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Led Zeppelin - "Celebration Day" (2-CD Set)

Led Zeppelin - "Celebration Day" 2-CD Set cover image

"Celebration Day" track listing:

CD 1
1. Good Times Bad Times
2. Ramble On
3. Black Dog
4. In My Time Of Dying
5. For Your Life
6. Trampled Under Foot
7. Nobody's Fault But Mine
8. No Quarter

CD 2
1. Since I've Been Loving You
2. Dazed And Confused
3. Stairway To Heaven
4. The Song Remains The Same
5. Misty Mountain Hop
6. Kashmir
7. Whole Lotta Love
8. Rock And Roll

Reviewed by on December 28, 2012

"For one night in 2007, Led Zeppelin took flight for a trip back to the glory days. That 'Celebration Day' measures up to the band's legend is a testament to the amazing musicianship of three of metal's most storied founders."

It was arguably the most often-rumored rock reunion of all time. For decades, fans whispered about the possibility that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones would return to the stage with the late John Bonham's son, Jason, behind the drum kit. Though the band's one-off reunions in the '80s and '90s (and even a pair of albums and tours pairing Plant and Page) were uneven at best, fans clung to the hope that the mighty Led Zeppelin would take flight again.

And, for one night in 2007, it did just that. But unless you were one of the fans that won a seat in a special lottery, odds are, you didn't see (or hear) that O2 Arena show in London — except for maybe some shoddy YouTube clips and poor-quality bootlegs. Finally, five years later, the band has released "Celebration Day," a video and CD set documenting that monumental show.

To say it meets fans' expectations is an understatement. It exceeds them in just about every way.

It was worrisome for many to hear that the band was playing some of the tunes in different keys to accommodate Robert Plant's lower range. Would the tunes still pack the same punch without those high-end shrieks? The answer is an unqualified yes — and it owes a lot to the fact that Plant has become a much better singer in the decades since Zeppelin broke up. Rather than relying on bombast, he delivers a much more nuanced approach on songs like a playful "Black Dog" and the bluesy "In My Time Of Dying." In fact, it's usually when Plant tries to replicate the shrieks of yesteryear that the performance suffers a little — especially when his scream turns into a yelp on "Since I've Been Loving You."

Jimmy Page's guitar playing is still the same splendidly hot mess it's always been. "Black Dog" has him coming in ever so slightly behind the beat and then racing to catch up in two places. He makes a fun little change to the riff in "Whole Lotta Love" and delivers a tour de force performance on "The Song Remains The Same," which rivals the version on the live album of the same name. That said, there are some moments during the solos that simply devolve into noise, particularly at the end of "Black Dog." And, quite frankly, the "Stairway To Heaven" solo just sounds weird tuned down as far as it is.

John Paul Jones' chops are as good as ever, with his best performance on keyboards coming on "Trampled Under Foot." It'd be hard to pick his best outing on bass, but I'll say that "Nobody's Fault But Mine" has a weight that the album version can't match.

Jason Bonham did his homework preparing for this show, listening to hours upon hours of studio, live and bootleg recordings of his father. Still, he has a somewhat lighter touch than John did, and that actually benefits the looser tunes on the album, "Black Dog" and especially the funky "Trampled Under Foot." Fans might still miss the sledgehammer approach the elder Bonham brought to "Kashmir" and "Whole Lotta Love," but there's no denying that Jason gets that ending burst on "Rock And Roll" just about right.

There are other things that make this one a worthy investment even if you've got three or four live versions of most of these songs, including a full "Good Times Bad Times," "Ramble On" and "For Your Life," which were never performed by Zeppelin live. (though Plant and Page did do "Ramble On" in the 1990s, it must be noted).

Sure, there are some minor quibbles to be had. Notably, where are the acoustic songs? Given that a third of the band's output was "unplugged," where is "That's The Way" or "Bron Y Aur Stomp?" Still, it's pretty hard to find a tune in this two-hour set to jettison to make way for something acoustic, so I guess that's nothing to gripe about too much.

For one night in 2007, Led Zeppelin took flight for a trip back to the glory days. That "Celebration Day" measures up to the band's legend is a testament to the amazing musicianship of three of metal's most storied founders.

Highs: An amazing setlist that touches upon hits and fan-favorite album tracks.

Lows: A few miscues on vocals and guitar and a curious omission of the band's acoustic side.

Bottom line: The founding fathers of hard rock and metal take flight for one night, delivering a frankly awesome show.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)