So it finally happened. The most anticipated rock reunion aside from the ghosts of John and George jamming with Paul and Ringo; Led Zeppelin reunited and played a full two-hour show Monday night at the O2 Arena in London.
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham, performed together in the headline slot at a tribute show for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died earlier this year and was instrumental in building the band’s career in the 1970s.
The London performance was the first full set the group had played since headlining Knebworth in 1979, although there have been brief jaunts such as Live Aid in 1985 (with Phil Collins and Tony Thompson on drums) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies in 1995. Although Page and Plant played together during the mid-90’s as “Page and Plant,” the duo mainly revisited many of the old Zeppelin classics within a revised orchestration, with strong Egyptian and Moroccan accents. Most noticeably absent from those sessions and tours, was John Paul Jones, who sarcastically announced during the 1995 Hall of Fame ceremony, “Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number.”
Which leads us to last night’s performance. With a scarcity of tickets (18,000), you’d expect a few inappropriate “favors” were performed to yield a golden ticket. An estimated nine million people applied for these tickets, but only eighteen grand got lucky including Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Noel and Liam Gallagher and Mick Jagger.. go figure.
There should have been a Led Zeppelin quiz at the door to allow the die-hards admittance, instead of the girlfriends in tow hoping just to hear “Stairway to Heaven.” Lucky for those girlfriends, they got “Stairway” and fifteen other songs, including “For Your Life," which previously had never been performed live. Wonder if Jagger’s twenty-something companion was pumped for that debut?
The long anticipated set-list was as follows:
‘Good Times Bad Times’
‘Black Dog’ –
‘In My Time Of Dying’
‘For Your Life’
‘Trampled Under Foot’
‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’
‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’
‘Dazed And Confused’
‘Stairway To Heaven’
‘The Song Remains The Same’
‘Misty Mountain Hop’
‘Whole Lotta Love’
‘Rock And Roll’
Sure you can turn on classic rock radio and when Free’s “Alright Now” or Boston’s “Foreplay-Longtime,” isn’t blaring, it’s a good bet the station is getting the Led out. But a reunion always causes more speculation and hope for another era with tours, new records, TV appearances, etc. But slow down people, one thing at a time and this evening was clearly about paying tribute and maybe a little muscle flexing.
Sure Jimmy Page left the dragon pants in the attic and is looking quite Thomas Jefferson these days, as he suddenly transformed from from black to silver quicker than Steve Martin at puberty. But before we place his coif on the front of a coin, we must remember he’s one of rock’s true geniuses alongside Miles Davis, Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan.
And Robert Plant arguably can’t hit those same high notes anymore, but come on, give a fifty-nine year old a chance. At least he hasn’t aged gaudily like fellow Brit, Rod Stewart by releasing stuffy "standards" albums; instead he had one one of 2007’s most acclaimed recordings, Raising Sand, with Allison Krauss.
And it’s not worth arguing that Jason Bonham doesn’t possess the same unrelenting thunder groove of his father; lets just say he’s well studied in his Zeppelin, as he sound-checked with the real thing at Knebworth –’79 at the age of thirteen. That alone makes up for Jason currently being Foreigner’s drummer (that’s Foreigner version 4.0 without founding lead singer Lou Graham) and starring in a VH1 reality show with Sebastian Bach (SuperGroup).
As for John Paul Jones, lets just say – good thing he’s not playing with Ben Harper full time.
And the rider was “mature” to say the least – it included an ironing board, tea and coffee. No underage girls or Jack Daniels? Who can forget that iconic picture of Page chugging a bottle of Jack before an Indianapolis gig in ’75 like it was Orange Tang.
So the set-list delivered on paper. The firecracker riff of “Whole Lotta Love,” the jittery clavinet funk of “Trampled Under Foot,” the slow blues anguish of “In My Time of Dying,” the heady psychedelia of “Dazed and Confused, ” the hillbilly romp of “Misty Mountain Hop,” and the supercharged blues of “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” are enough to make John Bonham throw back another shot of Vodka. And of course it wouldn’t be a Zeppelin show without perhaps their grandest musical achievement – “Kashmir” – which was played live at every Led Zeppelin concert from its debut in 1975 to their last concert in 1980.
Sure the biting riff of “Heartbreaker” wasn’t heard or was the ten minute opus "Achilles Last Stand,’ nor the “catch the wind, see us spin,” yelp of “What Is and What Should Never Be.” But how could a band possibly revisit an entire epic catalog in one night? This isn’t The Police. This version of Zeppelin could have dedicated a whole night to 1975’s double album – Physical Graffiti – which reminds us that “Ten Years Gone” really needs to be heard live again.
Led Zeppelin carefully chose the set-list, making room for almost every era of the band’s history. Led Zeppelin IV was represented the most with four songs, which is broken down as follows:
Led Zeppelin IV – 1971 (four songs) ‘Black Dog’, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, ‘Rock and Roll’
Physical Graffiti – 1975 (three songs) ‘In My Time of Dying’, ‘Trampled Under Foot’, ‘Kashmir’
Led Zeppelin I – 1969 (two songs) ‘Good Times Bad Times’, ‘Dazed and Confused’
Led Zeppelin II – 1969 (two songs) ‘Ramble On’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’
Houses of the Holy – 1973 (two songs) ‘No Quarter,’ ‘The Song Remains the Same’
Presence – 1976 (two songs) – ‘For Your Life,’ ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’
Led Zeppelin III- 1970 (one song) ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’
In Through the Out Door – 1979 – No songs played
Although we at Glide, weren’t one of the lucky 18,000 in attendance, we got a few verdicts from these fans courtesy of NME
It was fantastic," said Colleen McCaughley, who had travelled from Belfast with her husband Stephen to watch the show: "The whole thing was an incredible moment. I saw Jimmy Page in Vancouver in the ’70s and he looked fat. He looked better tonight, fantastic!"
"Everybody loved it, it was worth the money, no question," added Stephen.
Barry Sullivan, 21, from Merthr Tydvyll, said: "It was awesome. It couldn’t have been better. I would have paid double, triple, even. They looked great. They know music."
"It was breathtaking," explained Liz Perry, 47, from London. "It felt like an intimate gig. We were far back, but we felt part of it. Robert Plant’s voice sounded amazing. Worth the money, no question."
"’Kashmir was wonderful. Jimmy looks a bit old now, but Robert Plant looked great," said John Trull, a 54-year-old Londoner. "I saw them in Bath in 1970. They were better then than now, but this was still amazing."
"It was a good gig. The ultimate Zep gig. I saw them at Knebworth, and this was better. The voice is still there. And it wasn’t raining," said "Chaz", who had travelled with his friend "Dave".
With the performance sealed and delivered without any major flubs or kiss-offs, all we can say is – ‘if it’s meant to be," December 10, 2007, could mark the beginning of a new Led Zeppelin era. Ramble on…..