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Led Zeppelin: Christman's Song-By-Song

Led_zeppelin_03l_2 Billboard's Ed Christman goes song-by-song from Led Zeppelin's reunion show last night (Dec. 10):

"Good Times, Bad Times" shows Robert Plant is in fine form and will go on to turn in a sterling vocal performance throughout. But the song comes off a little flat, as the sound crew struggle to get the right mix.

"Ramble On" gets the crowd moving and singing along. Later, some will describe the song as a weak moment, but it's the first one to get the crowd to erupt. Sound still isn't right, with some feedback chiming in during one of the quiet interludes. Still, it displays the dynamic for which Zeppelin is best known -- sparse melodic acoustic passages exploding into rock electric passages. Page starts cranking.

"Black Dog" and its intricate opening riff (authored by John Paul Jones) brings a smile to everyone's face, in the audience as well as on stage. Plant is looking like he is having the most fun as the audience chimes in and helps, but not where you would expect. Its clear that his fears that he would one day be a parody of himself singing "Whole Lotta Love" are not going to be realized this decade, thank the rock gods.

In between songs, Plant finally acknowledges the crowd with a brisk "good evening," before the band launches into "In My Time of Dying," from the "Physical Graffiti" album. It's a Page/Bonham tour-de-force which restored faith among the faithful that the band could still sound malevolent after the happy-go-lucky pop metal that dominated the "Houses of the Holy" album.

"For Your Life," from "Presence," is unfurled for the first time in the band's history. Anybody who relegated it to the lower echelons of the Zep workbook are quickly shown how badly mistaken they are. A highlight of the evening.

"Trampled Underfoot" has Jones on the keyboard for the first time of the night, and yet again Plant seemingly is having more fun than anyone else on stage. The song culminates in an intense jam that literally explodes.

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" is introduced as a song that Led Zeppelin first heard in a Mississipi church back in 1932. While this song may not have the nostalgic factor that adds to the myth of some of Zep's best known songs, this performance proves it is every bit as much as a Zeppelin classic. Page's solo is impeccable and hardly strays from the main theme.

Up until now, there was hardly any light show, but the screen backdrop of close-ups of the band interspersed with creative artwork grows more dynamic as the evening progresses. By the end of the night, it will be one of the best screen displays seen at an arena show.

"No Quarter" brings back a 1970s hallmark and an ingredient without which any show back then wasn't complete: the fog machine. Page fiddles with the theremin as the song that first earned Zep the tag "art rock band in disguise" shows itself to be nothing more than a 23rd century blues song.

"Since I've Been Loving You" begins and immediately the Zep faithful wonder what version of the song this will be: the piano-tinged one displayed in the latter stages of the band's career (captured in "The Song Remains The Same" film), or the organ-driven dirge of the band's early years. It's the latter. To be sure, this is the song where Page takes center stage. Of all the blues idioms Zeppelin and others have worked in, this is one of the least traversed and yet one of the band's finest moments.

After, that Plant announces that when you are choosing songs from 10 different albums, there are certain songs that have to be there in a performance like this and "this is one of them." "Dazed and Confused" is played almost true to the record in a version that comes in at 10 minutes. When the violin bow comes out, it's the first time the crowd gets a taste of the old Zeppelin light show, with the laser embellishing Page's bow-wielding dynamics. For about 10 seconds, Page blends in the bow section of "How Many More Times," before the song rocks back into the guitar-propelled passage that established the band in its early days.

"Stairway to Heaven" is the song that seems to be most obligatory, as it gets one of the least enthusiastic responses of the night (even if it did began with a sea of mobile phone lights). The song really comes to life when Jason Bonham kicks in on drums.

"The Song Remains The Same:" The song that began life as instrumental with the working title "The Overture" ignites the crowd again. Page, still on the double-neck first brought out for "Stairway," unleashes his best playing of the night. Just when you thought the song couldn't get any more tighter, frenetic or powerful, the band puts it into overdrive. In a night filled with peaks, this is yet another high point.

In between, Plant tells of the days when John Bonham was in a small-town band and used to sing Hendrix songs like "The Wind Cries Mary." Bringing it back to the present, Plant says, "It would be wrong if you didn't hear Jason sing this," to which the younger Bonham responds with the opening line of "I Can't Quit You Babe."

But the band fools everyone and rushes into ... "Misty Mountain Hop," with Jones back on the piano. The song relentlessly pushes forward as the screen reminds you of the psychedelic origins of its lyrics. All the classic Zep ingredients are right here on display: the power and the majesty. Anyone whose had the good fortune, and is old enough, to have seen the band on multiple occasions, knowns that at every show, there is going to be one song that will shine well beyond its original glory. This did tonight.

Plant says he was led to believe that the audience included people from 50 countries and that "This is the 51st country." Then, on to "Kashmir." As the crowd sings along, the band relentlessly pounds home the repetitive, reverential riff. The crunch in the middle reminds you that despite its hypnotic beauty, it also owes its livelihood to electricity, too. As the song winds down, Plant pleads, "let me take you there," but its clear that most in the crowd have long ago been delivered there and now they are wondering how they are going to get back.

The first encore is "Whole Lotta Love," about as faithful a rendition that you will get from this band. During the middle, the Zeppelin alchemist Page uses the theremin to draw forth all the turmoil from which the band originally erupted back in the late 1960s.

Jimmy comes back to the stage and talks for the first time, thanking the audience for making the band feel welcome. The second encore, "Rock and Roll," launches as the screen segues back to images from the band during the 1970s juxtaposed against the men as they are today: older, weathered, wiser and yes, still magnificent. The evening ends with a picture of Ahmet on the screen and his quote: "This is a great life, this life of music."  -- Ed Christman

December 11, 2007 | Permalink

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Comments

Tremendous! This show must of been awesome!

Posted by: Len | Dec 11, 2007 12:58:06 PM

The show must have been great to see live. They need to relese a vidio like unledded back in 1993.

Posted by: john koz | Dec 11, 2007 5:55:15 PM

The show must have been great to see live. They need to relese a vidio like unledded back in 1993.

Posted by: john koz | Dec 11, 2007 5:55:20 PM

The show must have been great to see live. They need to relese a vidio like unledded back in 1993.

Posted by: john koz | Dec 11, 2007 5:56:46 PM

i hope this show ends up on dime.

Posted by: tom | Dec 12, 2007 9:47:08 AM

the show is best to be described as PURE POWER. Standing most of the time close together, the tightness and power was almost unbelievable and still is difficult to describe, but try it that way: a train enters the arena and run thriugh it with high speed, putting everything around you into pieces and trampled under foot. once the train has left, it left an audience speechless in pure emotion, happy and grateful. The best show I've ever attended and I've seen more than a hundred... a night to remember for a lifetime!

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