The latest Led Zeppelin concert documentary, “Celebration Day,” was screened at the Museum of Modern Art on October 8, followed by a press conference with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham. The film documents the band’s 2007 reunion at the O2 Arena in London, where they headlined a tribute concert for their friend, and the founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun. After the screening, the band fielded questions from the press regarding reunion tour rumors, choosing songs for the O2 concert setlist, and playing with Bonham on drums.
After their less than stellar performances at Live Aid and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 40th Anniversary Concert, there was widespread speculation about whether their “Celebration Day” concert would exhibit the innovative musical communion they showcased in their peak days, or the keyed-down, sloppy performances at their other post-millennial reunions. The two-hour documentary of the concert, which focuses solely on the performance of 16 songs from the Led Zeppelin catalogue rather than commentary or behind-the-scenes footage, will put criticisms of the band’s reincarnation to rest. The film is riveting, the musicianship is fresh and nuanced, and the band’s sheer joy and relief that they managed to pull off a great performance is evident in every shot. As Robert Plant mentioned during the press conference, it’s a “great light show too.”
Jason Bonham, who joined the band to reprise his father, John Bonham’s, role as drummer, brought out a nostalgic side of Led Zeppelin. Page, Plant, and Jones recalled memories of John and Pat Bonham singing Jimi Hendrix songs to a young Jason. They also reminisced about Ahmet Ertegun, the glory days of Atlantic Records, and how the community of like-minded artists and musicians that existed in the ’70s helped Led Zeppelin to flourish musically. When asked if Led Zeppelin would have the same commercial success today, Robert Plant expressed doubt. “Other bands govern their energy more today,” he said, lamenting the loss of artistic freedom musicians had several decades ago, and the precedence business has in the modern world of music.
Led Zeppelin will receive the Kennedy Center Honors this year in December, a solid five years after their O2 Performance. “We kind of are American in a way…but not,” Robert Plant said, reinforcing the band’s admission that American music was their primary influence. Plant also expressed his excitement to meet the “most dynamic and charismatic American” at the Kennedy Center Honors – President Obama.
“Celebration Day” will be released in select theaters worldwide on October 17 by Omniverse Vision, and on multiple video and audio formats on November 19. When told that the film doesn’t quench the thirst for fans who want to see the band in the flesh, John Paul Jones’ response succinctly expresses the band’s avoidance and abhorrence of “reunion” questions: “Sorry.” They made it clear that there is no reunion tour currently in the works, to the audience’s disappointment. In the meantime, Jimmy Page has some advice for the band’s fans: “Don’t listen to Led Zeppelin on MP3.”