Led Zeppelin/A Tribute to Ahmet Ertegun

O2 Arena, London, December 10

By Steve Baltin

As was the case for so many people, Led Zeppelin began my ascent into rock ‘n’ roll worship. Being a kid in the late ‘70s trying to impress my older friends and the perfect girl, my first album purchase was The Song Remains the Same. With that I would forever worship at the altar of the Mighty Zep.

Hence, when the news came down that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Bonham’s son Jason would reunite for one show under the name Led Zeppelin, I, like over a million other people, cast my luck in an online lottery to try and recapture that youth. Months later I was on my way to a London so rife with Zeppelin mania that cabs were painted with the band’s name and album cover of the new greatest hits, Mothership.

Opening and Good Times, Bad Times, London, 12/10

And though Zeppelin is unassailably the most mythical band in rock history, the 20,000 people from 50 different countries — some who’d spent life savings, one who sold a truck to pay for the trip, and another who paid $170,000 for a pair of tickets through a charity auction — who descended on London to see the legendary band’s first full show in 28 years were there more because of their own mythology with the band. In fact, all that mattered was Zeppelin was playing, not how they played.

Nearly three decades removed their previous full show and with all of them, save Jason, being in or near their 60s, no one really expected the Led Zeppelin that shattered attendance records around the world in the ‘70. Well, except maybe Led Zeppelin. Plant has said repeatedly prior to the gig, an homage to late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, the point was to do one more great show after reunions like Live Aid, which they felt were sub par.

At this point, I should say something about the magic of the show, how they delivered, the passion with which they played, but all that can be said is it was Led Zeppelin.

From the opening of “Good Times, Bad Times,” through the sing-along “Ramble On” and Bonham’s showcase on “Black Dog,” the band exploded on the O2 stage. That was just a preamble though to an extended “In My Time of Dying” that was unlike anything I’d ever seen in over 15 years of reviewing and a thousand concerts. With Page, Jones, and Bonham meeting Plant’s plaintive cries of “Oh my Jesus” with equal intensity and skill, it was as if the Zeppelin of yore merged with 30 years of musical experience and wisdom.

They repeatedly showed that to be the case, working their old magic on the former set standards like “Trampled Under Foot,” the bluesy drawl of “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” the psychedelic flavor of “No Quarter” and of course, Page’s showcase performance, replete with bow, on “Dazed and Confused.”

While that would be a set most bands could only dream of, Zep were far from done, sending the crowd into classic rock orgasm with “Stairway to Heaven.” However overplayed the song might feel on KLOS, seeing the band that created the song do it in concert was rock euphoria.

And still, there was more. After ripping through “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Song Remains the Same,” the foursome went into an epic “Kashmir” that left the O2 arena literally shaking as the band left the stage. Visibly moved by the response, the foursome wrapped up the night with encores of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”

After the first time I interviewed Robert Plant a close friend asked what my 14-year-old self would think about my interviewing the voice of Zep. Well, after last night, I can tell my 14-year-old self it was worth the wait and then some.

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