Celebration Day: Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Jason Bonham are Led Zeppelin
“Guitar, Jimmy Page” – Robert Plant at the conclusion of Dazed and Confused at Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song …
… oh the power of that statement. As if anyone watching this concert unfold at the O2 arena on Decmeber 10 2007 did not know who was playing guitar that night.
November 23 2012 – Disclaimer – I created at last 5 emails (as did my wife) to enter a lottery to win tickets to get to see Led Zeppelin in London’s O2 arena on December 10 2007. Alas we did not win – and without a ticket and many reports that tickets were impossible to obtain from scalpers, I am still to this day very pissed off that I could not attend what would have been one of the three highlights of my life (along with my wedding day and the birth of my one and only child). It turns out that Led Zeppelin broke the Guiness world record for the Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert when 20 million requests came through for that one-time reunion show. (source: tvnz.co.nz) The band called Led Zeppelin that night consisted of three original members and 1 son of an original member. Robert Plant – Vocals, Jimmy Page – Guitar, John Paul Jones – Bass, and Jason Bonham sitting on his fathers drum throne. Quite simply Led Zeppelin is the crown jewel of my life’s musical journey – the epitome of everything that exists musically in my world. No, I am not exaggerating – my passion for the band started a long time ago and still continues this day with monthly visits to a Toronto club to listen to an excellent Led Zeppelin tribute band named Michael White and The White (by the way if you are in Toronto please go see this band and you like Zep even just a little bit). Ratings are almost irrelevant when one is such a passionate fan so let me just say that if you want an impartial review of this CD/DVD you are on the wrong site. It was already a given that Celebration Day was going to get a 5 out of 5 before I opened the box.
The deluxe edition consists of 2 audio CD’s of the show, 1 Blu-Ray of the show, and 1 bonus DVD that features the band’s rehearsal four nights before the big show. The packaging is CD dimension (but much thicker to contain the discs). Pulling out the pack from the box, it unfolds to unravel pictures of the band from the concert night. Fully unfolded there are the four mentioned discs and a booklet. The booklet contains a short statement from each one of the four members of the band, however Jason Bonham’s statement is the most powerful – “.. I slowly walked to the dressing room where I collapsed and burst into tears. I had fulfilled my dream – to play drums on stage with Led Zeppelin, the greatest band of all time. It felt good, really good!“
CD1 and CD2 feature the 2 hour concert in audio format. Nothing special to say about them because we will dig into each song individually as they appear on the Blu-Ray.
Opening – As the credits roll we get treated to the familiar news reel of Zeppelin touring Tampa Bay and breaking The Beatles attendance record. Its the same clip found on How The West Was Won. The video plays over the crowd at the O2 arena right before the band hits the stage.
Good Times Bad Times (3:10) – The night starts exactly the same way Led Zeppelin’s discography with the first song on the first side of their first record. The crowd explodes into a frenzy as their three idols all dressed in black focus intently. My initial thought is Plant sounds awful, not sure if he was nervous or he was not warmed up properly, but his voice did not display the distinct rawness he displayed 38 years earlier on the record. Nonetheless Page kicks into a mini solo close to the end of the song with a smirk on his face that promises a good ride for the viewer.
Ramble On (5:37) – With no pause we get taken to Zeppelin II and the guys are still all business. Not exactly full of the confident swagger that made them rock gods, they are starting to sound really good and Plant is still clearly the weakest link. Page kicks in his guitar magic in a fairly straightforward rendition of the song
Black Dog (5:18) – Jimmy Page takes off his shades and starts to get sweaty. At this point it is evident that the camera work is incredible adjusting between the four musicians and the loud fifth member (with most of them spending their time with cell phones and cameras in the air) at the appropriate times. Plant finally shows the confidence that made him the Golden God as he is clearly starting to loosen up.
In My Time Of Dying (11:01) – Plant acknowledges the crowd with a “Good Evening” and a big smile on his face and its time for the blues. For many this song represents the best of what Zeppelin was – thunderous re-interpretation of the delta blues. This particular song is a re-interpretation of an old blues staple called Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed (even Dylan recorded a version in 1962). As if the rusty old car was just starting to warm up, this song reflects the point where everything is firing on all cylinders and the warm up is complete. Perfectly executed this is the Zeppelin we all adore and worship. Easily within Plant’s current vocal range the spotlight is on Page’s slide finger and as the song picks up Bonham truly pounds the drum kit with a rage of a man on a mission. Page’s guitar solo at the end is incredible and of course John Paul Jones continues to be the steady foundation that this band needs. Highlight of the DVD – Robert Plant singing “Oh My Jesus, Je, Je, Je Je …” at 25:13 of the DVD. Go watch, words cant describe the majesty of that scene. After the song Plant starts to joke with the crowd for the first time this night and thanks them for the 1000’s of emotions that the band has had the last few months.
For Your Life (6:08) – Zeppelin fans rejoice – a song that the band has NEVER played live before (no idea why not). True to the album version this one seems like a breeze technically after the intense previous song. “You said I was the only, With my lemon in your hand” is how it starts and continues through to another mini Page solo and while there have been suggestions he was down-tuned for this concert to compensate for Plant’s voice, there is no evidence of any short cuts here.
Trampled Under Foot (6:02) – A tribute to Robert Johnson’s 1936 song Terraplane Blues that Plant introduces as having been recorded 1000’s of times. John Paul Jones now sits on they keyboards and impressively nails his piano part. The interplay with between keys and guitar is paramount and the audience roars in appreciation. The song may have its roots in the blues, but this is the biggest dancing song of the night with its funky beat. As if to reflect the speed of the song, the camera shots alternate at dizzying speeds and not staying on a subject more than 5 seconds.
Nobody’s Fault But Mine (6:24) – Continuing the theme of paying tribute to the old blues greats this time one is from Blind Willie Johnson who wrote similar lyrics in the 1920’s and which Plant claims they heard in church in 1932 before Johnson had his first shot. Plant brings out the harmonica and plays it as needed to fill out Page’s riffs. The band spends a good portion of the song feeding off each others energy in front of Bonham’s drum kit, and you can clearly see the magical bond the three originals have. Jones is back on bass for this but not for long.
No Quarter (9:00) – As Jones takes they keys again the audience know its time to mellow out and get ready for the Zeppelin trance that used to captivate audiences in the 70’s and created a communal bond that the rock concerts of today can only dream of achieving. The smoke machines roll fog off the stage and contibute to the trance.Page kicks into a tight solo halfway in the song that I am certain the audience wished would continue for another 10 minutes.
Since I’ve Been Loving You (7:35) – The slowed down and moody portion of the set continues with familiar Page licks at the beginning of the song. This song sounds very familiar to the version we heard on the Page/Plant collaborations of the mid 90’s. Perfectly executed again the DVD continues to remind us of why Zeppelin is so revered by fans all over the world.
Dazed And Confused (11:19) – Here is the one instance where the band deviates from the album version of the songs. The song as heard on the record 6:27 but Zeppelin was notorious for extending this one during their live shows. Tonight they unfortunately did not extend the song to 30 minutes or so like they did on The Song Remains The Same movie but they gave the hardcore fans a sample of the “jam band” spirit that they were known for. Page of course brings out the violin bow for this one and makes the eerie electric distortion sounds he is known for. All the while he is standing in a laser pyramid that circles around him as the smoke machine fills his space. Magical!
Stairway To Heaven (8:28) – This song concludes with Plant declaring “Hey Ahmet, we did it”. Of all the suffocating pressure put on the band to perform well, the epicenter of the pressure lay firmly on Stairway To Heaven. The song that defined Zeppelin for many generations, the most played song in rock radio history, the song that every Zeppelin fan knows every note to, this was the one that everyone would talk about after the show. They delivered a very solid version which features Page on that all iconic double neck guitar. The solo in this song is widely considered the best guitar solo of all time, but the wizard did not disappoint as he delivered a clean and concise solo and put the big pressure point away forever. It is odd that the whole time I was watching this song it was like watching a student to see if they did enough homework to pass the final exam. I felt guilty about this as this is Led Zeppelin, who was I to have any doubt about the greatest band in the universe.
The Song Remains The Same (5:35) – Things liven up again as if the hard part of the concert was over and the celebration day continues. An uplifting song that transitions the concert while Plant keeps on the double neck from the previous song. Bonham on the drums is the highlight of this song and honestly there was nobody that had more to prove tonight than the junior Bonzo. Fairly straight forward rendition of the feel good song of the night.
Misty Mountain Hop (4:48) – Continuing the free spirited approach of the last song, Misty Mountain Hop begins with Plant recounting stories of Jason Bonham’s youth being sung to by his parents and how he turned out to be a pretty good singer himself. Lo and behold Bonham provides Plant with backing vocals for this song. I don’t believe this is something Bonzo ever did so it was very cool to hear some added power to this excellent song. Jones kept repeating the song’s main rhythm to keep the beat steady.
Kashmir (8:48) – A highlight of the night.The guitar face Page puts on in the first few seconds of this song says it all. The boys have passed the test, they know it and the fans in attendance know it. Time for the exclamation mark in the form of a flawless, and emotional main set highlight. Plant’s wail right before the line “baby, baby, I’ve been dying” will bring goosebumps to Zeppelin fans as he draws something deep within his soul to achieve such commanding vocal strength.The three originals fire on all cylinders but this is where Jason proves that there is a Bonham behind the kit, and only a Bonham should have the right to be there on this night.The band released this song on YouTube and you can see it below.
Whole Lotta Love (6:49) – After all four members take a bow at the conclusion of Kashmir they walk of stage as the main set finishes. When they come back on, there really isnt much doubt that we will hear the chords of Whole Lotta Love. It seems sped up as they rush through it to get to the main highlight which of course is the psychedelic middle part of the song where the grand wizard of the electric guitar takes his pose as green lasers shoot out from the stage. It is theramin time boys and girls where Page waves his hands in front of an antenna and distorts the electric field all round his space. Unfortunately Plant could not deliver the “loooove” scream that used to be considered his most powerfulvocal display.Nonetheless the audience helps by screaming it out themselves. The song ends with another bow from the band at the front of the stage before they rush off.
Rock and Roll (4:19) -This is it – possibly the last performance of the new Led Zeppelin and they could not have picked a better song. The party atmosphere at the O2 must have been bitter sweet as everyone must have known their gods will only be on stage for just a few more minutes. The band nails the song and Bonham again is the highlight with a beatiful and powerful finale drum solo. Page gives him the biggest smile I have ever seen on Pagey’s face and he kisses his guitar before he puts it down. The screen behind the band puts up the familiar Led Zeppelin logo and the band waves as they walk off. Last to leave the stage is Jason Bonham ….
The setlist was derived from 7 out of the 9 studio albums Led Zeppelin released. The tally looks like:
Led Zeppelin 1: 2 songs – Good Times, Bad Times and Dazed and Confused
Led Zeppelin 2: 2 songs – Whole Lotta Love and Ramble On
Led Zeppelin 3: 1 song – Since I’ve Been Lovin You
Led Zeppelin 4: 4 songs – Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Misty Mountain Hop and Rock and Roll
Houses of the Holy: 2 songs – No Quarter and The Song Remains The Same
Physical Graffiti: 3 songs – In My Time of Dying, Kashmir, Trampled Under Foot
Presence: 2 songs – For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine
In Through the Out Door: No representation
Coda: No representation
Bonus DVD: Three items appear. The first is the news reel that appeared at the beginning of the concert and is also included on How The West Was Won DVD so nothing new here. The second is Zeppelin Media Minute which is just a recap of a bunch of clips from England the night of the show. The thirdis the rehearsal of the band at Shepperton four days before the show. It was shot on a single camera at the soundboard and is just in Stereo. The concept sounds alot cooler than it is but this is truly viewing material strictly for the major Led Zeppelin fans. I can’t see casual viewers ever watching this dics more than once out of curiosity.
There were always two different Led Zeps – the studio band of the records and the live band. At the end of the day this DVD offers Zeppelin fans something new – a concert that puts the studio band in the spotlight. The songs are mostly the same length and interpretation as the albums and that is something never offered before on video. Zeppelin has released two other music DVD’s (The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won and both focus on the Zeppelin of the massive live jams that went on great tangents from how the songs were presented on the records). If someone had to only own one Led Zeppelin DVD I would still recommend the mind blowing good How The West Was Won – but then again why would anyone with any sense of musical taste own only 1 Led Zeppelin DVD? Despite a disappointing start in the first 2 songs the band eventually does ascend to the heights of rock and roll and takes the viewer to a higher state of musical consciousness.
Verdict: 5 out of 5. Led Zeppelin once again ascends to the stratosphere and re-claims their throne. This may or may not be their swan song, but their legacy will continue for a long time and the Deluxe Edition of Celebration Day proves why they are the world’s greatest rock and roll band for 2 hours for 16 glorious songs (all from 1969-1976 by the way).
Led Zeppelin in Toronto 1969
Although we reviewed the Deluxe Edition there are 5 available options as per below on the Canadian Amazon site:
Deluxe Blu-Ray Edition features 2 audio CD’s of the Concert, 1 Blu-ray of the concert and 1 DVD of the rehearsal before the concert:
Deluxe DVD Edition features 2 audio CD’s of the Concert, 1 DVD of the concert and 1 DVD of the rehearsal before the concert:
Blu-Ray Edition features 2 audio CD’s of the Concert and 1 Blu-ray of the concert:
DVD Edition features 2 audio CD’s of the Concert and 1 DVD of the concert:
3 LP Vinyl Edition features 3 180 gram LP’s (records!)