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Led Zeppelin, ‘Celebration Day’ – Film Review

Led Zeppelin
Mark Bowman for Ultimate Classic Rock

New York City played host to the surviving members of Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones) today, Oct. 9. The group was joined by drummer Jason Bonham at the New York Museum of Modern Art for a press conference and screening of their new film ‘Celebration Day.’

The enthusiastic press corps seemed to be very impressed with the film during the screening, applauding wildly after every song and thus giving the room the feel of an actual concert. This is the only worldwide screening that will feature all four members of Led Zeppelin that performed at the O2 Arena in December 2007. There are additional premieres in Berlin, Tokyo and London scheduled for later this month.

The movie was screened for the media prior to the press conference to give reporters a chance to ask questions relative to the film. The unique way the film was conceived and presented in “movie format” is one of the more stunning aspects of ‘Celebration Day.’ There are no supplemental interviews, no fantasy sequences or other filler. This is two hours of essential, fervent rock and roll, quite simply. The film is presented much in the same manner as the actual Zeppelin O2 concert back in London in 2007. In retrospect, this appears to be a very good call.

Twenty million people applied for tickets, but only 18,000 lucky lottery winners were actually able to attend this historic show. Combined with the fact that the band members have declined to re-form and tour, this movie gives viewers a chance to see the brilliant performance,  and it gives a very honest account of the actual concert. In a time when creative editing can provide a range of viewing experiences, Led Zeppelin correctly made the call not to dramatically alter or tamper with the film, sound mix or the actual concert feel of the set list. As one who attended this historic concert, this film is truly an accurate document of what could be Led Zeppelin’s final performance ever.

The film provides an intro credit lead-in that minimizes the use of graphics, excessive credits and the usual fare of a feature film. Once the introductory credits roll, the viewer is quickly transported back to Dec. 10, 2007. The vintage newsreel footage from Tampa 1973 is shown first, like at the actual concert, and then it’s on to the count-off to ‘Good Times, Bad Times.’ From that point, the visual and aural onslaught begins.

For two solid hours, the viewer is witness to full-on Led Zep sonic fury. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones’ performances, combined with Jason Bonham’s powerhouse drumming, just leap from the screen. Stellar 14-camera cinematography takes you onstage with the band, so every glance, wink and nod gives witness to their chemistry as the set unfolds. Robert Plant sings his heart out, pushing himself at all times. Jimmy Page’s guitar work is something to be marveled at, and John Paul Jones is his usual top notch self, both on bass and keyboards.

The biggest revelation of the film might have been Jason Bonham, who studied numerous bootlegs and band recordings to really maximize the opportunity to play with his dad’s pals for the first two-hour Zeppelin set in 27 years. Bonham truly challenged himself to raise the bar and do his father proud, and he succeeds in every way. He even brings some interesting, unique drum fills that he makes his own and adds to the sonic steam train that was cooking the entire two hours of the movie screening.

This is a film that needs to be seriously watched, digested and enjoyed over and over again. Younger fans that weren’t alive when the group was in its prime can see and experience what a magnificent band Led Zeppelin actually was.

‘Celebration Day’ makes a huge statement befitting the career of Led Zeppelin, and this film exceeds in the most triumphant ways. This movie will definitely add to their legend and should become a “must have” for all lovers of great rock and roll music.

Next: Best Led Zeppelin Songs Beyond the Hits

Watch the ‘Celebration Day’ Trailer

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