By Chris M. Junior
Led Zeppelin sat for three years on the concert footage that’s featured in “The Song Remains the Same.”
The footage for “Celebration Day” was in the can even longer, yet you’d think it was shot last week, not five years ago at London’s O2 Arena during a full-set Zeppelin reunion. The sound, camera work and performances in Zeppelin’s latest concert film are as good as — and in many instances superior to — the band’s 1976 theatrical release.
“Celebration Day” (which was screened for the press Oct. 9 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York) is all about the music. No dopey fantasy segments get in the way; the film's focus is tight, powerful performances of radio favorites (including “Black Dog” and “Ramble On”) and deep cuts (such as “In My Time of Dying” and “For Your Life”).
It’s worth noting that while the O2 Arena stage appears wider than the one Zeppelin was shown performing on in “The Song Remains the Same,” singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones stay huddled close to drummer Jason Bonham’s riser during the film. Guitarists will appreciate the close-up shots of Page’s fretwork; singers (and probably Zeppelin fans in general) will appreciate Plant’s phrasing and approach to the material as he shows respect for the recorded versions while also inserting fresh flourishes.
The same can be said of Bonham, whose drum work is respectful to his late father, John Bonham, but not always note for note. In “Celebration Day,” Jason Bonham’s expression is mostly serious, his mouth slightly open. But at one point during “Trampled Under Foot,” he flashes a huge smile. Perhaps at that moment Bonham remembered playing drums on that song with Plant, Page and Jones at a 1979 Zeppelin soundcheck when he was 13 years old. What’s certain is that on Dec. 10, 2007, Jason Bonham was without a doubt Led Zeppelin’s drummer.
“Celebration Day” arrives in theaters nationwide Oct. 17; it will be released on vinyl, CD, DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 19.