Before I get to my quick review, I’m happy to report that it’s not too late to see Led Zeppelin “live” (on the big screen). U.S. cinemas will be doing a reprise of the 2007 reunion concert, originally released in theaters on October 17th, this Tuesday (November 13th, 2012) at 7:30 p.m. I’m sure there will be other special showings throughout the world from time to time by the end of the year, as well. Check the official listings in your area.
So what is this all about? You can, of course, read the Wikipedia page for more details, but to sum it up in one sentence, Celebration Day is the film of the full 2-hour Led Zeppelin reunion concert, a one-off event in London, 2007 – and it’s playing limited release in theaters around the world. Here’s the film trailer, posted on YouTube when the film was announced on September 13th:
What does this long-time Zeppelin fan think of the theater experience of Celebration Day? Not to be missed. My only complaint is that it should have been louder, at least where I saw it (the Rave Preston Crossings in Louisville). Dick Carruthers (concert film director for The Rolling Stones, Portishead, and The White Stripes, just to name a few) couldn’t have done a better job with the Led Zeppelin footage. There is no filler. Just the concert from start to finish, clocking in at 2 hours 4 minutes. The camera work is steady and focuses mainly on guitar closeups. Jimmy Page wanted the fans to be able to see his fingers and how he played. My favorite moment was when my friend Jacob leaned over to me towards the end of the show and whispered, “I forgot they had this many good songs.”
This is only the third official Led Zeppelin concert film, and the first time that the on stage spirit of the band can really be felt by the viewer. To me, what makes the Celebration Day film and theater experience so special is that it will likely be the last time people can see the remaining members of Led Zeppelin (with John Bonham’s son, Jason, on drums), literally larger than life. In the words of the director, “This is how the band will be seen and remembered. I wonder if I shouldn’t say that, but it’s probably true.”
I’m trying to focus on—and praise—the film in this blog entry, but I’ll be honest and say that the concert itself is not something I’d describe as classic, legendary, or incredible. I’d imagine it would be difficult for the average person to get excited about a concert full of old rock stars who are now in their sixties. You can tell that each band member prepared and was dedicated to making this (likely) final Led Zeppelin performance something magical, but of course they can never add up to the original talent of the quartet from 1968 to 1980. Specifically, I found the finger work by Page and Jones to be a little off in the 2007 performance. Another thing I don’t understand is why Jason Bonham never got a drum solo spotlight. Maybe he didn’t want to draw attention to himself, in honor of his father?
Minor criticisms aside, I would whole-heartedly recommend any Led Zeppelin fan to get thee to a theater on Tuesday and be a part of the Celebration Day.
More tidbits about the film:
As of this publication, Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day is rated 9.2/10 on IMDb and 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Good Times Bad Times”
“In My Time of Dying”/”Honey Bee”
“For Your Life”*
“Trampled Under Foot”
“Nobody’s Fault but Mine”
“Since I’ve Been Loving You”
“Dazed and Confused”
“Stairway to Heaven”
“The Song Remains the Same”
“Misty Mountain Hop”
First Encore: “Whole Lotta Love”
Second Encore: “Rock and Roll”
* First time song was played live on tour
Big Mick – live sound mixing
Dick Carruthers – direction
Alan Moulder – audio mixing (recorded music)
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Celebration Day’ By the Numbers – SPIN Magazine review of October 9th advance screening in New York City
Director Dick Carruthers Discusses Led Zeppelin’s ‘Celebration Day’ – Interview with Ultimate Classic Rock by Matt Wardlaw, November 2012.
I should also mention that the film will be available in Blu-ray, DVD, and CD on November 19th. Particularly of note is the Deluxe Edition (for only $33.99) which includes footage of the full dress rehearsal at Shepperton Studios.