“Good Times Bad Times”, “Black Dog”, “In My Time of Dying”, “No Quarter”, “Dazed and Confused”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “The Song Remains The Same”, “Kashmir”, “Whole Lotta Love”. It is quite a legacy.
It is no wonder then that with such a top calibre selection of songs both fans and Promoters have wanted the band to reform time and time again. Led Zeppelin have always said “No.” Until one day in 2007 they announced for one night only they were reforming along with Jason, their late drummer John Bonham’s son, to play a tribute show for Ahmet Ertegun the founder of Atlantic Records who had died the previous year.
Most will remember the frantic scrabble to get tickets, the ballot system put in place and the millions from around the world who tried to get briefs for the show; myself included. I was unlucky. Five years later the unlucky ones finally get to see the show and those who got the ‘golden’ tickets get a gorgeous reminder with Celebration Day which documents the show in full.
There are no interviews interspersed between live tracks, what we have is a solid two-hour show. The full show from that night in December 2007. Unlike so many live DVDs which get released where you end up watching a show on TV, here you find yourself sitting mesmerised watching a gig. A gig like you are there, where you don’t want to get up and go to the bar (fridge) or to the toilet in case you miss something! Celebration Day truly is something special.
The tracks are listed at the start of this review were chosen not just because they are classics but also because they are all here, and somehow have more verve, more swagger than ever before. Led Zeppelin are in one night making sure they hold on to that rock crown they held so firmly throughout the 70s. Of course there are other tracks played and nothing seems out-of-place. From ten studio albums we have a very balanced, fantastic set where at no point to the band sound out of their depth, and it is almost unbelievable that other than the rehearsals they haven’t really played together since 1980 (Live Aid excepting)! They shouldn’t sound this good, they just shouldn’t. But ‘OH MY GOD!’ they do!
The editing and cinematography go a long way to help that, but mostly it’s due to the stellar performance from the band. Robert Plant’s voice sounds stunning. For me it is during “Kashmir” that you really notice his vocal adding the requisite layer to the music without which the song would just be nowhere near as close to the original.
As it is he is front and centre and absolutely on form. Any rumours that he has never wanted to do a full tour because of his voice just don’t seem to hold water watching this performance. Sure, maybe it wouldn’t hold up for a tour, or maybe he didn’t want to sully the legacy. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” has brilliant harmonica from Robert, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” has scathingly sharp guitar playing from Jimmy. “No Quarter” highlights the keyboard playing of John Paul Jones. Jason’s playing is frankly unbelievable throughout.
As we near the end of last track ‘Rock N’ Roll’ the band all turn to Jason as he is about to begin his finale drum solo which ends the song and therefore the show. The look of love that all three remaining members show him, the smiles and the knowing look from Jimmy Page gives a little glimpse of how proud they are and no doubt that they feel the ghost of John on that stage with them. It’s a beautiful moment and one which brings a lump to the throat.
I bought the “box set” which gives you this unbelievable concert on Blu-Ray, a two CD set of the show and interestingly a DVD which has the full (single camera angled) unedited final rehearsal in Shepparton Studios four nights earlier. All in all a superbly put together package and worth the extra few pounds to secure.
Whatever version you buy, what Celebration Day definitely does not do is sully any legacy, it only strengthens it, makes them even more “here and now”.