Celebrating Led Zeppelin

Paul John Caña
Experience the 'face-melting' genius of true rock royalty

WHOLE LOTTA LOVE FOR LED ZEP. The legendary rock band at their reunion concert in 2007. Photo by Ross Halfin

MANILA, Philippines – I was a newborn when Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980.

My dad’s musical taste never went far beyond standards from Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck and Matt Monro, and I didn’t have a cool uncle or cousin who introduced me to rock essentials.

I was well into high school and college when I first heard of the quartet of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. 

Who they are

Led Zeppelin practically defined the hard rock sound of the 1970s.

Their legacy is such that they regularly land in the top of various lists of the greatest rock and roll bands in the history of recorded music.

They’ve sold hundreds of millions of albums throughout their career and their potent blend of hard rock, blues and folk is often cited as a major influence by numerous bands and artists, from The Ramones and Smashing Pumpkins to Madonna and Lady Gaga.

Any attempt then to describe exactly how influential Led Zeppelin are to modern rock music is about as difficult as measuring Leonardo Da Vinci’s impact on painting or Michael Jordan on basketball.

Except, of course, for hardcore classic rock fans, most young people these days probably only have a slight familiarity with Led Zeppelin.

Many of us may have heard the songs and even profess to be a fan on our social networking profiles, but few can claim to have witnessed the rock group perform live and in the flesh.

I myself have heard of the occasional Led Zep record but never really got around to delving deeper into their oeuvre.

‘Celebration Day’

It was with some trepidation that I walked into myCinema at Greenbelt 3 on November 19 for the invitational screening of “Celebration Day,” the concert film of the legendary band’s last reunion concert at London’s O2 Arena on December 10, 2007.

There were reports that 20 million people around the world attempted to buy tickets for the one-night-only show, but only 18,000 got to physically be there to see Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham’s son Jason play.

I was ecstatic at the opportunity to finally be given the chance to see a rare performance by the band, but a little worried that I wasn’t familiar enough with their repertoire to thoroughly enjoy the show. 

Led Zeppelin were the main act in a tribute show for Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, which the band called home for most of their career. Like any concert film, audio quality is key, and when I opened the doors to the theater, I felt like I was entering an actual arena or stadium.

The floor throbbed with a mix of the nonstop roar from the O2 audience and Page’s guitar work from “Good Times, Bad Times,” the opening song. The screen was alive and even if you know absolutely nothing about the band, it would be near-impossible not to get caught up in the music. 

ROCK N' ROLL TO HEAVEN. This concert film is a MUST-have for every music aficionado. Photo by Ross Halfin

The Led Zep repertoire

The band played 16 songs in about two hours. They did “Ramble On,” “Black Dog” and “In My Time Of Dying” in succession, each song better than the last.

Plant’s high-pitched wails and Page’s guitars bounced off the speakers and right into my skin, sending shivers of electricity down my body. Jones shifted from the bass to the keyboards on “No Quarter,” and Bonham displayed skills that would no doubt have made his father proud. 

It was crazy to think that these guys, with the exception of Bonham, are all in their 60s. They rocked as hard and as loudly as anyone in their 20s or 30s.

On “Stairway To Heaven,” the band slowed down somewhat but never let the energy level go down. It’s difficult to find a definitive highlight in a show that was all about emotional crests, but when they started on that unmistakable intro for “Kashmir,” I was about ready to jump up and scream inside the theater.

The performance had such a bone-jarring, soul-crushing, epic feel to it that I wanted to kick myself for not listening to this band more. This is a travesty that is already being corrected (I’m listening to Led Zeppelin YouTube clips as I write this). 

‘Face melting’

As it turned out, I was worried for nothing.

“Celebration Day,” is, in a word, “face-melting,” as Jack Black in the film School of Rock would say. The band exited the stage and came back for “Whole Lotta Love” and again for the grand finale, “Rock And Roll.”

It took 4 years from the time the concert was held to the release of the film and it was clear they wanted to give their fans a snapshot of the band at their absolute best. If you’re a longtime fan, there’s no question that the DVD is a must-own.

And if, like me, you’re only now discovering the genius of Led Zeppelin, the film is an excellent opportunity to experience a true rock concert the likes of which will probably never happen again in our lifetime. 

At least, until they decide to do another reunion gig. – Rappler.com 

“Led Zeppelin Celebration Day” is distributed by Warner Music Philippines and will be available on retail and iTunes.

Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine and is a live music geek. Email him at pjcana@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @pauljohncana

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