It’s a testament to Led Zeppelin’s enduring popularity that a reunion concert from 2007 is one of the music world’s most highly anticipated releases. It’s five years after their stint at London’s O2 arena and over 30 since the mighty Zep was at the top of the world. The success of the Celebration Day double DVD/double CD/Blu Ray/ vinyl set is also what makes a more permanent reunion tour so tempting for the entire band, except lead singer Robert Plant. Plant is the one (former) member of Led Zeppelin who’s had an exceptional solo career, perhaps explaining his unwavering refusal to start singing “Stairway to Heaven” again every night.
Jeff Miers of the Buffalo News dug into what makes Plant’s stodginess so lovable, no matter how appealing a Led Zeppelin reunion might be.
The man’s distaste for nostalgia has long been apparent. Throughout his solo career, he’s provided an ever-moving target, a shape-shifting persona that has seen him move from hard rock, to a hippie jam-vibe, to a noir-country teaming with the lovely and incredibly talented Alison Krauss. He’s avoided living in the past, sometimes to the chagrin of his fans.
Watching the film of Celebration Day, one is inclined to take Plant’s position. He is in incredible form throughout. Though no human could sustain the strength and range the young Plant routinely employed during Zeppelin’s heyday, Plant – who was 60 at the time of the O2 concert – accords himself well, saving plenty of gas in the tank for the highest notes, finding new ways to tell the emotional stories of the songs in a manner that is both mature and visceral. Simply put, he kills it.
The touring circuit is stuffed full of aging performers attempting to do justice to work they originally created as young men. Very few of them are up to the task. But the money must make this easier to deal with.
Consider the great Who frontman Roger Daltrey, a powerhouse vocalist from Plant’s generation who often sang as hard and as high in range as the Zeppelin singer. God bless him, but Daltrey is struggling to hit the notes these days. It’s to Plant’s credit that he refuses to go down the same road. Even more to his credit is the fact that his refusal is based on immense respect for the music, love for the friends he made it with, and concern for both the paying fans and the band’s legacy.