When Led Zep Reunited
There’s been so much hype about Celebration Day, the name of the 2007 concert by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, who reunited to play just one gig at London’s O2 arena as a tribute to the legendary producer and music industry executive, the late Ahmet Ertegun, that even after the recordings – both video and audio – of the concert were released late last year, I hesitated to check them out. Big mistake. I should’ve.
I did, finally, only over the last week. Led Zeppelin, for all practical purposes, dissolved in 1980 (although there have been brief reunions such as the 2007 concert), but they are a band that many of us grew up listening to. I can still remember where and when I first heard their eponymous debut album, Led Zeppelin, or for that matter the three following that one: II, III and IV (the last one actually being an un-named album but referred to by fans as IV). There were five more albums that they released during their tenure, including Physical Graffiti and In Through The Out Door, but for many, the first four remain the most influential Led Zep releases.
For many of us who heard Led Zeppelin in our formative years, their sound defined hard rock music. Jimmy Page’s lead guitar, Robert Plant’s wailing style of singing, John Bonham’s (the band dissolved with his death in 1980) trademark drumming and John Paul Jones’ bass and keyboards were the precursors of heavy metal or hard rock as we know it today. I don’t know how many thousands of bands that one band has influenced.
For Celebration Day, Bonham’s son Jason joined the surviving members and the quartet produced a concert that many would die to be able to watch live. The band played 17 songs, including two encores, and the playlist has all of your favourite Led Zeppelin songs. Black Dog? It’s there. Dazed and Confused? Yes, a nearly 12-minute version! Kashmir? Yes. Misty Mountain Hop? Ditto. Whole Lotta Love? Yup. If you grew up in the 1970s listening to rock music, this album is your stairway to musical heaven. Yes, of course, Stairway to Heaven was also on the playlist.
Besides the glowing warmth of nostalgia that I felt while listening to Celebration Day, I couldn’t help but marvel at the remarkable fact that three ageing rockers (Jason Bonham is only in his 40s but the three of his late father’s bandmates are inching towards 70) were able to perform the way they did. If you don’t watch the video, they could well sound as if they were playing in the 1970s. I don’t know what others feel but for me, it was Page who stole the show at the O2 arena that night. Not having heard my Led Zeppelin albums for a while, I had indeed forgotten how huge a deal he was. And, evidently, still is. He’s grown old terrifically too. Just take a look at the elegant gent in the latest John Varvatos ad campaign for which Page has modelled, along with a more contemporary young bluesman, Gary Clark Jr. (See DC, dated December 16, 2012). Incidentally, it’s Page who outshines the younger musician in the ads.
But last week was not just about an old band in a reminted version. I caught a spectacular new band as well. Miyazaki are an electronic band from Washington DC and they describe their music as “gloomy-spirit, house, loud beat, rain dance-synth pop”. Whatever that may mean, they make music that I found instantly appealing. Miyazaki comprises Eduardo Rodela, Marisa Grotte, Rob Hart and Omari Mayers-Walker. As far as I could make out, they have one full-length album out and it’s called Color of Glass. Rodela and Grotte sing. Rodela’s vocals reminded me of The National’s Matt Berninger and not just because it’s a baritone but also its shade of gloominess. Yet, Miyazaki’s is music that you could dance to as well. I’m not sure it would work at a young people’s party as a medium to dance with but if you’re at a mature grown-ups’ party, it’s the sort of music that can be played after a couple of rounds of drinks have been demolished and every middle-aged leg is feeling uninhibited enough to afford a shake.
It’s not often that the name of the recording label is what draws you to the bands that it produces. But when I heard of a label called What’s Your Rupture?, I quickly checked to see which bands this New York indie label produced. I found one called Parquet Courts. A punk band from Brooklyn, their first full-length album, is fun and full of malcontented songs that are a fun listen.