Friday, October 19, 2012

A Celebration of Led Zeppelin

'Celebration Day' - The film of Led Zeppelin's show at London's O2 Arena in 2007, is a real treat and worth catching on the big screen if you get the chance. It captures the band at their majestic best, turning in a performance that defies the fact they hadn't played a full live show for almost 30 years.

It was Friday night and there was plenty of clapping and whooping in our movie theatre, which for once was quite appropriate. The film takes you into the crowd and onto the stage, giving a sense of what it was like for both audience and band on the night. And it really does capture the spirit of classic Led Zeppelin. At one point, Robert Plant says, "It still feels pretty good up here" and there are several moments where you see them look at each other, as if to say "we've still got it". I was at the Knebworth show back in the day and I think the 02 performance stands shoulder to shoulder with that 1979 vintage.
We're gonna groove - backstage before the show
I was also at Earl’s Court in 1975 and while that was really the band at their peak, for anyone coming to 'Celebration Day' without knowing more than a couple of the classic albums, this film gives you a good representation of what Led Zeppelin were about. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are both on fine form here and Robert Plant manoeuvres his way round the difficult registers without losing the spirit of the original songs. There’s so much to enjoy. The material is nicely varied and really blows away any notion that they were just ‘Hey hey mama and squeeze my lemon’ big haired posers. The best musical moments are the ones where they show their roots but also their sophistication: In My Time of Dying, No Quarter, Kashmir. And if you have ever liked Stairway to Heaven, you will love this version.

Jason Bonham did a great job of driving the band, especially on things like Kashmir. As his father did at the Knebworth shows, Jason allows the band to ride on top of his monumental groove. Similarly, In My Time of Dying stays true to the spirit of the original recording. Jason really channels the spirit of Bonzo at times. It’s true what Jimmy Page says; they couldn’t have done this with any other drummer. At no time, do you feel like he’s throwing them off – his appreciation of the music is total. What a proud moment for him.
Another great thing about the film is how it shows the many warm exchanges between all of them, when they know they’ve nailed a tune. Like on Black Dog, you can sense their elation at having not just got through it, but really rocked it. JPJ talked about the over-riding feeling being one of relief, that they got to the end of the show without any train-wrecks, and as long-time fans we share in that relief. But what makes this show special is they reminded themselves, and us, in the best way possible that they were an incredible and quite unique band. You don’t see musicians playing with this level of respect for their music and their legacy – not rock bands anyway.
 I'm glad they didn't take it out on the road though. This was a one-off.

I was curious to see how the film would look on my phone, so towards the end I took this clip of 'Kashmir'. It came out pretty well. The original file size was 290mb! For less than 3 mins.
But there's a much better clip that someone else has posted from the screening at Hammersmith Apollo:

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