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Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day (A Movie Review)

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day


Starring Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham.

Directed by Dick Carruthers.

Distributed by Cineplex Entertainment. 124 minutes. Not Rated.

As someone who was a bit too young to catch Led Zeppelin in their first go-round, Celebration Day is glorious proof of what a stunning live act that they were.  We may not have gotten a chance to see them in person, but this is the next best thing.

In fact, if I’m being totally honest, I was never the biggest Led Zep fan.  I appreciated their talent and liked several of their songs.  I even owned their first four albums – though I have to admit I think I just taped at least two of them off the radio.  But I was never one of my Led-head friends who lived and died by them.  In fact, just the fact that I heard their music so often on the radio made me unlikely to pull out their actual tapes.  I tended to listen to things that were a little more difficult to find.

However, the legend is well known.  They broke up in 1980 after the death of legendary drummer John Bonham.  In the years since then, the three other original members have only performed together as a band three times – abbreviated sets at the London concert of Live Aid, in a late Eighties concert celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Atlantic Records and this 2007 concert honoring the recently deceased Atlantic Records chairman Ahmet Ertegun.  (I was at Live Aid, but in the Philly show, so I just saw their live performance on a big screen.)

The individual members have worked together periodically over the years, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were both parts of the nostalgic Honeydrippers and most controversially in the Plant/Page No Quarter album and tour – in which John Paul Jones was pointedly not invited to participate in.

Yet, this show at the O2 Arena in London was the first full set by Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham since the 70s.  (Though the Bonham here was John’s drummer son Jason.)  It quickly became the biggest ticket of the new millennium – 20 million people were put into a lottery for the 18,000 tickets available.

I recently attended the press conference at the Museum of Modern Art in New York where the four band members introduced the new concert movie (which will have a brief theatrical run before hitting video).  While the band was very pointed to not give out any information about a potential reunion, they did discuss the ability to get back together and perform for the first time in almost 20 years – particularly because the band members are famously unhappy with their reunion performances at Live Aid and Atlantic 40.

“We were so happy we were getting it right and taking it beyond what we thought we were about that night,” Plant said. “But the responsibility of doing that four nights a week for the rest of time is a different thing. We’re pretty good at what we do but the tail should never wag the dog, really.”

Therefore, for now until whenever the band changes their mind, Celebration Day will have to suffice.  And the nice thing is, it really does.

The band starts at the very beginning, blasting off with a fiery version of the very first song off of their very first album, “Good Times, Bad Times.”  This song sets up the film’s visual style, mostly close shots of the four musicians of the band – very few crowd shots or views of the entire backing band.  The group shreds through a series of classic rock standards: “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Top,” “Kashmir,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.”  Towards the middle, when they are plunging a little deeper into their songbook, the film slows down a bit, but mostly Celebration Day is a wonderful representation of an extraordinarily strong body of work.

And the nice fact is that the band sounds great – many of these performances were just as strong as the performances by the original quartet in the legendary concert film The Song Remains the Same.

If you are looking for some backstage clowning or talking heads telling you why you should be enjoying this – all standard gimmicks of concert videos for years – you are at the wrong concert film.  If you want to see a classic band rocking out for two hours straight, then Celebration Day is just the ticket.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: October 17, 2012.


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