...Jack Black took the stage with the bold
statement: “Led Zeppelin is the greatest rock and roll band of all
time. Better than The Beatles! Better than the Stones! Even better
than Tenacious D (referring to his own band). That’s not opinion,
that’s fact! If you don’t agree you never did the Led Zeppelin
marathon,” he said, saying that all “true fans” have to do it: listen
to all of Zeppelin’s albums in a row.
He also noted the band’s wide appeal, spreading from famously liberal
film director Oliver Stone to recent Republican Vice-Presidential
candidate Paul Ryan. “They say that Led Zeppelin sold their souls to
Satan,” possibly the first time such a reference was made at the
Kennedy Center. Looking up at them in the balcony, he chided, “Come
on guys, you know you did! There’s no other way to explain your
ungodly talent! I just want to say ‘thank you,’ because while you’re
in hell, the human race will cherish your heavenly jams until the end
of time! It’s a small price to pay. We love you.”
Black’s pals the Foo Fighters then took the stage. Two months after
frontman Dave Grohl declared that the band was taking a break, they
were back, paying tribute to Zep. Grohl stayed behind the drums,
though, letting drummer Taylor Hawkins take the mic for “Black Dog”
and “Rock and Roll.” Hawkins, who fronts his own band (Taylor Hawkins
and The Coattail Riders), strained to replicate Robert Plant’s vocals;
but then, so do most singers.
That was also an issue for Kid Rock, who followed with “Babe, I’m
Gonna Leave You” and “What Is And What Should Never Be.”* But things
really picked up when Lenny Kravitz took to the stage to sing “Whole
Lotta Love.” While Kravitz usually plays guitar on stage, he just
kept to the mic, concentrating on doing Plant’s vocals justice. After
that, John Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham, who played with Zeppelin at
their 2007 reunion concert recently released as the Celebration Day
live album and DVD, got behind the drums, wearing a bowler hat (which
his father often used to wear).
Heart sisters (and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees) Ann and Nancy
Wilson, longtime Zep disciples, closed the show with an epic version
of “Stairway To Heaven,” complete with a string section, backing
singers and a choir (all wearing Bonzo-esque bowlers).
Throughout the performances, Page beamed, and he, Plant and Jones
seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. Tonight (December 3),
they will appear together alongside a fellow honoree when they guest
on Late Show With David Letterman. It’s the last scheduled event that
the three will appear at, leading fans to wonder if it will be their
final bow. If it is, the Kennedy Center Honors helped to provide a
great last hurrah for the group dubbed by Jack Black as the “Best!
* Note: According to Rolling Stone Kid Rock played Ramble On, not What is and What Should Never Be.