There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold...
Before I sat down to write about the new Led Zep concert film, Celebration Day, I watched the old Led Zep concert film, The Song Remains the Same”. Back in that now muchmaligned decade known derisively as the 70’s, the creators of Zoso, who were then ascending the stairway to megarock stardom, made a movie. Not a concert film exactly but a concert film interspersed with socalled “fantasy” bits, all of whichexcepting the utterly ridiculous mafia scene, complete with werewolf, at the film’s opening-unfold while the band plays tunes from a three night stand at Madison Square Garden in 1973. While Page climbs mountains seeking knowledge in his fantasy sequence and Bonzo races dragsters and plays snooker, Plant’s fantasy, where he’s a knight without the shining armor (probably not in the budget), comes complete with swordplay and damsels in distress, all while “Rain Song” and the film’s title tune play at full volume. Time it seems has even softened opinions of this amusingly amateurish oddity. Now regarded more as a charming curio than the selfindulgent, halfbaked nonsense which most critics and many fans pronounced it to be at the time of its release, it’s no accident that This Is Spinal Tap took many of its now famous comedic cues straight from The Song Remains the Same. The opening of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is clearly echoed in the scene of Nigel playing his solos. Or the flavor of Peter Grant’s tirade in the dressing room shows up in the characters of both Ian and Nigel.
Yet the old band reunites phenomena is changing the rules of record listening and in the case of Celebration Day, a concert film boxed with a two CD live record, I held my breath as the opening notes of “Good Times Bad Times” rang out. By the third tune, the everunfading “Black Dog,” I was completely in love. Is it that I was so glad to see and hear Led Zeppelin back together, with Jason Bonham who from the forehead down looks more like his father every year, that I am willing to suspend my critical judgment? Are we so damned starved by all these years of No Zep, that some Zep, any Zep, is better than no Zep at all?
I’d like to think my ears, not to mention my brain, still work and the decently though not wonderfully recorded Celebration Day, is genuinely great, both film and records. In my opinion this is first class, top shelf, makeyouwanttocry Led Zeppelin. The proof lies in the fact that you never even notice the subtle changes that make it possible for this band of almost 70somethings to sing and play this well. Everything is slighter slower and pitched down a step or two to allow Plant to sing it. The screeching high notes of yesteryear are gone. Having a young drummer also helps, as Jason Bonham drives the proceedings with more than an echo of his father’s legendary thump. Even with Jason’s best efforts, it’s still easy to see why Bonzo’s death left the band with such a void they were unable to carry on. He was always Zep’s notsosecret weapon.
The varied set is a triumph throughout in tunes like “Rock and Roll,” “Kashmir” and a surprisingly sharp, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” where just for a moment the years melt away and the nasty boys of 1973 return with all their youthful ambition and power intact. They are on top and in charge from the first notes. And in the film everyone seems to be having a good time to boot. At various high points during the show, a tribute concert for Ahmet Ertegun, Page and Plant exchange sly smiles that say, `Yeah we still got it!” And aging or not, they still do.