It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years since the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited (with Jason Bonham on drums) for a one-off show at London’s O2 Arena in honour of Atlantic Records exec Ahmet Ertegün. But what’s really hard to believe is that it happened at all. Robert Plant seems to have a love/hate relationship with Zeppelin, proud of the band’s achievements and even willing to revisit them in various forms with Jimmy Page from time to time (the No Quarter album, Walking Into Clarksdale, a few semi-reunion mini sets in the 80s), but never ready to fully commit to anything with the Zeppelin stamp on it. And it doesn’t look like this will be happening again, so Celebration Day is really all you’re likely to get in terms of new music made by Led Zeppelin.
So what have we got here? A whopping sixteen tracks of Zeppelin classics rendered by three of the four guys who made it happen (and a goodly chunk of DNA from the remainder), in CD and DVD/Blu-Ray form. Kicking off with Good Times, Bad Times, Plant gives a kind of wry wink to the opening couplet: “In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man. Now I’ve reached that age I try to do all those things the best I can.” Plant’s starts off a little tentative here, but it doesn’t take him long to find his groove. Page’s guitar is characteristically raw and un-finessed, but that’s part of what makes him so freaking cool. He never needed to stand still and strum away in the background back in the day, and he’s not going to start now. A blisteringly loose but authoritative solo really kicks Good Times, Bad Times into overdrive and the energy level is cranked.
So I see over at Blabbermouth.net (via eGigs) that the rumours are true: Led Zeppelin are looking at touring with a different vocalist (and, dare I venture to guess, a different name, so fans don’t get all uppity about it?) because Robert Plant is too busy taking over the country music world through his bluegrass project with singer Alison Krauss.
At the Mansons Guitar Show in Exeter, Devon, UK, bass player John Paul Jones confirmed the band’s intentions, and said they’ve been trying out various singers. Jones is quoted as saying “I’m afraid, there’s no final answer yet. As you probably know, Jimmy [Page], Jason [Bonham] and I are actually rehearsing and we’ve had the odd singer come in and have a bash. As soon as we know — which we don’t — we will let you know. But we really hope that something is going to happen soon because we really want to do it and we’re having a lot of fun, actually, just rehearsing. Jason is actually tremendous… he’s really taking chances. He is a very brave man… Every other drummer in the world was watching him thinking [at the reunion show], ‘That could have been me.’ He’s creative and really fun.”
Rumour has it that singers to rehearse with the band include Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, and Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge. Interesting to note that both of these guys are quite proficient guitarists too: Could it be that Jimmy Page is open to the idea of having a second guitarist to more accurately reproduce his studio guitar orchestrations? Led Zep were always into the one-guitar thing live, but I guess if they’re willing to go out there and play these songs without Plant (or the zombie of Bonham), they might as well make further tweaks to the sound.
Jones also hinted that there’s a chance Plant might rejoin the band in a few years, when his commitments with Krauss have concluded. “We really want to do something and Robert doesn’t want to do this sort of thing, at least for the moment,” he said. “I don’t really know what his plans are. He is touring with Alison, as you know. . . He really doesn’t want to make loud music anymore. We do. I mean, I love acoustic music, but it doesn’t stop me from turning something up . . . And what we’ve done so far sounds absolutely fantastic. When it does come, it will come, and you’ll know about it.”
Personally I’m a huge fan of Plant’s solo work, especially the albums Fate of Nations and The Mighty Rearranger, and I’d love to see him perform his solo stuff one of these days. But maaaaaaaaaaaaan I’d love to see him with Page and Jones, so I hope he gets bitten by the rock bug again soon.
Photo: Getty Images via NME