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DVD/Video/Film Reviews

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day
By Published: December 15, 2012
Led Zeppelin

Celebration Day

Three P Films Limited


Many biographies and history books reveal that in the early autumn of 1968, in a stuffy London rehearsal room, guitarist Jimmy Page gathered together a group of newly found musical colleagues— singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham—to whom he called out a sequence of chords. Seconds later the studio room reverberated to the sounds of "Train Kept a Rolling," which laid the foundation of what would become one of the most influential forces in the history of rock music. Those were the very first moments when a group called Led Zeppelin was airborne, destined for a memorable 12- year flight. During that period, in the studio the band stretched its imagination as far as possible, creating several standout albums whose hallmark was superb musicianship, musical eclecticism and outstanding production.

Much of the reputation the band attained during its reign was also achieved through its ever-evolving live shows. As many bootlegs demonstrate, Zeppelin live was an example of profound musical telepathy. Taken into consideration its undoubted ability to improvise and expand on any given musical structure, the live performances of Zeppelin's album tracks often took on new dimensions. The band developed an onstage intensity that few peers could match. All of that stopped and Led Zeppelin was grounded with the sudden passing of Bonham in 1980. After the band's breakup, there were several live reunions and attempts for its band members to play or to make music together which were less satisfactory by its standards, and were never full concerts- -until the concert that took place at London's O2 Arena in 2007.

Led Zeppelin was the most successful recording act in Atlantic Records' history. The reason behind the 2007 reunion documented on Celebration Day was to pay tribute to label president and close friend Ahmet Ertegun, who'd passed away in December, the previous year. The concert also holds a world record in "Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert," when 20 million people worldwide applied for 18,000 tickets. Five years after that triumphant concert, this video/audio document is finally seeing the light of day.

As with many other Zeppelin concerts, the purpose is not to see whether it could faithfully reproduce its studio creations but, rather, how far it could stray, stretch and build from those points. Subsequent interviews revealed that the band rehearsed a lot for this occasion, which placed Bonham's son Jason in the drum chair. Directed by Dick Carruthers, who has also worked with the Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones

, Leonard Cohen, The Who and others acts, the film portrays the members of Led Zeppelin having regained their youthful vigor for rock and roll. Recorded with 16 cameras and edited at breakneck speed, Carruthers expertly captured these moments of rock and roll music at its most dynamic, its most spectacular and its most magical.

The DVD opens with a series of news bulletins from the '70s, when the band was breaking many ticket sales records. During the course of two hours, the group plays 16 tracks that canvas its vast repertoire. The show starts with the rollicking opener "Good Times, Bad Times," which was last part of the group's set in 1969, and the never fully performed "Ramble On." Further, the group thundering through "Black Dog" "In My Time of Dying" "Trampled Underfoot" and "Nobody's Fault but Mine" showed that these tracks were seriously prepared. "For Your Life" has had its first live premiere here. "Stairway to Heaven" is the perfect example of light and shade, while the tempestuous "Kashmir," storms its way and birngs another climax. "Whole Lotta Love" is a rip-roaring treat, while "Rock and Roll" a rocking blast.

Obviously, with the right ingredients a chemical reaction happens and the multiple cameras capture every single drop of the band's dynamics. There is an unmistakable telepathy present here that enables this band to strut, sprint, gallop, and shift gears seamlessly like a fine-tuned and dangerous machine. Part of the magic of Led Zeppelin is that its members actually listen to each other while they play. Jason Bonham is as thunderous and propulsive as his dad was on the skins. While he has been a part of every reunion since Atlantic 1988, Bonham Jr. actually once sat in with the band during a sound check for the Knebworth concerts in 1979. Seeing John Paul Jones at work is a reminder how his elegant and powerful playing is a fantastic foil for the others to shine, while Page is all over the stage, playing ferociously, just like in the old days when he turned guitar playing into an athletic discipline. Plant is an unyielding force from start to finish, and though his voice has changed significantly over the years, he doesn't disappoint and always delivers. The video extras include footage from the rehearsal at Shepperton studios and news bulletins about the 2007 reunion concert.

Three decades after its demise, the music of Led Zeppelin is still as popular as it was when the band reigned supreme as the world's greatest musical attraction. Celebration Day is a reminder why Led Zeppelin's music has held a place in peoples' affections for so long. It's a front-seat opportunity to witness the full power and glory of Led Zeppelin in what may be its final live performance.

Tracks: Good Times Bad Times; Ramble On; Black Dog; In My Time of Dying; For Your Life; Trampled Under Foot; Nobody's Fault but Mine; No Quarter; Since I've Been Loving You; Dazed and Confused; Stairway to Heaven; The Song Remains the Same; Misty Mountain Hop; Kashmir; Whole Lotta Love; Rock and Roll.

Personnel: Jimmy Page: guitars; Robert Plant: vocals, harmonica, tambourine; John Paul Jones: bass guitar, keyboards; Jason Bonham: drums.

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