Five years ago, there were 20,000 of us at London’s O2 for a Led Zeppelin concert billed as “the band reunion of the century.”
Most had won seats in a worldwide lottery on a website that had 25 million hits from those seeking tickets. On Dec. 10, 2007, the opening notes of “Good Times Bad Times” rang out to an ovation filmed by 18 movie cameras.
Now the millions who didn’t manage to get tickets can hear and see the show on CD and DVD/Blu-Ray. After years of delay, the good news is that “Celebration Day” captures the gig in full. The bad news is that it looks increasingly certain that Zeppelin will resist offers for more concerts.
The occasion was a tribute for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. The Zeps rapidly realized they wanted to play for much longer than the 20 minutes originally suggested.
The result is one of rock’s greatest shows, one of the finest I’ve seen. That includes the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the Who with its original drummer, Keith Moon, who, like Led Zep’s John Bonham, died at the age of 32.
Zep used Bonham’s son Jason as replacement at the O2, and he did a fine job, locking with bassist John Paul Jones on songs such as “Black Dog.” There were bone-crunching guitar riffs from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant’s still spine-tingling vocals, and there was a sense of celebration that the band was playing its first full show in 27 years.
As a live album, it doesn’t have the youthful energy of “How the West Was Won,” though it has a sense of never-to-be repeated occasion which makes it masterful. Rating: *****.
Amy Winehouse at last has a posthumous album and video that do justice to her talent.
“At the BBC” is much that the spotty “Lioness: Hidden Treasures” claimed to be and wasn’t. Her first appearance on Jools Holland’s TV show, a slow version of “Valerie” and jazz numbers with Johnny Dankworth are highlights, set among some less-stellar performances. Still, what a voice. Rating: ***.
Soundgarden’s first release in 16 years is “King Animal.” It starts with the aptly named “Been Away Too Long.”
It’s well produced and tuneful, yet lacks some of the aggressive edge of earlier outings such as 1991’s “Badmotorfinger.” These guys were once as scary as Nirvana. This is just a little too safe. Rating: **.
Kylie Minogue and Tori Amos have been following the same route used by Sting and George Michael and adding strings.
Minogue reinterprets her hits on “The Abbey Road Sessions”: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” comes with plucked violins. Rating: **.
Amos is more adventurous with her choice of material on “Gold Dust” with the Metropole Orchestra. Rating: ***.
Seductive Del Rey
Lana Del Rey also uses strings for “Ride,” the Rick Rubin-produced single. It has stirred up critics on Twitter, who see it as manufactured and bland. It’s still seductively beautiful, like the previous “Video Games.” Del Rey’s album “Born to Die” now comes in a deluxe “Paradise Edition” with a bonus disc, all ready for the holiday season. Watch it sell. Rating: ****.
What the Stars Mean: ***** Exceptional **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
Led Zeppelin’s “Celebration Day” on Atlantic is available in various formats starting at $14.99 for two CDs. The Winehouse box on Universal has formats from $16.69, with artist royalties going to charity. Soundgarden is on Republic, Minogue on EMI, Amos on Deutsche Grammophon and Lana Del Rey on Interscope at prices starting at $14. Download prices vary across services.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night and Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater.