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Celebration Day


Reviewed by : Martin Popoff
Rating : 9.0

Celebration Day is, of course, the name given to the multi-format issue of LED ZEPPELIN’s December 10, 2007 reunion concert at London’s O2 Arena, mounted in tribute to the life of Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic Records honcho and steadfast believer in Zep, passed on December 14, 2006.

Amusingly, it’s out five years later, in Zeppelin time, as approximately quipped at the press concert. But for timeless and magic music moments like this, what’s a few years between golden gods?

So many thoughts race through my head in a crazy jumble of emotions in motion so I’m gonna break review stride here and talk within the context of a track by track, beginning with opener ‘Good Times Bad Times’. And by the way, it’s just too much for my head to blab about pictures at the the same time, so this is a CD review, got it?

OK, instantly, one notices the genius of this set’s production, which is, fortunately, heavy on drums, given that Jason Bonham—every bit the drummer that dad was and more—really carries the show, providing a sturdy as oak bed for the oldsters, even when he’s being elliptical. Cymbals and hi-hats sizzle; he’s ubiquitous. Second up in the mix is a cutting and kerranging Pagey. Bass is of the frequency with little articulation. Robert is exactly as loud as appropriate, which is quite. Now, great first choice, being first track of first album, plus a rambunctious and succinct rocker, complicated enough to loosen up with, and not exactly obscure but not Top Ten.

‘Ramble On’ is next and it’s another next tenner, plus psychedelic, with light and shade. Again, it’s Bonham who is a joy to behold, but the band in total is on fire and Robert is singing clearly and accurately, not with that eccentricity from Walking Into Clarksdale. He does a bit of that weird Paul Rodgers alterno-phrasing stuff, but not too bad.

‘Black Dog’ is metallic, with some nice staccato styling from Page, but alas, the vocal is too bare, so we are squirming for Robert, who does some ducking but not to much dumb stuff. Not a favourite here.

‘In My Time Of Dying’... possibly fave Zep song ever on fave album of all time by anybody. Great, brave choice given its epic length, and again, the blobulousness and the heat, both usually mutually exclusive... make this a behemoth of a metal steamroller. Man, the production of this whole thing... I just love it. It’s a little Death Magnetic in fact, but like a fixed version, i.e. the red-lined distortion removed.

Next up is what might possibly be the set list’s greatest love letter to the deep Zeppelin fan, a trio of lesser expecteds, in ‘For Your Life’, ‘Trampled Under Foot’ and ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’. Sending two of three of them past awesome choice into performance ecstasy, ‘Trampled’ features the show’s greatest push-pull rhythmic tour de force, and ‘Nobody’s Fault’ has the band playing with pregnant pauses, an example of why and when Zep was lauded for magic shows—among many duds: they were really assholes when it came to caring about being in good health in front of a paying audience. And this would be when they’d take a tricky bit and flaunt their comfort with it by making it trickier. This indeed is less surprising when the band was working regularly in the old days, but it’s pretty cool that they had worked this out with Jason for a one-off (one suspects it was Jason, and perhaps John Paul, who really pushed raising the game, although, then again, it sounds like Jason didn’t want to push anything with these delicate egos).

‘No Quarter’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ would normally be snoozers, the second barely a written song, but again, Jason makes it music worth listening to, just for the good playing.

Couldn’t give a flying frig about ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Hot dog break. In fact, now I’m in a bad mood. I still want to be reimbursed for those hours spent trying in vain to get through the Song Remains The Same album.

Speaking of... sprightly nightly choice in ‘The Song Remains The Same’, half-loved half-length prog epic from the half-loved Houses Of The Holy album. But you know, here’s the spot to complain that there’s nothing from In Through The Out Door, and the fact that the set list is only a little bit adventurous. You’d think for all of Robert’s vaunted restlessness and constant name-dropping of bands he likes, the blood-changing, he’d sorta go all snobby and give us the deep fan set. Nuh-uh.

Still, very cool getting ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, brisk, keys perfectly mixed, again, bloody Jason... his fills, just like dad, are just perfect short grace note-type things, groove for miles—dude’s the best part of Led Zeppelin in ’07.

‘Kashmir’... man, don’t know why, but I really didn’t wanna hear this, and I really, really don’t wanna hear ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The latter is just too burned into my brain, and ‘Kashmir’, great as it is, you just know you are in for a long trip.

And so we get to the end of this seemingly effortlessly skilled set, ‘Rock And Roll’ closing the show in reclined stadium rock fashion, Page using the freedom with respect to the guitar parts to wander, slash and burn. And bloody ‘ell, Robert puts a punctuation point on it that he can belt out these songs boldly, going for it, dispelling the notion that he, as aging lead singer, has to necessarily be the weak link. There are no weak links. I’m too lazy to go get and then disseminate for you the info on what fixes were made, but I almost don’t want to know, ‘cos it all sounds plushly and flushly live to me, which is also how I want to perceive it, remember it.

In closing, special, ain’t it? That it’s a one-off concert, that there was no tour. Think about it. They went through all this remembering and work and nervousness for one show. Granted, it’s also a CD and DVD, but it gets you thinking about the nature of time and living for the moment and all that. Personally, I’m much less bummed that they didn’t tour, than I am that they can’t get it together to do a studio album, or at least another Page Plant album, because Walking Into Clarksdale is a friggin’ lost classic.