This review is of the CD-only set, and is probably redundant: there's already been masses written and said about this album, and if you're looking at it you're almost certainly a Led Zeppelin fan of some sort and you'd want this album even if it wasn't all that good. Thankfully, it is good. Very good, in fact. The three surviving members plus John Bonham's son Jason still had the old magic even in 2007 when this concert took place, and this is a fine record of it.
I saw Led Zeppelin play live just once, at Earl's Court in the mid-70s. It was a great concert which I still remember with huge pleasure. Unsurprisingly, they have matured since then, but still generate a terrific atmosphere and perform a great set. Jimmy Page plays superbly and with a little more brevity and concision in his solos than of old, which to me is no bad thing. John Paul Jones reminds us what a very fine musician he is and Robert Plant still has a fantastic voice which he uses with real maturity. The power is still there when he needs it but there is a sensitivity and delicacy in places which, while there in Zeppelin's heyday, has matured into something very special.
The recorded sound is great, and it's a cracking live album which manages to capture the atmosphere as well as the band's performance, and a fine addition to Led Zeppelin's discography. Warmly recommended - but then, I bet you already knew you were going to buy it.
on November 20, 2012
First, this was a great concert and a great performance by Led Zeppelin in London in 2007. The performance I think equals, or nearly equals, that assembled in The Song Remains the Same double-CD from 1977, I believe. The set selection is excellent as well. I don't think I've heard a better version of Trampled Under Foot- which gives you new appreciation for that song- and is worth the price alone. But every song on the album is done well, if not among the best performances out there. In any case, after listening to this Blu-Ray audio, it will be hard to ever go back to listen to the older performance again. Here's why:
The audio quality. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to finally hear Led Zeppelin as they really are - without the hollowed-out sound, no matter how many times its been remastered, no matter how good your audio equipment is, from decades past. Right from the beginning of Good Times, Bad Times- the state-of-the-art recording, the chest-pounding bass, the full range of HD audio- it's amazing to say the least- and something every Led Zeppelin fan (especially those who have never been to a live concert- including me) must have.
If you haven't listened to this disc, and have never been to a Led Zeppelin concert in person, you haven't heard the best of Led Zeppelin. It's that simple. A must have, without a doubt.
on December 7, 2012
I pre-ordered this from Amazon. When I got it I went home after work and put the DVD in the Blu-ray player. I was blown away from the opening licks. It's like they never quit, much less 32 years ago. There are no words to express the feeling of watching the members of the group, plus Jason Bonham drumming, slipping right into place in the music.
Jimmy Page has some new toys for his guitars, as does John Paul Jones' keyboards. Jason wails away on a new set of Ludwig Vistalites and in several songs, especially at the end or "Rock and Roll", I see him channeling his father. He admits as much in the liner notes. It's something to see. The only thing Jason does differently than his ol' Daddy is use a double bass pedal on the songs requiring the bass drum triplets that John did with ONE PEDAL (!!). I drum and it took me a long time to find out that he did triplets on the single Ludwig Speed King pedal. Amazing. I love my old Speed King, but I ain't THAT fast!
John Paul is as rock steady and fluid as he ever was and his keyboard work hasn't lost any of it's original luster. I always admired his bass runs on "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Ramble On". He and Bonham completed each other and it's the same on this show.
Robert's voice took a bit to get warmed up. But when he did, I wasn't disappointed. I know some of the songs had the key changed, but it didn't mess anything up.
The rehearsal dvd wasn't as thrilling as the show. Practice is just that: practice. This was recorded 4 days before the show, so it was as smooth as the show, with the exception of one song Jason muffed, but on the next effort was nailed down tight. The only thing I didn't like about the dvd was the fixed camera position. Nothing was clearly visible. But, that's ok; it was practice.
If you don't have this set, I don't know why or you've been on a deserted island. Get it. If you're unhappy with it, mail it to me. I'm sure I'll end up wearing my copy out!
on November 19, 2012
In Greek mythology, before the Olympians, there were The Titans: gods so powerful, that their dying breath gave rise to mortals and men. There were hundreds of gods and demi-gods associated with the Age of Olympus, but only 12 Titans.
Ahmet Ertegun saw LED ZEPPELIN's titanic potential at a time when most critics and other musicians were ridiculing "The New Yardbirds" (as they were initially known), saying that they would 'crash like a lead zeppelin.'
... Fast forward 39 years ...
On Dec. 10, 2007, LED ZEPPELIN re-united as the headliners for a tribute concert at London's O2 Arena to honor the memory of Atlantic Records founder, Ahmet Ertegun. LED ZEPPELIN fans have read for the past five years that the O2 show was one of the most momentous performances in rock history: 'jaw-dropping', 'incredible' and other superlatives & adjectives were what almost everyone lucky enough to see it live said it was at the time.
Now there's evidence: "Celebration Day" is an exceptional concert-film documenting LED ZEPPELIN's only full-length reunion performance since their brief tour in 1980. It delivers on the nearly-mythic hype that immediately burst forth after that show, finally placing a proper capstone on their seismic career. It also gives anyone who was too young to catch the real thing a golden glimpse at the thunder these 'rock gods' can unleash in action.
The two-hour chronicle of their show at London's O2 Arena in December 2007 was distributed via closed circuit TV to U.S. movie theaters in October and November. After attending one such screening with an 'invitation only' guest list, everyone in attendance agreed this was a keeper -- one they'd definitely be adding to their music/video collections. Even people who said they were 'not fans' of LED ZEPPELIN were blown away by the strength of the performance, and the quality of the video production. 'The Hammer of the Gods' was wielded with full force and effect that night ... and recorded for posterity.
Inevitably, there will be comparisons to "The Song Remains The Same," LED ZEPPELIN's 1973 performance at Madison Square Garden in New York City, which became a popular theatrical 'midnight movie' during the late 1970's and early 1980's. That is a very different film, from a very different era. The over-the-top (for the time) light show is toned down at the O2, and LED ZEPPELIN plays more like a Band here than they did back then. In "S.R.T.S.", Jimmy Page was just over-powering in almost every song; here Jimmy Page's performance is un-diminished, but everyone else shares the spotlight too -- and the overall impact is far greater.
The playing is tighter, more wizended and assured, also more measured and precise. It's not necessarily 'better' (Jason Bonham doesn't look like he's going to bring down the rafters or blow the walls out like his father, John Bohham did), and Robert Plant no longer leaps all over the stage hitting all those ultra-high notes -- but his stage presence is no less commanding. John Paul Jones is the biggest surprise here (more on that later).
"Celebration Day" is a nothing less than the epic you'd expect from a group that so carefully oversees its legacy. Director Dick Carruthers keeps special effects to a minumum, and cuts out any 'non-concert sequences'. In so doing, he keeps full focus on the band and their music, as it's performed. After you view the film, it's not hard to understand why it's unlikely that a show such as this will ever happen again.
After twice attempting to sputter back to life (a sloppy four song set at Live Aid in 1985, and a quickly-forgotten reunion flop for Atlantic's 40th anniversary in 1988) which left both the band and their fans disappointed, they really got it right here.
LED ZEPPELIN could do a cash-grab tour, but it was probably best that they really went all out to honor their past and 'nailed it' the one time when it mattered to them (paying appropriate homage and tribute to Ahmet Ertegun).
If there were a live tour, it would probably require stadiums as large as the Grand Canyon, so you would never get as close to the band as this film gets you.
Their playing is not suffocatingly or academically perfect -- if it were, then LED ZEPPELIN would hang like dead-air on stage, like the studio-musicians who play behind over-hyped vocalists these days from shows like 'American Idol' or today's Top-40/teeny-bopper acts. LED ZEPPELIN's instincts for a funky groove are unerring to the point of unearthly - especially when they rip into "Black Dog," followed by an explosive blast through "Trampled Under Foot" (their interpretation of Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues," from 1936) and the bluesy changes in epics like "Nobody's Fault but Mine" (by bluesman Willie Johnson) and "In My Time of Dying" (by Sonny-Boy Williamson).
Blues enthusiasts to the end, they rework and enhance every piece. Beginning with the thunder-blasts that open "Good Times Bad Times" (the kickoff song) and a rousing "Rock and Roll" finale, and all points in between; including the first-ever live version of "For Your Life," (from PRESENCE), a suitably demonic rendition of "Dazed and Confused" (complete with violin-bow guitar solo -- but shortened considerably from their version in 'Song Remains The Same'), a surprisingly majestic rendition of "No Quarter" (which easily out-does that 1973 concert version), "Since I've been Lovin' You" (the only in-common song that was arguably done better in the 1973 film) and, of course, "Stairway to Heaven" -- still as awesome as ever after all these years.
Curiously, LED ZEPPELIN doesn't perform "Celebration Day" here, as they did in "Song Remains The Same." But they do perform "The Song Remains The Same" -- as they also did in the same-titled movie.
With heaps of blues schooling to match his amazing fretwork, Jimmy Page enlivens all those familiar riffs that spawned thousands of garage-bound, wanna-be rockers. Here he executes them with familiarity, while still infusing each song with a magic that makes them all sound like something fresh or new. Page's fingers are startlingly nimble here -- like a much younger man's. He's a blues-guitar-man to the core, reborn in the moment, and drenched in sweat by the end.
Robert Plant had been subconsciously working his way up to this high-point for a decade. On solo tours, backed by the aptly named band "Strange Sensation," the iconic singer found expressive new ways to put across old melodies. He retains their 'spirit' while toying with rhythms and cadences, mapping ways around those soaring high-notes that are now out of reach, all without diminishing soulfulness or reducing the overall impact of the songs. There are times when you can tell he's been holding off on smaller-scale range-scraping -- his restraint in "Misty Mountain Hop," for instance -- so that he's got enough left for the climactic and cathartic moments that 'really matter', like the end of "Whole Lotta Love."
Unlike many bands, LED ZEPPELIN has never used backup singers or musicians when performing live -- and here, that bolsters the 'LED ZEPPELIN are Titans' myth. Even on their albums, the only time they ever had a guest/backing vocalist was in "The Battle of Evermore," from their untitled 4th album (Sandy Denny, from FAIRPORT CONVENTION). Maybe it's part of the Titanic myth, but it's certainly impresive what these four can do on their own, without any 'backing' or 'backup' talent.
Jimmy Page decided to end LED ZEPPELIN after John Bonham died, noting that he was 'irreplacable'. Jason Bonham, however, definitely does his dad proud, behind a translucent gold/yellow drum kit with the image from the first Led Zeppelin LP cover on his bass head. More 'on-the-money' than his father, the drumming is still the glue that binds the other talents together. He's weighty and heavy when required, but just as often often powering the show to higher heights with undertstatement while your focus is elsewhere. Take note of how his playing builds from straight-ahead pounding to cyclonic propulsion during "Kashmir," and how he takes over and drives the band's groove in "Trampled Under Foot."
But the big surprise here is John Paul Jones. The audio-mix allows you to hear the details of complex music underpinnings even when you can't watch his hands stretch out on bass. When the camera does zoom in on his stoic gaze, especially while he's playing keyboards, his mastery is mesmerizing.
Jones' main instruments were piano and synthesizer when he worked as a teenage studio musician with Jimmy page (prior to LED ZEPPELIN). The bass was another instrument he got good at, because more British bands needed a bass player than a keyboard player when they started recording in studios, and had to have timing and note precision. Jones is a marvel at balancing bottom-end rhythm with top-end melody. After watching him do that with his hands while tapping out bass parts with his feet, even fabled keyboardists like Edgar Winter and Ray Manzarek seem simplistic. On this video, Jones reminds me of Keith Emerson in his heyday, but with an economy of motion and variance of sonic style that even Emerson never quite achieved.
"The culmination of thousands and thousands of emotions we've been going through these past six weeks to get to this point," which Plant explains - is on full display throughout 'Celebration Day.' A score of cameras catch egged-on glances, elated/relieved smiles and all manner of body language. The occasional inserts of grainy Super 8-style footage, often at odd moments, makes me wonder if --despite over a dozen on-stage cameras-- nothing captured by the videographers really worked. Fortunately, the editing-rhythm works here (clearly an end-product of many work-copy and re-edit efforts), to propel the preformance as much as the songs and on-stage talent.
Unlike "The Song Remains The Same" (or most rock-show documenaries for that matter) the band members rarely sprawl out or strike poses here. Instead, they gain intensity and maintain a 'permanent cool' by focusing their craft, and by staying physically close enough, they achieve a remarkable synergy as a band -- probably much more than they'd ever do individually or in other bands. It's almost 'transcendant' -- feeding the 'Rock Titan' myth that surrounds LED ZEPPELIN.
Yet it's a transcendent thing to watch, rare among concert films. "The Song Remains the Same" and many of the songs in the self-titled 2003 DVD box set were great in their time. But 'Celebration Day' is the great concert LED ZEPPELIN fans have long wanted, and sought on bootlegs, or other media for many decades.
This is as close as we'll ever get to having LED ZEPPELIN back at full capacity, and it will probably never happen again. So Enjoy...
The DVD extras in the 'Deluxe edition' are only for hard core fanatics -- the rehearsals at Shepperton Studios are interesting, but nowhere near as well done as the O2 production; the TV-news broadcast from Tampa, FL documents that TV news has been completely moronic for at least 40 years; the promotional pieces are probably OK if you like paying for ads you can watch for free on YouTube.