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Although it may seem like more and more bands are relying on the occasional and often awkward reunion tour, few can justify their collaborations as the cause for pure celebration. Recorded in 2007 at London’s O2 Arena, Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day is a particularly joyous live album that allows both band and fan to reminisce, and to temporarily indulge in the group’s tremendously influential and dramatically excessive blues-infused rock.
Founding members Robert Plant, John Paul Jone and Jimmy Page are joined by Jason Bonham, son of the group’s late drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham. While it may not feel exactly the same without Bonzo at the helm, his son brings a tremendous energy to the performance. What is staggering, though, is how the riffs and melodies appear to be unaffected by time. For those of us who grew up attempting to master these timeless pieces, it is refreshing to experience them being played without compromise by those who actually wrote them.
Playing material from all but two of their studio albums (No songs from In Through the Out Door or Coda) Led Zeppelin revive numerous classics – Ramble On, Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir – yet also power through lesser-known epics like In My Time of Dying, No Quarter and Dazed and Confused. There’s no doubt that choosing a defining setlist from such a substantive back-catalogue was a difficult task, yet the band manage to use the dynamics of each track to foster an overall progression.
The opening lyrics of the set’s first track Good Times Bad Times frame Celebration Day
particularly well, with Plant recalling: ‘In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man / Now I’ve reached that age, I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can / No matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.’ It’s clear even at this point that the band still retain their contagious swagger, with Page moving through extended solos with his typically over-driven guitar tone.
Each track still retains its own unique characteristics: Stairway to Heaven is typically poignant, humbling even; Kashmir remains perfectly dramatic with its staggered strings; and Whole Lotta Love is forever sexual and excessive.
For a well-travelled band now in their late 60s, Zeppelin still feel incredibly tight and dynamic. While this live album may not capture the group at their musical peak – which most believe occurred in the 1970s – it really is a celebration of everything the band has accomplished, and a chance for their fans to reconnect. At over two hours in length, this celebration can tend to Ramble On at times, yet it reaffirms the tremendous influence the band still holds, and marks their temporary reunion as mutually beneficial for both band and fan.