The best of Led Zeppelin's legendary 1973 appearances at Madison Square Garden. Interspersed throughout the
concert footage are behind-the-scenes moments with the band. 'The Song Remains the Same' is Led Zeppelin at
Madison Square Garden in NYC concert footage colorfully enhanced by sequences which are supposed to reflect
each band member's individual fantasies and hallucinations. Includes blistering live renditions of "Black Dog,"
"Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Song Remains the Same," and "Rain
Song" among others. Some of the footage was shot at Shepperton Studios 1974.
Jimmy Page, with his Gibson Les Paul slung low, peels off a familiar riff. "It's been a long time since I
rock and rolled," Robert Plant croons. Indeed, it has been a long time since Led Zeppelin: The Song
Remains the Same first came to theaters in 1976. Since then, it seems that every hard rock fan, at
one time or another, has come to the conclusion that Zeppelin was the greatest band ever. The
soaring leads and melodic hooks of Page, the wailing menace of Plant's delivery, the
rock-solid bass and keyboard work of John Paul Jones and the thundering drumming of John
Bonham came together in Zeppelin's powerhouse proto-metal. Fans have long celebrated
Song Remains the Same as a documentation of the band at its prime. A new Blu-ray version finally
brings the film to 1080p and into the 21st century--at least before Warner cancelled its release. A
copies were placed on store shelves and shipped to online customers before the recall took effect. As
of this writing, some copies are still floating around for Zeppelin fans to collect while they can.
With dramatic lighting setting the ambiance, Jimmy Page tears into Led Zeppelin's anthem,
Stairway to Heaven on his trademark double-neck Gibson.
Although Led Zeppelin was in its prime and three full concerts were filmed, there was not ample
assemble a two-hour movie. The camerawork and some of the
performances were so amateurish that large segments of The Song Remains the Same required
augmentation. Very little concert footage was usable. The band decided to use fantasy
sequences and ancillary footage from Madison Square Garden to bring the film to
feature length. The additional scenes include a grossly extended introduction that consists of
sequences from England, the band's jet landing in New York and the
subsequent limousine ride into Manhattan. A bizarre hodgepodge of throwaway footage, the
introduction includes Plant's children playing naked in a stream and a gangster
scene featuring Zeppelin manager Peter Grant in which a man's head is shot off using
automatic rifles. The effects, of course, are sophomoric.
When the concert footage begins, the first observation is that the band looks good and sounds
good, but mostly the viewer is relieved to be done with the drawn-out opening sequence.
Unfortunately, the relief is short-lived. Even the concert footage scenes featuring the band's most
beloved songs show several problems. The band often looks and sounds exhausted. The Madison
Square Garden concerts came at the end of a brutal Led Zeppelin tour, and the band doesn't
seem particularly inspired. There are technical problems, too. The camera pulls tight on Jimmy
Page's fingers, but the
cameraman doesn't seem to have considered the possibility that Page would move, and the close-
ups tend to be jittery and brief. The footage stands in stark contrast to the impeccably filmed The Last
Waltz, brilliant documentation of The Band's farewell concert, also in the 1970s.
Not only does The Song Remains the Same make up for the lack of usable footage by including
drawn out "fantasy" sequences, but there is other concert footage unrelated to the band. These
interludes, often shown while the band is performing and the music is playing, include the cops at
Madison Square Garden allowing fans in through a back door; the cops tossing disruptive fans out
the front door; and most notably Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, a big, loud, burly type, berating
Garden management for concession stand sales and other business he views as inappropriate. He
comes across as boorish, heavyhanded and mean-spirited. And the introductory sequence
featuring Grant portrays him as a mobster involved in murder and gambling with road manager
Richard Cole. This has absolutely nothing to do with Led Zeppelin's music. The fantasy sequences
featuring the band members are only slightly more relevant.
As painful as it is to sit through some parts of the film, the 1080p presentation is an enormous
improvement over the DVD version. Film grain and analog artifacts are prevalent. The technical
qualities of the camera work and lighting are less than optimal throughout, but it does not diminish
the revelation of seeing the picture with an additional 600 progressive lines of resolution. Details
previously invisible are rendered with a rawness and presence that is remarkable. For example,
during the guitar solo on the bluesy workout, Since I've Been Loving You,
one can see drops of sweat falling onto the pick guard of Jimmy Page's Les Paul. This type of
yields a "you are there" experience that leaves one wishing the entire movie showed
legitimate footage of the band performing. Note that copious grain is visible in darker scenes. I point
this out because it may bother some viewers, but it is in the original production, and I'm glad no
attempt was made to digitally scrub it.
The audio improvement is more consistently rewarding. With a 5.1 TrueHD track, the mastering on
the Blu-ray places a strong, solid image in the middle of the soundstage that bleeds to all corners,
characteristic of an amphitheater's sonic signature. Yet the audio is fairly dry, with good clarity and
no postproduced reverb. The superb definition showcases the shining brassiness of Page's guitar and
the piercing cry of Plant's voice, both of which dominate the treble. The bass and drums are also
quite forward in the mix, and all instruments are equally palpable, with excellent bottom-to-top
linearity and good detail. This will not win an audio award, but it may be the best presentation of
this material Zeppelin fans are likely to hear. The most serious criticism of the audio comes in the
first seconds of Moby Dick when there is a notable dropout that affects a few seconds of the TrueHD
The most important bonus material for Zeppelin fans is the inclusion of four songs left out of the
theatrical release of Song Remains the Same. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's easy
to see why the tunes were left out. Robert Plant seems to have forgotten the melody of Over the
Hills and Far Away, although the rest of the band manages a good performance. The other bonus
songs are Celebration Day, Misty Mountain Hop and The Ocean. Another extra will bring back
memories to Zeppelin trivia-heads: news reports covering the hotel robbery in which a crook nabbed
all the band's money from the '73 concerts. Road manager Richard Cole had a habit of forcing
venues to pay during the shows and placing the funds in his hotel. About $200,000 was stolen in a
crime that was never solved. Rounding out the supplementary material is a BBC interview with
Robert Plant, a radio profile spotlight by Cameron Crowe and the original film trailer.
Many rock fans have a love/hate relationship with The Song Remains the Same. While moments of
sheer power and energy shine through, the band, and Plant especially seem a bit lethargic. Still, it is
a real treat to see the band playing in 1973, especially working out such classics as Stairway to
Heaven and Dazed and Confused. If you are a Zeppelin fan and can stomach the fantasy sequences
and introductory scenes, the Blu-ray version of Song Remains the Same is an absolute must-have.
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Warner Home Video has announced that they will finally be releasing the twice delayed concert film 'Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same' for Blu-ray on February 26th. The title nearly met its most recent release date, only to be pulled a few days later. This ...
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