My name is Phil Udell and I’m not a Led Zeppelin fan. By rights I probably should be, discovering a love of rock music during the early ‘80s, but they simply passed me by. With no older siblings to pass down battered copies of Physical Graffiti, instead I had to make do with the tracks I heard on Tommy Vance’s Radio 1 rock show – the original TV on the radio – and, to be honest, I wasn’t much impressed – preferring the likes of Rush and Rainbow (yes, I know). Then came Iron Maiden, then came Metallica, Faith No More and Anthrax and then came indie music. It was a state of affairs that suited both parties fine. I felt no desire to explore the past and Led Zeppelin, the odd compilation aside, hardly seemed desperate to remind the world of their being every five minutes.
Perhaps, however, that is why their status has continued to grow. Unlike the depressing activities in the Queen camp, Led Zeppelin have kept their counsel. A couple of ropey live performances later that decade and a handful of reissues aside, they have let their legacy speak for itself. That relaxed approach has transferred to this much anticpated release, documenting their far more successful live comeback in London five years ago – done for all the right reasons and keeping the family line with Jason Bonham on drums. As befits their approach over the years, Celebration Day is a stylish package and one that strives to give their audience what they want. They took the same approach to the show itself, choosing not to mess with their past a la Dylan but simply turn up, plug in and blast off. And that they certainly do, performing in with the vigour of men a quarter of their age (yet crucially the experience of their own vintage).
Of course what that does mean is that there are few surprises when it comes to the material, especially for those who remain unconverted to the cause. The likes of ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘In My Time Of Dying’ are as ponderous as ever, proof that the band could be an acquired taste. Yet when they kick off ‘(Kashmir’, ‘Ramble On’, even the over familiar ‘Stairway To Heaven’), Led Zeppelin really soar. The whole experience is enhanced beautifully by the Dick Carruthers directed concert film that accompanies the album, capturing the nuances of the night perfectly (the look of joy Plant gives Page as ‘Good Times Bad Times’ explodes into life says as much about their relationship as you need to know) and if, as you suspect, this reading of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ does mark the last time that these three legends will appear on stage together, then it’s not half a bad way to go out.
So my name is Phil Udell and I’m still not really a Led Zeppelin fan, but this is pretty cool and will happily sit on my shelf next to Labrinth and the Levellers. If you are of that persuasion, though, then Celebration Day is most definitely for you.