On December 10, 2007, Led Zeppelin took the stage at London’s O2 Arena to headline a tribute concert for dear friend and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. What followed was a two-hour-plus tour de force of the band’s signature blues-infused rock ’n’ roll that instantly became part of the legend of Led Zeppelin. Founding members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were joined by Jason Bonham, the son of their late drummer John Bonham, to perform 16 songs from their celebrated catalog including landmark tracks “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock And Roll,” “Kashmir,” and “Stairway To Heaven.”
The legendary show was captured on film and the result, Celebration Day
, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. The two-hour feature length film is presented in high definition video with excellent audio quality (5.1, 48 khz/20 bit hi-resolution audio surround sound). The aspect ratio is 16x9. Already garnering critical acclaim, the film is directed by Dick Carruthers, who worked with Led Zeppelin on their award-winning 2003 release DVD, and includes the entire 16-song concert.
A bonus DVD in the deluxe versions features the dress rehearsal at Shepperton Studios, filmed a few days before the O2 concert. The band play the entire set that was performed at the O2, and the DVD provides a unique insight into the concert buildup. The rehearsal is filmed by a single camera in SD and recorded in stereo.
The scramble for tickets for this December 2007 Ahmet Ertegun tribute show virtually caused the Internet to crash. Money on the table for a subsequent reunion tour ran into hundreds of millions.
Such facts are evidence, like it’s needed, of the intensity of interest in Led Zeppelin 30 years after they split. There had been desultory one-off reunions, but this O2 Arena show was the full monty. And now, for the best part of 20 million applicants who missed out on tickets for Greenwich, here is the official souvenir.
Available in a variety of varyingly priced packages, Celebration Day is an opportunity to witness the power and the glory of Led Zeppelin, quite possibly for the last time, and they certainly don’t disappoint. “There are certain songs that have to be played,” Robert Plant admits here, before a shrieking ride through one of the best back catalogues in rock.
There’s a scorched-earth take on Dazed and Confused, then the band harnesses its considerable energy on Ramble On, Black Dog and Rock and Roll. By the time they get to Whole Lotta Love you could swim home on the testosterone.
But there was always more to Led Zeppelin than amps that went up to 11. You think you’d groan, but Stairway to Heaven is curiously affecting (“Hey Ahmet,” grins Plant afterwards, “we did it”), while Kashmir has the relentless drive and authority of an invading army.
In My Time of Dying and Nobody’s Fault but Mine display Plant’s strengths as a singer, and the band’s empathy with the music which so inspired them. Truth be told, some of the Jimmy Page solos go on longer than The Archers, but to hear that potency harnessed and unleashed is undeniably impressive. Surprisingly, the star of the show is the drummer, young Jason Bonham. The sheer physicality of his playing is awesome and exhausting.
Following their split, Led Zeppelin have always been protective of their legacy. Celebration Day is a fitting addition to their history. Experienced in conjunction with Barney Hoskyns’ eye-opening new biography, Trampled Under Foot, this is a powerful reminder of just what made Zeppelin fly. Now, do excuse me… I think I can hear Valhalla calling…
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