Led Zeppelin, live at the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert
December 10, 2007
The O2 Arena
The great English mystics were back, if only for one glorious and rapturous night, to reclaim their place at the pinnacle of the rock world, back to prove they still had some of that hard rocking voodoo-blues magic and just a little bit more of that stomping sonic mojo that made them LED ZEPPELIN, WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK & ROLL BAND.
Celebration Day, the concert film of their 2007 one-off reunion, is celluloid proof positive that Led Zeppelin delivered on every promise of their fabled legend, made good on all the lingering doubts that marred their 80s and 90s disastrous half-reunions, and brought the band back to total world domination.
Giants walking the earth, indeed.
What Led Zeppelin pulled off that December night was an astonishing return to form, a level of spirited performance and musical communication all bands aspire to but rarely achieve. This beautifully filmed portrait gets us onstage and makes us a witness to the band’s instinctive musical shorthand. It’s so perversely intimate and detailed you feel you’re sneaking into some secret meeting of the gods. You see that piece of paper over there? That’s the fucking Dead Sea Scrolls of Rock—look once, then avert your eyes and pretend you were never born.
Yeah, it’s that fucking crazy how inside the music the viewer gets.
Except for the irreplaceable John Bonham—whose drum throne has been filled by the only person possible, his son, Jason—this was Led Zeppelin as they were meant to be, a band that has always been about the unrivaled chemistry between its members and the unspoken musical conversations.
So sit back and prepare yourself for a front row center experience at the most demanded concert ticket in history, because you are here to celebrate the mighty Led Zeppelin, to become part of the community of brotherly love through music, songs.
“Good Times Bad Times”
The stunning opener, killing it in all directions and slaying all naysayers, much like it did as the opening track of Led Zeppelin I. This is how Led Zeppelin announced itself to the world in ‘69 and they’ve decided it a fitting reintroduction of the band for tonight’s festivities. If this is the way the night’s gonna roll, then strap yourself in cause we’re in for one helluva ride. Jimmy Page in a long black trench coat and dark sunglasses gliding across the stage, Robert Plant in lean and mean master of ceremonies mode, John Paul Jones leaning in and ready for anything that’s thrown his way, and Jason Bonham full of hard-pumping rage and taking full liberties with his father’s famous fills, which he has obviously studied in obsessively fine detail.
All four members huddling together at song’s end, smiles all around, realizing they are back.
Rough and ready exploding blues rock. Tight but loose, the band is pulling off the quiet-loud-quiet dynamic like they invented it. The crowd fills in the verses in total harmonic unison and it’s a moment of pure beauty.
The end of history riff, one of the greatest ever. These nice English boys still got it. Did you ever doubt them? Bonham is loose and free on the verses, bringing a lovely shuffling hop to his fills. Page lays into one of his most blistering solos and the band is smoking the Thames.
“In My Time of Dying / Honey Bee”
The colossus. The epic rampage through the American blues and gospel landscape. The how and why Zeppelin got (and gets to keep) its menacing reputation as the baddest thing in the land. Does it get any better than Page shredding on slide? Not in this life. This is searing hard rock at exactly the right tempo, and let’s give proper drum props to Bonham here because there are no less than five separate (and extremely difficult) drum patterns propelling this song in all its metallic-hue glory. Bravo lad, you are simply killing it.
“For Your Life”
A super deep track from the oft-overlooked but mature late-period classic 1976 album Presence. Never before performed live—it’s a rare treat and I’m a kid in a Bavarian beer garden overflowing with Paulaner Dunkel on a crisp Rocktober evening. Contains some of Bonzo’s slinkiest grooves this side of the Mississippi, and Jason does dad proud. And how about that post-verse semi-instrumental descending thingy that almost breaks the song in half?
Can you guys just play that again, since like, it’s only been performed once in all of recorded time?
“Trampled Under Foot”
Hard, heavy and funkier than a Vieux Carré whorehouse on a sweltering Saturday night in late August.
“Nobody’s Fault but Mine”
The gloriously twisted delta blues has got Page flying high and burning the white hot electric current, Plant on a ferocious sounding harp, Jones and Bonham locked into a serious groove—the band is wearing and tearing from end to end, firmly in the pocket and not letting up one bit.
Just plain scary.
Jones, the unsung musical genius of Led Zeppelin—isn’t every member of this band a certified genius?—rides the watery electric piano straight through the roof of the O2 into the glimmering London sky and there’s sublime avant-jazz solo passages that have Jones, Page and Bonham sinking into some mesmerizing instrumental interplay.
A cerulean blue brilliance.
“Since I’ve Been Loving You”
Page, the aged professor, conducting a master class in lead electric guitar.
“Dazed and Confused”
“There are certain songs that have to be there, and this is one.”
— Robert Plant
That infamous bass line, those extended epic improvs, the violin bow sonic explosions, the beaming laser lights, the end of the world as we know it coda jam that’s as fast and furious as it’s ever been.
Heavier than everything that has come before or since.
“Stairway to Heaven”
Did you think they weren’t gonna play this? It’s fucking “Stairway” for god sakes! Still a chart topper, still worthy of being heard, still one of the great rock songs.
There’s a reason it’s so damn famous.
“The Song Remains the Same”
It certainly does, and that’s great news in these times of unending bummers. The song has lost none of its 1973 pomp and circumstantial glory.
A highlight among highlights.
“Misty Mountain Hop”
A rolling thunder cloud of the wandering spirits of the 70s. Propulsive, tight and flawless.
Bonham on backing vocals? You bet.
“This is the fifty-first country.”
— Robert Plant
Page and Plant’s guided tour through the ancient psychospheres and vast wastelands of the great deserts of the East. The majestic mindblower. Could be Zeppelin’s greatest song.
“Whole Lotta Love”
The proto-metal firestarter. Still shimmers and shakes. Page breaks out the theremin for a bit of that old psychedelic magic!
Hard rock the way it was meant to be played.
“Rock and Roll”
It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It’s been a long time since I did the Stroll.
Ooh, let me get it back, let me get it back,
Let me get it back, baby, where I come from.
It’s been a long time, been a long time,
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time. Yes it has.
And so here, on the final encore, the boys in the band are all smiles and revelling in pure delight as Jason Bonham commandingly nails “Rock and Roll’s” famous drum solo coda. Page, Plant and Jones are not surprised, but proud, very proud indeed. The whole band has spent the evening in close communal wonder—nodding in harmony, winking in agreement—knowing they’ve pulled off the big upset and topped only themselves.
They came, they saw, they conquered.
And yes, they kicked serious ass.
And so, the Led Zeppelin legacy has one final triumphal diamond in its crown, a fitting zenith to one of the great rock myths of our age.