When Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun died
in 2007, few record executives could match his legacy.
It is therefore fitting that his most lucrative label
acquisition, Led Zeppelin, reunited in concert that same
year at the O2 Arena in London. It was also poignant
that these surviving group members were joined on
drums by Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin drummer
Jon Bonham (1948-1980). Jason acknowledged this
concert as “…the greatest day of my life.”
“Celebration Day” is the title of the two-DVD and
two-CD set that captured this event. It was released
last month by the Warner Music label and of course,
I had to watch it. The two CDs are an audio version
of the concert; therefore I didn’t bother listening to them,
and watched the DVDs instead. The 124-minute event
was directed by Dick Caruthers, and consisted of 16
songs taken from the band’s first seven studio albums.
By and large, the event went off quite well, and the
production was generally first rate.
Like many other bands during the 1970’s, Led Zeppelin
was known for performing extended versions of their
songs, and their flexibility often resulted in interesting
and unpredictable performances. The set they performed
for this concert was “tightened up” a bit; for example,
“Dazed and Confused” only lasted 11 minutes!
Jason Bonham admirably filled his father’s shoes. He
also provided background vocals for songs, such as
the opening number, “Good Times, Bad Times” and
“Misty Mountain Hop.” However, I felt that the recorded
sound of John Paul Jones’ bass lacked definition and
focus. Jimmy Page was never the “cleanest” player,
especially when heard “live.” Nevertheless, he
delivered the goods with inspiring playing that was
comparable to his 1970’s heyday.
I was pleasantly surprised by Robert Plant’s vocals.
My apprehension about his voice was generally for
naught. It’s true that he may not have attempted
certain high notes; however, he also refrained from
singing some of them during his 1970’s live
performances. The results of his “devil-may-care”
approach to singing were sometimes disappointing.
However, considering that he was 59-years old at the
time of this concert, I believe that he did a pretty good
job. Plant introduced their performance of “For Your Life”
from the stage. Until now, this song from their 1976
“Presence” album had never been performed before
a live audience.
In short, no—the band didn’t sound or play as well as
they did on a good night during their heyday, but they
played well enough to satisfy the fans in attendance
that probably had tears of joy streaming down their
cheeks. In fact, I often “teared up” while I was
watching this concert.
The bonus DVD was essentially a run-through of the
concert, and recorded at Shepperton Studios, four days
prior to the live event. I think that footage of the band
working out performance issues would have been more
compelling; especially when you consider that they had
not played together for some time, and Jason was new
to the group. I felt that interview footage would have
also been nice. As it was, this rehearsal was too similar
to the actual concert, and didn’t display enough of the
“process” for my taste.
Any Led Zeppelin fan will want to check out this set, and
I’d advise him or her to watch the bonus DVD “dress
rehearsal” footage first, as I did. Otherwise, it will
seem anticlimactic. I was amused by the announcement
from a journalist who referred to the concert as “…arguably
the most important reunion of the year.” Ya’ think?
His statement was inarguably the understatement
of the decade!