Surviving members of the iconic rock band tout concert DVD, dodge future plans
By Alan Light
Special to MSN Music
Before today, it had been more than 15 years since Led Zeppelin stood on a stage together in America. The venue for this first appearance in the U.S. since an underwhelming performance for their 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, though, wasn't Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium; it was a small theater in New York's Museum of Modern Art, where Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham (the son of original drummer John Bonham) gathered for a press conference to promote the upcoming release of "Celebration Day," a CD/DVD documenting their 2007 reunion concert at London's O2 Arena.
"This show was the first time we had a chance to have a real retrospective of our career," said Page. "The pacing was interesting: There was no warm-up gig, so we had to get it right. It was an opportunity to play to people who had really never heard us, to stand up and be counted."
The 40-minute press event was preceded by a screening of the film, which will be shown in select theaters on Oct. 17 and 18 prior to its release on CD and DVD on Nov. 19. "Celebration Day" presents all 16 songs that Zeppelin played during the two-hour show, the band's first full concert in 27 years, which saw 20 million people apply to a global ticket lottery. With no interview or rehearsal footage, no backstage moments or backstory, the movie offers a tight focus on one of the greatest groups of all time, in astonishing command of their complex, challenging material.
Plant, Jones and Page all singled out the performance of "For Your Life," a lesser-known cut from the "Presence" album that they played for the first time ever at the O2, as a favorite moment in the show. "We were flying by the seat of the pants," said Plant, while Page added that "it's quite a testy song to do, a lot to remember."
The band members were upbeat, even playful, during most of the press conference. Asked how they feel about seeing themselves on-screen, Plant replied, "Well, I used to be better-looking than this," and they all expressed gratitude for Led Zeppelin's upcoming Kennedy Center Honors award, which the singer said was being given to them by "the most dynamic and charismatic American, President Obama."
The tone changed, however, when they were asked about the possibility of working together again. Initially, Plant tried to joke about it: "We're thinking about all sorts of things," he said, "but then we can't remember what we were thinking." As the reunion question was raised several times, they simply refused to answer. When pressed, Page pointed out that December will mark five years since the O2 show, "so at this point, it certainly seems unlikely that we would get together to do something."
"That night, we were just hanging on for dear life, and we were so happy that we were getting it right, we were really enjoying it," said Plant. "But the responsibility of doing that four nights a week is a different thing. The tail should never wag the dog. We know what we've got, and que sera."
Alan Light is the co-author of Gregg Allman's best-selling memoir "My Cross to Bear." A regular contributor to MSN Music, he is the former editor-in-chief of Vibe and SPIN magazines. He is the director of programming for the public television concert series "Live From the Artists Den," and contributes frequently to The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Alan is a two-time winner of ASCAP's Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music writing.