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Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe(2012)
The concert film of Led Zeppelin's legendary 2007 reunion at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London's O2 Arena.
For more about Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe and the Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray release, see Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 17, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jason Bonham
Director: Dick Carruthers
» See full cast & crew
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray Review
House of the H(O2)ly.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 17, 2012
For many, many years in my guise as a club and cruise line pianist, I had a little framed cartoon up on my piano that featured a lounge pianist with a little sign on his piano that said: Requests: $5.00, "Feelings": $500.00. (If you're not familiar with the lachrymose Morris Albert tune, sorry for depriving you of a great punchline.) Some of the strangest requests I've received over the years, though, have had nothing to do with these more "casual" gigs, but instead have been courtesy of extremely formal occasions, notably weddings. I played the wedding of one guy who owned a local movie theater and who was a huge James Bond fan, and he and his bride wanted all of the seating music to be themes from Bond films. I can't recall what the bride's processional was (maybe "Nobody Does it Better"), but the groom entered—replete in white tux jacket and twirling and crouching as if he were dodging bullets— to Monty Norman's legendary 007 Theme.
Another kind of funny request came from parents of a bride in another wedding I played. These parents were obviously ex-hippies (I think even they would describe themselves that way), and they were huge Led Zeppelin fans. They had arranged for their daughter to be married outside in Portland's gorgeous Washington Park, right in the Park's famous Rose Gardens. And they wanted more than anything for their "little girl" to walk up the grassy aisle to the strains of "Stairway to Heaven". So I found myself on a beautiful summer day in the middle of a bunch of rose bushes pounding out the immortal Robert Plant – Jimmy Page tune and wondering if I'd ever be playing "Good Times Bad Times" or "Communication Breakdown" if the marriage faltered and ended in divorce.
"Stairway to Heaven" is perhaps ironically the one song that non-Zeppelin fans think of most often when asked about the band, even though it was never released as an official single, probably due to its extended length in its original version. And rather surprisingly (and perhaps even appallingly), Zeppelin, for all their innovation and overall success, had an astounding paucity of charting singles in the United States, until relatively recently. A lot of Zeppelin's popularity during their initial heyday was due to the band's relentless touring, but once original drummer John Bonham died unexpectedly in 1980, the group disbanded and many probably thought live performances were a thing of the past for an assemblage that regularly was able to fill stadiums and arenas in the tens of thousands. But occasional reunion performances have reignited the Zeppelin flame over the ensuing years, and this 2007 concert, part of a tribute to legendary Atlantic Records producer Ahmet Ertegun, was host to another screaming horde of Zeppelin fanatics who poured into London's immense O2 arena to hear Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Plant and John Bonham's son Jason roar through a visceral set of Zeppelin songs.
The name Ahmet Ertegun may not ring a bell for those who don't regularly read album credits, but this entrepreneur founded and was President of Atlantic Records, fostering an absolutely incredible variety of acts throughout his multi-decade tenure. Along with Led Zeppelin, Ertegun had a major role in promoting such legendary artists as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Eric Clapton, Yes and countless other rock acts. His jazz credentials are no less amazing, with a huge roster of artists who either began their careers on Atlantic or matriculated there somewhere along the way. Ertegun sadly tripped and fell at a Rolling Stones (another band he helped) concert in 2006, striking his head on a concrete floor and falling into a coma and dying several weeks afterward. His initial turn for the worse after a brief post-accident period where it seemed he might recover was actually announced by Jimmy Page at Led Zeppelin's induction into the United Kingdom Music Hall of Fame. Several memorial and/or benefit concerts sprang up in the wake of Ertegun's demise, but this huge event in December 2007 was by far the largest and the most anticipated, as it offered the first full length "reunion" concert by Led Zeppelin, albeit with Jason Bonham taking the place of his late father.
Demand for tickets for this event was so high it's become part of the Guinness Book of World Records, with over 20 million requests pouring in online. In fact as one of the supplements on the bonus DVD in this deluxe set makes clear, a lottery had to be established to handle the overwhelming number of people wanting to get into the concert. Despite Led Zeppelin obviously knowing that this concert was going to be high profile and having actually made appropriate preparations to capture it all on video, the release of Celebration Day was never officially announced after the concert, and in fact Page was on record saying that mixing the thing would be a logistical nightmare. Now almost five years after the concert, Zeppelin fans are rejoicing, and rightfully so, to see this incredible concert in high definition and with lossless audio.
Time has been incredibly kind to the surviving members of the band, at least for the most part. Are there niggling concerns? Probably, mostly with regard to Robert Plant's voice, which seems just a trifle thin and less forceful than usual on occasion. But even that is a passing anomaly in what is an overall sterling evening of incredible music. Jimmy Page's guitar playing is absolutely phenomenal throughout this rather long (over two hours) set. He offers several blistering electric solos, but even his more laid back efforts, as on a luscious "Stairway to Heaven", reveal some absolutely gorgeous filigrees that completely recolor the song in a new light. Bonham fils provides some incredibly aggressive drum playing which really elevates the higher octane material immeasurably.
Led Zeppelin's set list consists of:
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray, Video Quality
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Music with an AVC encoded 1080i transfer in 1.78:1. Director David Carruthers covers the action with an incredible panoply of cameras from a variety of angles, and he has further offered up visual delights by processing some of the footage with added grain and various other effects. The concert does have a certain ADHD quality, with a lot of quick cutting, but it's not as bad as many other contemporary concert outings have been in that regard. The image here is very nicely crisp and well detailed, at least in the close-ups. There are some passing issues with shadow detail and crush (especially with Plant, who is wearing black), as well as some very minor quasi-moiré that crops up when the lighting and projection array behind the band is all one color and the camera pans or zooms. Otherwise, though, this is a very sharp and clear presentation that should easily delight Zeppelin fans.
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day features both a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix as well as an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo fold down. Both of these tracks offer really vigorous sonic clarity, although the 5.1 track makes Plant's occasional thinness more apparent, as he tends to get just ever so slightly buried in the ambient hall noise and onslaught from the band. The midrange and low range of the 5.1 track is its most outstanding feature, offering supreme clarity without losing any of the aggressive force of Bonham's drums or Jones' bass. There's probably going to be too much audience noise for some listeners, but perhaps that was one of the mixing challenges that Plant alluded to when he mentioned several years ago that release of Celebration Day wasn't imminent. Dynamic range isn't huge here, since the band tends to favor more high octane material, but when things do quiet down, as in the opening sections of "Stairway to Heaven", there's still a very appealing clarity and precision to the audio.
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day Deluxe Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Has it been worth the wait? Most definitely. This amazing performance has been captured with a wealth of high definition imagery from a variety of angles, and with overall superb sounding lossless audio. Celebration Day is being released in several different editions, so you probably want to check through all of the options before deciding which one to get, but if you're a Zeppelin fan, there's no question you are going to want this. This particular edition offers the entire concert on two CDs as well as a really fantastic bonus DVD with great (if hard to see) rehearsal footage. Highly recommended.
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