Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Led Zeppelin Celebration Day (2012)


The stakes couldn’t have been higher.

When the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin took the stage at London’s O2 Arena in December of 2007 — 27 years after playing their last show under their sainted name — they had to live up to a legacy of muscle and finesse barely matched in the last half century of music.

Eyewitnesses — which, tragically, did not include yours truly — swore up and down that the trio, with drummer Jason Bonham subbing for his late dad, did their storied past proud. But the grainy snips available on YouTube provided no proof. Which tested the faith of the 20 million fans who applied for tix, only to have all but 18,000 of them turned down flat.

Starting tomorrow, no one will have to leave the show’s reputation to hearsay. “Celebration Day,” which captures the two-hour concert, plays for one night only, on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at multiple area theaters, before coming out on DVD and CD Nov. 19. The richly photographed, shrewdly focused flick proves that, if anything, those who mooned over the original show understated it.

This concert kills.

Director Dick Carruthers kept his camera right where he should: onstage. Few crowd shots turn up, and not a single glimpse outside the hall or interview with the band interrupts the music’s flow. Often Carruthers places his camera right between the musicians, the better to catch every ricochet and volley of their dynamics.

From the start of the 16-song set we see the players primed to exploit the limits of their connection. This isn’t just a bunch of pros faithfully delivering the material. It’s a reanimated, organic band, rediscovering the energy and flair of their old songs in real time.

Bonham, who shares his father’s meaty paws and double-bass-drum-style, looks like he’s about to eat the kit. He plays ravenously. The oft-overlooked John Paul Jones shows the full jazz of his bass work, navigating the abstractions of “Dazed and Confused” with as much invention as star player Page. In “Trampled Under Foot,” his keyboards give the song its boiling funk.

While Plant has often held his voice in check in his post-Zep projects, he scales a vintage Golden God yelp in “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” He shows his intuitive play with Page with each charge to “push, push.”

If anything Page’s riff-work in “The Song Remains the Same” outpaces his original lightning-fast runs. All his stop-start riffs carry thunder and sex.

Back in 1976, Zep released the meandering concert film “The Song Remains the Same.” Decades down the line, the sinew and elaboration of the new movie puts that old one to shame. With no plans for a Zep tour, “Celebration Day” stands as a one-night-only ticket to see rock’s great lions roar.


February 21, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Celebration Day | ,

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