The Day Led Zeppelin Reunited
On Dec. 10, 2007, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for their first full-length concert in nearly 30 years.
The past several years have been incredibly fruitful for Led Zeppelin after decades of inactivity. The hard rock icons completed a rematered reissue campaign, received the Kennedy Center Honors and released the live CD/DVD package, Celebration Day, which features the band’s heavily anticipated reunion performance at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert.
In reality, “heavily anticipated” is putting it mildly. Since John Bonham’s death in 1980 and the band’s subsequent breakup, Zeppelin’s three surviving members (guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant and bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones) had reunited on a handful of occasions, but the results were always less than stellar. Their brief set at 1985’s Live Aid (featuring Phil Collins on drums) was a total disaster, ruined by Plant’s strained vocals and Page’s fumbling, out-of-tune guitar. The trio joined forces with Neil Young and Aerosmith at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1995, but the performance was musically and socially awkward (accepting the award, Jones remarked, “Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number,” referencing a recent Page-Plant tour without him).
The stakes were high for this reunion performance at London’s O2 Arena. Fans, critics and probably the band members themselves viewed the concert as their on-stage swan song. The demand for tickets was immediate and jaw-dropping: The 20,000 or so available tickets were sold through an online lottery system, with one million people registering (and subsequently crashing the event’s website).
The remaining Zeppelin trio brought along drummer Jason Bonham (Bonzo’s son, who’d previously played with the band in 1988 at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert), blaring through a 16-track set that ranged from early psychedelic-blues (“Dazed and Confused”) to hard-hitting mid-period classics (“In My Time of Dying,” “Rock and Roll”) to more obscure later-day gems (“For Your Life,” “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”). There were hiccups — Page’s muddy guitar tone on “Ramble On,” his fumbling through “Black Dog” — but the highlights (“Stairway to Heaven,” “Kashmir”) were downright bone-chilling, proving that even B-plus Zeppelin still dwarfs pretty much every other rock band on the planet.
Both Page and Jones have expressed interest in a possible full reunion tour, but Plant has been adamantly against the idea. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Page commented, “[Plant was busy] doing his Alison Krauss project. I wasn’t fully aware it was going to be launched at the same time. So what do you do in a situation like that? I’d been working with the other two guys for the percentage of the rehearsals at the O2. We were connecting well. The weakness was that none of us sang.”
Members have managed to keep busy since the O2 concert: Plant released a self-titled 2010 album with Band of Joy and followed that up with 2014’s Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar. Page, when not remastering the band’s back catalog, has written an autobiography and made a handful of one-off stage appearances (including a performance of “Whole Lotta Love” with Leona Lewis at the 2008 Olympics).
Jones, meanwhile, has been the most musically active, forming the hard-rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures with Josh Homme and Dave Grohl, collaborating with Glen Phillips and bluegrass stars Nickel Creek in the Mutual Admiration Society, produced fiddler Sara Watkins’ debut solo album in 2008, and most recently releasing an avant-garde album under the Minibus Pimps banner.
While the possibilities of a full reunion still seem bleak — Plant continues to shoot down the idea at every opportunity — it’s unlikely Zeppelin purists will stop dreaming that dream any time soon. If it never happens, at least we have the memory of this wonderful gig (immortalized on Celebration Day) as a late-day souvenir.
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