Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day premiere raises the roof at the Hammersmith Apollo
In 2007 Led Zeppelin performed their first headline show in 27 years to 18,000 fans at the O2 in London, leaving almost 20 million other fans without tickets and disappointed. The gig, in honour of late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, was an epic two-hour set and featured Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham, on drums. Five years on, the film of that show has being released, and premiered in New York on 9th October and at the Hammersmith Apollo on 12th October in advance of a limited number of cinema screenings and a DVD release scheduled for November.
The eager crowd at the Apollo screening was a mix of old and young; original die-hard fans and newer ones keen to get their only chance to see a legendary Led Zeppelin live show. There was a feverish buzz in the air because the band themselves were due to attend. As Page, Plant and Jones took to the stage with director Dick Carruthers to open the show with a brief speech, the buzz turned to frenzy, with an undercurrent of disbelief that these seminal, iconic musicians were even in the same building.
The film is well produced and well shot, with excellent sound quality given the limitations of reproducing a stadium gig via film in a smaller venue. It was announced that there would be no apologies for the volume, and it was very loud, but rightly so – this was no normal film screening, this was a gig, albeit on a big screen and albeit with the fans confined to their seats, but determined to deliver as much of the sonic ferocity of the real thing as possible. There are no additional visual effects or inserted interviews; it is rightly a faithful replay of the concert from start to finish and every ear-splitting note and epic solo in between.
The gig itself was an expert demonstration of how rock and roll never gets old. Page and Plant have the same swagger and chemistry, and the fun they were having was palpable. The cameras capture the famous Page expressions and every bead of sweat under Plant’s long mane, as well as every lock of their eyes and knowing smile – they are nailing it and they know it. Highlights from the set were the mighty Kashmir, the anthemic Black Dog and inevitably the beautifully paced Stairway to Heaven. Plant gives it everything – his vocals still have the same power and grit, and are still a match for the supreme guitar mastery of Page. And yes the violin bow came out, much to the delight of the crowd. The encore ended the show on a glorious high with Rock and Roll, closing a set that gave a good, broad and balanced representation of their catalogue.
Despite the enormity of the O2 arena, there was a sense of intimacy on stage with the band almost always in frame together, grinning at each other, clearly having a great time. Jason Bonham displayed powerhouse drumming skills worthy of a place in the band and lived up to the legend of his father. At the Apollo, it was disconcerting trying to tell the roar of the crowd in the film from the roar of the live audience watching the film – it was like a strange union of past and present, live and recorded, and probably the closest we’re all going to get to Led Zeppelin live ever again.
Photo: Emmy Linnea
The set list for the Celebration Day gig is as follows
Good Times Bad Times
In My Time Of Dying (including 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
Whole Lotta Love
Rock And Roll
Click here to see the list of cinema screenings (from 17th October). The BD/DVD will be on general release from 19th November 2012.