The Austin Chronicle

Celebration Day

Dinosaur DVDs with a smattering of punk, porn, and R&B

Reviewed by Luke Winkie, December 21, 2012, Music

Led Zeppelin

Celebration Day (Atlantic)

"DUN DUN." You already know what's happening. "DUN DUN." A cavalcade of snares and cymbals ruptures London's O2 Arena. Jason Bonham looks fresh, clean, and angry at his drum kit. Page, Plant, and Jones circle each other in sharp angles, heaving a few oh-shit breaths. Thousands of December 2007 showgoers erupt, at which point my father peeks his head into the TV room. "Good Times Bad Times." In a stunning 2-CD/2-DVD memorial for Led Zeppelin's late benefactor at Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, Celebration Day captures the original UK quartet's first proper reunion following the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980. Halfhearted regroupings for Live Aid in 1985 and at an Atlantic anniversary three years later now get relegated to footnotes in light of Celebration Day. While 1973 concert film The Song Remains the Same scaled mountains pumped full of idolatry and iconography – massive egos scorching Madison Square Garden – today fans remember it only for the laughter Robert Plant invited. Instead, 2004's astounding Led Zeppelin DVD seemed like the most logical end, its six hours one of the most significant content-dumps in pop history, the cup running over onto even the DVD menus. Another contemporary Swan Song (the group's label) in Celebration Day? More like another entry in the best catalog since the other immortal English big bang, the Beatles. Celebration Day proves that Led Zeppelin remains preposterously, inconceivably awesome. Not to mention virtuosic, as in a white-haired Jimmy Page rolling up his sleeves and squeezing every last arid drop out of the "Nobody's Fault but Mine" solo on his Gibson. Mysterious, like the thin layer of fog flirting with Robert Plant's ankles as he whines through "No Quarter." Huge, like the gong behind scion Jason Bonham's drum stool. Psychedelic as the acid splashes of "Dazed and Confused." And even sheepish in performing "Stairway to Heaven." They rise up like Charles Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Past, play rock & roll, and disappear again. The second DVD contains a single, static capture of the band's rehearsal, shot from a blurry, occasionally washed-out distance. It's a needless accessory to one of the most singular performances in history, but the accompanying audio soundtrack matches 2003's triple live album How the West Was Won. Ultimately, Celebration Day should be remembered as a poetic moment. For one night, three men (and one son) revisited Valhalla, where Jimmy Page's bow was waiting for him and Robert Plant saved his honeyed screech for the closer. It's been a long time since I rock and rolled, but this is how I want to remember The End.

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