Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Delivering Presence - Led Zeppelin Celebration Day
Celebration Day - Led Zeppelin at the O2
I wore my bell bottoms, or flares as we called them there and then, afghan coat, Jimmy Page t-shirt (licensed), and a smidge of patchouli - about 1/100 of a dose, as I didn't want to cause the whole cinema to riot - and called myself properly dressed to go to a Led Zeppelin concert.
This was the one-off showing of the film of Led Zeppelin's December 2007 Ahmet Ertegun charity concert at the O2 arena in London. Yes, we waited five years for Zeppelin to show it on big-screen video, even though the service, whose name I can't remember but was something like Fat Home Vents, reminded us about 13,000 times before the movie started that they were perfectly capable of showing exciting live shows live, as it happens etc. But as John Paul Jones remarked, five years is quite a short time for Zeppelin to get anything together, so I suppose we're lucky.
No one else had dressed up for the event, sadly, and the cinema was evidently under some ordinance that the audience must be allowed to hear a pin drop during the loudest musical passages for some unknown reasons probably to do with fire or safety or food anti-defamation laws or zombie awareness. The audience protested loudly several times and eventually, rather grudgingly, the sound was improved slightly. By the end, peak sound levels were hitting 89 dB, or about one hundredth as loud as Led Zeppelin actually were live. That just about covered the sound of popcorn, shoes creaking etc. and so I guess it had to do.
The show itself is surprisingly exciting. They are all old, now, of course, and there's no disguising that. Even Jason Bonham, the son of the original drummer John, is getting up there in his Gen-Xy way. But there's no denying the fluidity and mastery of their material that characterized them back then, and hasn't changed a bit. Mind you, since modern bands are unbelievably wimpy and amateur in comparison with any kind of actual rock music, Zeppelin now appear to be far harder and far more technically accomplished than they even seemed in their heyday, which is saying a lot. Back in the day, people spoke of power & control, light & shade, and in today's terms I think they actually display complete subjugation and #000000 & #FFFFFF.
And jazzy. It's perfectly possible that my completely untrained rock mind thinks of "any jam including one or more unusual chords" as "Jazz" - but I don't think so. I think the classic rock bands instinctively move into jazz when jamming. (I hear it in Black Sabbath, for instance, though Deep Purple tend to jam in classical mode instead.) You don't hear Jack White or Skrillex or Deadmau5 or Ke$ha or Maroon 5 suddenly dropping into an extended proggy bit with jazz overtones, but Zeppelin do.
Plantations - the Robert Plant rambles between songs - haven't changed much either. Robert introduces Trampled Underfoot as a Robert Johnson-influenced song, but puts a different date on Robert Johnson's song when he mentions it before the song and when he mentions it after. (1935 or 1936, take your pick.) And he introduces Nobody's Fault But Mine by mentioning the time they (Zeppelin) saw Blind Willie Johnson, at a church in Mississippi back in 1932.
John Paul Jones, of course, regularly plays with hard rock bands - I saw him with Them Crooked vultures a couple of years ago. Don't know what Jason Bonham does, but I assume he's been in practice more recently than Led Zeppelin, and Robert Plant plays Zeppelin songs with all and sundry (though more often with sundry) and gigs regularly. The only retiree in the band is Jimmy Page. He played superbly for a hermit, and was quite his young self all the way through. You'd expect some sort of rustiness, but there was none. A couple of major clangers, yes, but that's rock and roll. Or Jazz. Certainly didn't detract from the overall performance.
Which was fun. All four looked like they were enjoying themselves, which is a good start, and when the sound was turned up beyond the low grumble level, we were enjoying ourselves too. I'll be buying the DVD, but of course nothing matches the big screen for delivering presence.