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The best live band ever?,
This review is from: Led Zeppelin [DVD](2003) (DVD)
Them Zeppelin boys: whatever you think about them, there's one thing that you can't deny. Their live shows are full-blown, mammoth and, yes, very self-indulgent. You either appreciate that sort of thing or you don't. If you do, then this double DVD pack is the most rare of treats.
The first DVD sees the band perform at the Royal Albert Hall when they were merely a very popular band, as opposed to being the global megastars they would later become. If you're expecting the band to play the songs exactly as they are on the albums then you're in for a bit of a shock - there's plenty of soloing and medleys to ensure that, more often than not, the songs are considerably longer than their studio counterparts. That your attention is kept throughout is down to the undeniable virtuoso of these four supremely talented individuals: witness, for instance, 'Dazed and Confused', always one of the highlights by virtue of Jimmy Page's masterful violin bow work. But as a whole the song produces a hypnotic atmosphere, and Page gives something for Robert Plant to bounce his shrieking vocals off effortlessly.
Plant and Page, and their charismatic interaction, are undeniably the centerpiece of the show, but that should take nothing away from the pumping grooves from John Paul Jones's Bass or the frantic drumming of John Bonham. However, the jury is divided on the worth of his drum solo 'Moby Dick'. Here, the segment where he ditches the sticks to bash both his drum kit and a set of bongos with his hands is undoubtedly thrilling, but 15 minutes of this stuff is a bit too much. 'White Summer', Page's guitar solo, is better (and slightly shorter), mostly thanks to the frequent tempo changes, occasional bursts of support from Bonham and the inclusion of the wonderful 'Black Mountain Side' amongst its mish-mash of tunes. But the best moments come when the band perform as a whole. The 20-minute version of 'How Many More Times' is the highlight of this DVD, as its inventive medleys succeed in whipping the audience into a frenzy, although 'Bring It On Home' is the perfect set closer and runs it close.
Disc two opens with 'Immigrant Song'. As good as the performance of it is, the footage is rather wonky and it's hard to tell if what we're hearing actually matches what we see on screen. In stark contrast, the footage of the Madison Square Garden concert is so clean and perfect you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're watching a movie. This show also signals the arrival of Led Zeppelin the stadium rockers, as evidenced by the massive venue and the cheesy, flashy outfits that they are decked out in. Still, the success has given the band a new-found exuberance, and their performance is highly confident, with a terrific rendition of the oft-underrated blues number 'Since I've Been Loving You' being the pick of the bunch.
The Earl's court footage boasts the subtler pleasures of the Led Zep acoustic set: 'Going To California', 'That's The Way' and 'Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp' are all here, and they're all brilliant, with 'That's The Way' being the most beautifully realized here. That's not to take anything away from the electric numbers though, especially the breathtaking majesty of 'In My Time of Dying'. At the time of the last concert featured here, at Knebworth in 1979, the band were at a creative nadir and, unbeknownst to them at the time, about to disband. But the performance here is hardly that of a band on its last legs. It's as vigorous and as exciting as ever. Such is the momentum generated that even average songs like 'In The Evening' are enjoyable, whilst the triumphant closing duo of 'Kashmir' and an experimental, but effective, 'Whole Lotta Love' are simply exhilarating. They may have been on their way out but they certainly ended with a bang.
The extras aren't really much to write home about. On the first disc you may suffer from déjà vu, seeing as each extra feature features one or both of 'Communication Breakdown' and 'Dazed and Confused'. But the 'Danmarks Radio' footage is worth a look, mostly because of the presence of the excellent 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You'. The second disc is cluttered with interviews that don't really add much to your appreciation of the band, although the rendition of 'Rock and Roll' featured here is slightly better than the one at Knebworth (not the TV coverage, the band's performance). Of the promos, 'Travelling Riverside Blues' features better images, and it's worth listening to if only to find out where Plant and Page nicked their inspiration for 'The Lemon Song' from.
At the end of the day, you'll be buying this DVD for the live shows, not the extras. And such are the uniform quality of the live shows, at whatever stage of their career, that this is an absolute must-buy for any self-respecting Led Zeppelin fan.