Friday, October 26, 2012

Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day - by Keltie Harding

Today was Celebration day for me. I saw a screening of the new Led Zeppelin concert film "Celebration Day" this evening. This amazing concert movie was filmed at the O2 Arena in London, England. The show was a tribute to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun who passed on in 2006. The date of the O2 show was December 10, 2007, almost a year to the day of Ertegun's passing.


The show marked a triumphant return for Led Zeppelin. This was the first time the band actually rehearsed for a full show since 1980. (The '85 Live Aid show and '88 Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary were both plagued by little to no rehearsal and a bit of a lackluster performance.) The band was in great shape and once again, Jason Bonham (son of original Zep drummer John Bonham) sat proudly on the drum throne and played as if he'd been with the band all his life. (Well, by default, he was in a way!) Jimmy played beautifully, as did John Paul Jones. Robert Plant was in TERRIFIC vocal form. He certainly gave his all and could still hit a few high notes when it needed it.

Of course with the band being much older now, some of the songs had their key's changed slightly, to better compensate Plant's older voice. "Good Times, Bad Times", Stairway To Heaven" & "The Song Remains The Same" are all now in slightly different keys, but that's OK. Songs like "Kashmir", "Trampled Underfoot" and"Rock & Roll" all were in their original key (as heard on the records) and Plant nailed every one of them. The entire band was spot on. There were a few little fluff ups along the way, but that's to be expected. Especially when a band that really hasn't played together in 20-some odd years and were given 6 weeks to rehearse. Its all part of what makes this show so special. That its real. There were a few minor overdubs and fixes in the studio, but not very many as the bulk of the show was high quality.

One thing that struck me was despite the enormous stage, the band stuck really close together. You can see the band interaction, the smiles, the grins, the laughing. They were very connected during that show. And they were enjoying ever second of it. According to Page, that connection was there from the first rehearsal onwards.

I was already familiar with the O2 reunion show, having obtained audience recordings via the web just days after the event. At the time those circulating documents were the best and only way to relive the show. The circulating video of the show was filmed from the audience so as amazing these sources were (especially for fans who were unable to attend the show), fans hoped one day for a legitimate and proper issue. In "Uncut" Magazine in 2008, Page said "It was recorded, but we didn't go in with the express purpose of making a DVD to come out at Christmas, or whatever. We haven't seen the images or investigated the multitracks. It's feasible that it might come out at some distant point, but it'll be a massive job to embark on" Well 5 years on, the wait HAS been worth it. Celebration Day indeed.

Directed by Dick Carruthers, Celebration Day is a beautiful document of a triumphant show. Exquisitely shot & well done, but this has the earmarks of Carruthers' style, namely the super 8 and cellphone camera style footage interspersed with the hi-def footage.

The Audio portion of the show was mixed in 5.1 surround and was produced by Jimmy Page and mixed by Alan Moulder (who worked with Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode and Them Crooked Vultures, feaurting Zep bassist John Paul Jones.) The audio was quite well done but not without its flaws. I found a little too much reverb was used to re-create the live feel. At times, Jimmy's guitar was a bit buried and murky in the mix. This also could be due to the effects and pedals Page would use in that particular section of the song. But overall, it was very enjoyable.

Highlights for me was the track "For Your Life" (originally from "Presence") which made its live debut on this gig, "Dazed and Confused", "Kashmir" & "Rock and Roll". Of course there isn't a bad song in the whole show. "Ramble On" also made its live debut as well.

Unfortunately the 30 minute renditions of "Dazed" and 20 minute "No Quarter" are all in the past. The O2 show stayed true to the studio renditions, but some songs were extended slightly as a nod to the shows of the 1970's. Pagey did bring out the bow during "Dazed". How could he not. The bow is an integral part of the live renditions.

I was hoping that the live recording of "Celebration Day" from "The Song Remains The Same" would be played over the end credit roll. Unfortunate as it was, I think it would have been a nice finishing touch.

The show will be officially released in various configurations (CD, Vinyl, DVD,Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray Audio, digital download) beginning on November 19, 2012. I'm sure it'll be a top seller and under many trees this upcoming holiday season.

So was it worth 5 years to see this come to light? ABSOLUTELY. I would go back and see it again tomorrow if I could. I now need to wait for the Blu-ray.

Is there a Zep reunion on the horizon? Well, Page, Jones and Bonham are all up for it, but Plant seems to be content doing his own thing. In an interview he gave to The Times in January 2010, Page recalled: "We played really, really well. But we played with a totally different urgency, if you like, from how we played in the rehearsals — although the rehearsals were pretty damn good, too. I suppose in retrospect the fact there was only one gig then it’s great that everyone afterwards would say that it was an historic and inspiring gig for people to hear. It is a shame that there weren’t any more that followed on and now we got to two years later and everyone’s doing their own thing and that’s how that is at this point of time or certainly into next year. So that’s it" If this is in fact the last ever show Led Zeppelin gave, is sure was a hell of a show to go out on!

To quote from the title song of this release "we're gonna sing and dance in celebration, for we're in the promised land". Thank you Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and Jason. Bonzo, you would have been proud of your mates and your son. Thank you also for being a part of this event. Rock and roll dreams really do come true.

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