Last night Led Zeppelin played their first concert since “Bonzo” John Bonham died a rock star’s death. Some might take me to task for calling this band by its name when even Robert Plant has, in the past, crustily asserted that Jason Bonham ain’t Bonzo and that the band ain’t Zep without Bonzo behind the kit. But Led Zeppelin is what the fans were hoping to see last night, and if this morning’s reports are any indication, the concert was an instance of massive wish fulfillment. Yes, everyone is older, worn around the edges and possibly a little wiser, but apparently those of us who were holding our breath can now exhale with relief: Led Zeppelin still rocks.
And yes, I was holding my breath — to my own considerable surprise. When the concert was first announced, I was apathetic. Eventually I changed my mind about it all and lamented the concert as a predictable error in Aging Rock Star judgment. Meanwhile, between spins of the Plant & Krauss disc and yet another “Will They Still Rock?” link sent to me by Scott, I found my interest growing to the point where, had there been a reasonable opportunity, I would have willingly attended.
The whole thing presented anything but a reasonable opportunity, of course, and the next tier of fan wish fulfillment is a possible tour. At this stage, I think we fans should be careful what we wish for: aging bands who reluctantly reunite and go on tour inevitably invite an early special guest appearance from the Grim Reaper. If I glance at the fatality ledger for the New York Dolls and The Who (just the first two examples to come to mind), then consider Jimmy Page’s recent tendency toward personal bodily harm (back spasms three years ago, a broken finger last month) I can’t help but be a little concerned. A camera crew was on hand to capture everything that happened last night — what say we give the boys a big hand, then send them off to pursue their individual interests while we settle and wait for the inevitable DVD?
“And what did you come here to see?” Was it a spritely foursome who jump around the stage and invite participatory audience mayhem? Was it a creative group whose collective vision has grown and matured with age? No, not at all. We came to see three survivors whose music and staged lives have loomed large in our imagination for the last 40 years. We came to seek some reassurance that our youthful delirium wasn’t entirely in vain, that there was something at the core of what went on that merits our sustained attention.
Given the endless press this concert is generating, it appears as if that “something” is definitely still there — “The song remains the same,” as it were. So far as I’m concerned, though, my curiosity in seeing how well the survivors play together was almost purely the byproduct of listening to Robert Plant’s work with Alison Krauss. Somewhere between the discovery of this photo, my viewing the Amazon promo-clip and my umpteenth spin of "Your Long Journey," I realized there was a part of me that was genuinely (if distantly) invested in these people. I’m not just grateful for their music, I’m grateful for their actual physical presence. And weirdly enough, if I had attended last night’s concert I would have felt gratified to stand and whistle and cheer with the thousands gathered. Instead, this post will be that, and I will wait for the DVD.
Alright, to the links! Led Zeppelin: "A Force For Peace"? Mark LeVine "Saves The World"? Mark Morford (both via Scott) Or was last night's performance of "Stairway To Heaven" an egregious mistake?
File this under: "Is there an echo in here? Or am I repeating myself?" It's the latter, as evidenced here and here.