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Led Zeppelin - Celebration Day CD (album) cover

CELEBRATION DAY

Led Zeppelin

 

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4.57 | 140 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "house lights down...no place to hide" - Robert

Robert's reference to the incredible pressure of staging this event, just imagine what they must have been feeling before walking on stage. No place to hide indeed.

I almost didn't bother with this. Frequently irritated by old rock stars churning out their hits at that awful reduced speed they sometimes employ when they can't "get it up" at album-speed anymore, I also didn't want to see a long favorite band pandering to hype and payday. Why would Zeppelin be different than some of the others? I should have known they'd pull it off. Golden Gods and all that stuff.

Rather than disappointment they were King Kong staggering through the final assault, determined to deliver this final definitive set before collapsing to history, determined not just to survive this gig but to blow people away one last time. Bodies in their 60s do not simply will the music of legend as the bodies in their 20s did. Despite some obvious examples of this here and there, they pulled off performances that dropped my jaw and put a lump in my throat by the end. I didn't think I wanted to see this show but it proved a very emotional thing to watch...not only a staggering nightcap for a fine band, but a farewell to youthful nights for many a rock fan.

Jimmy Page has always been Led Zeppelin's beating heart to me, and if he couldn't cut it this would be terrible. Both he and Robert had moments where their age hindered what they really wanted to do, but both had tricks to get past those moments in tact. Jimmy in particular had moments where he looked in agony that his fingers wouldn't deliver the leads in solos that he really wanted. He had his back-up plans that usually (though not always) left him unscathed. All of his problems occurred on solos, during the main riffs he was really on his game. Also, his guitar sound was just bizarre on certain tracks, occasionally sounding like an effect of ice going down a garbage disposal. What the hell was that about? I'll admit to cringing in spots. But all in all they were so much better than I expected them to be, and in certain cases the maturity of their current playing bested the swagger of their youthful version. Last, Jonesy was solid all around just like an Entwhistle, the quiet and competent backbone.

"I didn't want it to stop. I felt a certain closeness to Dad...like he was there with us and he was one with me." - Jason Bonham

And then there was Jason, sitting in for Dad. He was so nervous before the show that he couldn't speak. By the end he was swinging for the fences on every pitch, driving the band and pummeling the crowd with monster fills and energy that had the old man pumping his fist I'm sure. It was emotional, and Bonham reports collapsing in tears backstage after the show. I'm not surprised in the least. Feeling a connection with your Dad after he's gone would do that. And this was such a connection in front of thousands of people which would amplify every emotion.

The fifth man on stage and their secret weapon was the set list. They carefully selected these sixteen tracks and made but one error. Wisely avoiding the "In Through the Out Door" debacle they instead paid tribute to their proper "last stand" album, "Presence." Both of its tracks came off swimmingly as did a delightfully spooky "No Quarter" featuring Jonesy at the keys. My highlight of the evening was "The Song Remains the Same". Song is one of my favorites and they smoked this baby at the proper fast speed and it was hard hitting and just as vital as their mid 70s versions. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, every little moment nicely nuanced yet rocking as hell. "Good Times Bad Times" was a surprising choice for opener that made clear the night's set list would be thoughtful.

"By the time we got to Kashmir, I was really going for it." -Jason Bonham

Obviously! "Kashmir", a track where the studio version bores me at times, was simply incredible. Plant nailed the vocal and when he knew he had it he hung on and pushed himself. Bonham tried to take everything to another level and succeeded. They killed it and they knew it. They owned the audience. Which made their next move all the more confounding.

The evening's stumbles came on the climax of Stairway when both Jimmy and Robert proved anti-climactic, Pagey just couldn't nail this solo and Robert really doesn't connect with the song anymore. On the studio versions Stairway will always be the better anthem in my view, but live in 2007 Kashmir has grabbed the mantle of signature moment. But most regretful was the dreadful choice to come off the powerful Kashmir victory by regurgitating the juvenile theatrics of "Whole Lotta Love." It was embarrassing really and I think they felt it. At that moment of mature power coming off Kashmir, they had the chance to hit orbit by choosing "Ten Years Gone" or "Tea for One" or "The Rover" which would have been doable and incredible given how adrenalized they were-instead they upchucked a Whole Lotta Love complete with moans and groans....baby baby....this segment was barely tolerable back then, now it was just painful. But complaining about anything here given the totality of the evening's triumph is nitpicking. My old friends kicked ass. Too bad they didn't realize how good this could be in the 90s when they excluded Jones.

The stage presentation (DVD version) was tasteful and simple, keeping the emphasis on the music, although there were some really nice laser effects at one point. The short and sweet booklet was also perfect. Rather than some long liner notes there is one simple page of short thoughts from each band member-Robert's and Jason's were quite touching. There isn't much to say about a document like this. If you were on the fence you shouldn't be. If you're a fan you will almost assuredly love it.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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