What a way to go out!  And we still have Page’s latest remastering and reissuing mission, with all the albums due to reappear in 2013 with what has been hinted to be a motherlode of extras from alternate versions and demos, to live material, rehearsals and more.

Category: CD Reviews, Movie & Theatre Reviews

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