1) Organizationally, this was a disaster. Three-hour line-ups to get your tickets, followed by one-hour line-ups for tee shirts. Want a coffee while you’re in line, even that line-up was an hour long. The Starbucks people at the 02 didn’t expect to be busy when 20,000 people would be lining up for tickets?
2) One entrance, one exit from the building, even if that meant walking cattle like for 10 minutes around the building on the inside. And the “after party” line up stretched in front of the one exit in the place.
3) I got on the internet the first night, within hours of the first e-mails going out. Our seats in the nosebleeds where bloody partially obscured by hanging monitors, such that I assume John Paul Jones was in attendance, and Robert Plant looked more like Ichabod Crane then the Viking others are describing him as. Our side stage tickets also didn’t allow us to view, what others have told us, was an incredible backdrop show going on behind the band. It should also be noted that “fans” got to stand on the floor, or sit in the 400 “nosebleed” section. The best seats in the house went to VIPs: so much for that big load of crap coming out of Harvey Goldsmith’s office that this was for the real fans only. Real fans were shunted into lineups or aside while the VIPs got a huge number of great seats.
Now for the good: Led Zeppelin. The band was great. Musically they were very tight, Jones and Bonham connecting very well throughout the show. There was the odd false start to songs, and once during Dazed and Confused when the rhythm section seemed to not be connecting, but such points are nit picking, were short lived and understandable for any band that hasn’t played together for a while. They were otherwise very tight and very good.
Song wise, there was discussion that some songs were being re-arranged to suit Robert Plant’s vocals. If that was true, it was only noticeable on The Song Remains the Same, which sounded rather flat and uninteresting. A song that is usually bright and lively it was the opposite, very probably a victim of re-keying. Otherwise the songs themselves were very good and the set list strong.
Ah, the set list. One worry I had going into this show was that Jimmy Pages joke about Dazed and Confused, No Quarter and Moby Dick would take up over an hour of the show. It’s not 1977, I am not on acid and a 20-minute drum/violin bow on a guitar/organ solo is not cool. But Zeppelin understood this, and the solos were minimized. Yes, Page pulled out the bow, but a 19 minute Dazed and Confused not just makes sense, but was great, and the same applies to a shortened No Quarter was also a highlight. Moby Dick wasn’t offered, and in fact, wasn’t even joked about.
Complaints? One, well two: it really wasn’t long enough. By the time it was over it just felt like they were hitting a groove. I know the old show biz adage about leave them wanting more, but it felt like half a show somehow. It was a touch over two hours long, so it’s not really a complaint, but it really seemed as if it was a short show. Most bands after that long I think, “Finally.” Zeppelin, it’s “what? That’s it?” The second complaint? After bitching in the last chapter about solos, I shall now be entirely inconsistent. Page never played White Summer (nor did he pull out his blue and white Danelanctro guitar). I have always liked that piece, and it’s short enough and such a solid lead in to Kashmir that I wished he had. That is, however, mere quibbles.
A special note about Jason Bonham, who was incredible. Word is he had to be practically dragged on stage, ½ before show time telling the boys, between pukes, he couldn’t do it. He did it in spades however. He was brilliant, I think the best drummer I have ever seen. If not that, I have never seen a drummer dominate a show musically like he did. Some people after the show even saying he was better than his father, and he was good enough that I can believe it. This is a guy who is clearly wasting his talents playing with Foreigner. I noticed about five songs in, between songs Jimmy Page walked over to the drum riser and smiled at Bonham, who gave the thumbs up back. And at shows end during the final bow, Bonham got down in front of the other three and did a “I’m not worthy” bow: he was worthy.
In final, I haven’t seen a review that gave this show any less than a five out of five, one giving it a six. I will not disagree with either, going unqualified with a 5 out of 5. Here in England there are even some calling it the greatest concert ever. I have been trying to decide if I have seen better, and can’t think of any. Even if there was a better one in my past, the fact I can’t immediately decide so means this was plenty good.
No, I won’t equivocate: this was a great concert by a great band that was in great form. I simply can’t imagine how good these guys would be after a few shows to get the groove going. If they do tour, and it would be a crime if they don’t, I want to see them again mid tour. They would be an unimaginable force of music.