Should I Watch..? Celebration Day
What's the big deal?
Celebration Day is a concert documentary film released in 2012 and is directed by Dick Carruthers. It records Led Zeppelin's legendary appearance at the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert held at the O2 Arena in December, 2007 - the first time the band had played together live since the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980. Demand for tickets was unprecedented and actually set a new world record in the process. The documentary contains the bands full set-list including encores and is a startling reminder that even after so long, the band still retain incredible musicality and can still put on one hell of a show. It was also released as an album which secured the group a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. It also has earned a seat in my Hall Of Fame.
What's it about?
Ahmet Ertegün was a Turkish-American businessman who founded the record label Atlantci Records as well as becoming its president. He became famous for championing a number of artists and bands who would later go on to become internationally famous - Led Zeppelin was one such band. When Ahmet died in 2007, a benefit concert was arranged with proceeds going to the Ahmet Ertegün Education Fund but as soon as Led Zeppelin was announced as the headline act, with Jason Bonham playing in place of his father John on drums, demand for tickets exceeded all expectations.
The documentary covers their performance in full including two encores. Sixteen songs were played covering almost all of their career including classics like "Black Dog", "Kashmir" and the rarely performed live "Stairway To Heaven". A number of celebrities also attended the gig including Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Lulu, The Edge and many more.
Himself, vocals and harmonica
Himself, lead guitar
John Paul Jones
Himself, bass guitar and keyboard
Himself, drums, percussion and backing vocals
Release Date (UK)
17th October, 2012
What's to like?
In case you are unaware, Led Zeppelin are widely considered the first heavy metal band so if you like loud, guitar-driven rock then this will blow you away. Despite their advancing years, the pomp and arrogance of days gone by is still very much in evidence. Of course, the tunes are familiar to Led Zeppelin fans but the energy brought to the stage that night is bordering on ridiculous. They'd had the odd reunion here and there, mostly notably singer Robert Plant collaborating with genuine guitar hero Jimmy Page in the mid 90's for the album "Unledded". But this gives it the full beans by stunning you into submission with power, grace and fury.
The notable presence of Jason Bonham on drums make the experience even more powerful. What he lacks in his fathers skills (which isn't much, as far as I can tell), he makes up for in passion. You sense that for him, this isn't just some reunion for a good cause. The concert represents a coming-together of his heritage and his destiny, enabling him to fulfil a lifetime dream. You can see what it means to him at the end and makes you appreciate his efforts all the more.
- The concert broke the Guinness World Record for the highest number of ticket requests for a single concert - 20 million requests for just 20'000 seats.
- Included in their set list were two songs they had never played live before - "Ramble On" and "For Your Life". No songs from their final album "In Through The Out Door" were included.
- Their performance is opened by a news montage from 1973 covering the story of Led Zeppelin breaking the Beatles' attendance record they set at a concert in 1965. Led Zeppelin would break it again in 1977 when 76'229 people attended a gig at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan.
What's not to like?
Obviously, if rock isn't your thing then chances are, this will simply sound horrendous to you. You're wrong, by the way.
I guess, from the point of view of someone who grew up listening to his father's tapes, I'd have liked to hear more from the band themselves - maybe an interview after they came off stage or perhaps a behind-the-scenes peek at the mixing of the album. After all, they took their sweet time releasing the concert as a film and album although few will argue that it wasn't worth the wait - Zeppelin fans will have waited for this gig for over twenty years! And obviously, they could have played more songs but what's there is absolute gold. The film is a celebration in every sense - of music, of friendship, of loyalty and of a man whose vision would be sorely missed.
Should I watch it?
Rock concerts have an energy which is perhaps difficult to get across via the magic of a TV screen but Celebration Day gives it a damn good go. The film captures a band that still manages to perform almost at their peak and reminds those pretenders to their throne that the kings of heavy metal haven't quite abdicated just yet. Who knows what the future holds for these four men but if there is any justice, hopefully we'll hear more from them.
Great For: Led Zeppelin fans, heavy metal fans, headbangers
Not So Great For: your grandparents, the deaf, your neighbours
What else should I watch?
There are no shortage of recorded rock concerts out there so my advice would be to track down any by your favourite artist, if you haven't seen them already. America's loudest band Metallica have a couple of concert-films out there - Through The Never added a bizarre narrative element (much like Zeppelin's own The Song Remains The Same did) while the awkwardly-named Cunning Stunts captures them in full flow at a gig in Fort Worth, Texas in 1998 and is highly recommended for fans.
For people interested in the bands themselves, there is just as much choice. Brit-pop icons Blur looked back at their career in No Distance Left To Run while Brit-pop as a genre was covered in Live Forever with contributions from Suede, Pulp and Elastica. And if you want more Jimmy Page, he appears in a documentary called It Might Get Loud where he, along with The Edge and Jack White, assess the appeal and power of the electric guitar and jam for a little bit. It's worth watching for their facial reactions alone when Jimmy starts playing "Whole Lotta Love"...
© 2015 Benjamin Cox