I was pretty well intent on submitting two Halloween-related columns during the month of October, for obvious reasons, and I did. So I didn't really allow myself the opportunity two weeks ago to write about an experience I had at the movies that week which was quite possibly one of a kind. Even probably, I would say.
The image for the theatrical poster and DVD cover.
On December 10, 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited for a concert at London's 02 Arena. The set was the headlining act for a benefit concert dedicated to Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records who discovered many of the most renowned artists and bands in the history of popular music. One of the bands he helped establish was Led Zeppelin.
So despite the unwillingness of some of the members to make long-term commitments as a united force (an unwillingness that still stands), the original members of the band - Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones - came together to play the first complete concert they'd performed since their breakup after drummer John Bonham's death in 1980. For the show, Bonham's son, Jason, filled in on drums.
The monumental nature of this show can't be overstated. There had only been two occasions since the band's breakup when the three remaining original members reunited to perform in any way. One of those was Live Aid in 1985, when they played just a few songs in a performance that the members claimed to have disliked (apparently Plant's voice was hoarse, Page's guitar was out of tune, and the two drummers that filled in for Bonham - one of them Phil Collins - hadn't rehearsed properly with the band). The other was the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert in New York, where Jason Bonham played with them for the first time and where they again - although the performance seemed to have gone better than the one at Live Aid - played only a few songs.
The other collaborations any of the members of Zeppelin have made since their breakup are Plant and
Page's projects together, which include the band The Honeydrippers and their duo albums and shows. John Paul Jones was not asked to be a part of either of these projects, and was said to be let down by this.
The classic logo before a sea of fans.
But in 2007, apparently inspired to act after the death of the man who led them (no pun intended) to fame, the three members reunited to give the first fully realized Led Zeppelin show. Though rumors were speculating during the time of the show - and later on - that it would lead to more reunion shows and perhaps even a tour (with Jason Bonham, who has said that he himself thought there would be more shows, on drums), this was not to be. The show, for all intents and purposes, was a one-shot deal. If one relied on those rumors at the time and didn't get tickets to the show, they're surely frustrated now.
But since there are only so many tickets to give away for one show at one arena in one world, and since Led Zeppelin happens to be one of the biggest bands in history, the group decided to document the historic show by turning it into a movie. This movie is CELEBRATION DAY, a full fledged concert film that will be released to home video on November 19.
Before its video release, however, the movie was given a presentation, for two nights, in theaters across the world. On October 17 and October 18, fans could go to a local theater, buy a ticket and see the band perform a recent show. Perhaps it was designed as a treat for the countless fans who didn't get to see them at the actual show, and probably would never get to see them in the future. For many fans, such as myself, it was the only time in their lives that it would really be possible to see the band. Since they broke up when I was three years old, the opportunity has never exactly presented itself in a realistic way: life doesn't permit me to fly to London for a rock show. And the commercials took advantage of these possibilities
in the minds of fans with this line, printed on screen as a quotation: "Possibly the only chance you'll ever have to see them live."
The band in action.
I saw this as a genuine event. I'm a big fan of hard rock and classic rock, and so far this year I've seen a few of my favorite artists and bands in these categories. But this is a band I'd never get to see live, more than likely, so the movie would have to do.
I drove all the way to Cary on the second day it played, October 18, to see it at the Crossroads theater, where I hadn't been in years, but where I can also remember seeing specific movies. I was surprised when I got to the window and asked for the ticket: "Did you say fifteen?" I asked the guy at the window after he told me the price. He said it was because it's a special event. Oh.
When I got into the theater, I was happy to see that, although it was far from filled, there was a decent crowd of folks there to see the movie. The first song had already started when I walked in, which amounts to bad planning on my part; but I would've rather it been the first song than the fifth, and it's not like I missed the song.
The lights still hadn't gone down, however, when I sat down. And there were a few ushers walking around the theater with flashlights. I heard someone near me say that the ushers were probably looking for people smoking weed. "Wow," I thought, "this really is like a show!" After they walked out and the lights still hadn't gone down, some of the audience members got a little unruly. They started yelling up to the projection booth for the person in charge to turn the lights down, and finally one middle aged guy stood up, turned around and yelled "Turn the lights off! Or gimme' my fuckin' money back!" I thought that was pretty amusing.
So they turned the lights down, and we were all free to appropriately enjoy the festivities. In their set, the band pretty much went through all the highlights they
could fit into the allotted number of songs, leaving out little to be desired in terms of what fans would want to hear. Their playing, and Plant's singing, was spot on. Though no one could ever fully replace a genuine legend, Bonham, who's been in several high profile bands and is an amazing drummer in his own right, more than made up for the absence of his father.
The band performing in front of a backdrop of vivid psychedelic colors.
The movie was shot very well too, with high production quality from several different cameras. It looked very much like the video monitor that plays above the stage in some big stadium and arena shows, which shows different shots of the band as they play among the smoke, lasers and whatever else surrounds the stage.
The people in the theater seemed to be in the mindset the commercial recommended, treating it like they were genuinely at a show. There was applause after every song ended (I did this myself during a few songs in the middle of the set, but I couldn't for many - I mean, this is on a screen and it happened five years ago: come on, people). I believe one person was even trying to light a lighter. It was a pretty glorious experience.
All in all, it's something I'm really glad I went to. And I know where the audience members who cheered constantly were coming from. Like I said, there's an opportunity to see so many classic bands live. If there isn't an opportunity for such a band, it's nice when there's a pretty good simulation available. Watching these men perform their songs onstage a few weeks ago, all of them looking as old as they are, it was easy to pretend that I was watching Led Zeppelin perform live on their reunion tour. Something like that is a moviegoing experience that only happens once in awhile for people who love going to movies, and it varies according to people's particular tastes, but the opportunity is always there every now and then. Pretty special. Price complaint notwithstanding, I have to admit it was an event.
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Every other Friday
This is an outlet granted to me by the makers, in which I will espouse grand words, unleashing in written form
the very movie-related praise and outrage I'm probably thinking about and/or discussing at the time anyway.
I was born in a log cabin that was built in a sewer. After serving during wartime, I woke up from this vicious dream and learned to tapdance.|
It's a commendable trade, but not a recommendable one. As I've said many a time, on one hand, I have five fingers. Yet on the other hand, I have
five fingers. Sometimes I sleep. I would probably watch more sumo wrestling if it was on TV more often. The first movie I saw at the theater was Superman
II...the last was The Terror, and this much is true. Far be it from me to call myself stupid, but if I did so (and believe me, I would), I'd say it behind
my back. Then I would figure out how I did it. Sometimes I sleep. Love, Nate.
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