sat 20/07/2024

Celebration Day | reviews, news & interviews

Celebration Day

Celebration Day

As concert films go, the record of Led Zeppelin's 2007 reunion is very loud and yet surprisingly subtle

Led Zep: blasting the cobwebs

At the end of 2007 Led Zep’s reunion concert took “hottest ticket in town” to melting point. Everyone now knows 20 million fans chased 18,000 seats at the O2. What we hear less about is, given previous disastrous reunion efforts, how hard the pressure was on. And yet they pulled it off.  Five years later people have still been asking for a tour. Earlier this week, however, the band categorically stated they’ve called it a day.

Instead they’re releasing a film of their last concert. Last night, at Hammersmith Apollo, Celebration Day got its British premiere.

After 20 minutes' delay, the band and the director, Dick Carruthers, appeared on the stage with a brief introduction. Page and Plant spoke modestly and charmingly about how they hoped we would enjoy this record of a special night. Carruthers explained a little more about how the film had come about. Apparently there happened to be a couple of cameras there on the night but he never really expected the footage to see the light of day. Yeah right. Especially given that it was he who directed 2003’s acclaimed compilation of their early concerts.

Zeppelin’s strategy for the night was to scare nerves away with sheer volumeIt's not this but an earlier concert film, The Song Remains the Same, that became so well known that no fan can fail to have it as a reference. The lavish fantasy sequences were at little out of vogue by the time it was released, but now the film is generally seen as epitomising everything that was so great about Seventies rock. Those images were surely going to be in the back of everyone’s minds.

Twenty minutes into Celebration Day, Plant, looking like a greying Aslan, thanks the crowd “for thousands of emotions”. There hardly seems any need to mention them. They’re written all over the band’s faces.

Celebration Day's beautiful and intimate high-tech camera work captures every bead of sweat, anxious look, and relieved smile between the band, including Bonham’s son Jason on drums. He plays, if anything, louder than his dad, which is perfect given that Zeppelin’s strategy for the night was to scare nerves away with sheer volume. But it is here that the film’s “pure concert” approach possibly runs into difficulties. For while the performances captured in this film have rightly become legendary - Page, looking like a space wizard, plays especially well - the sound quality hasn't.

Maybe it was the fault of the whoever turned all the Hammersmith Apollo’s knobs up to 11. From where I was sitting the mix and volume were so aggressive, verging on distorted, that two solid hours, unbroken by interviews or even much in the way of stagecraft, turned into a long night. Half an hour in, the woman in front of me actually put in ear plugs. Consequently, even though the best performances like “Kashmir” come mainly in the second half, it was the first 10 minutes with those magical looks of fear melting to smiles that are most memorable. For the full effect of these, I would still recommend watching this in the cinema over the convenience of DVD. But if the sound really is as harsh as it seemed last night, I might just skip the CD. 

  • Celebration Day is released in cinemas on 17 October and on CD and DVD on 19 November

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Celebration Day's beautiful and intimate high-tech camera work captures every bead of sweat, anxious look, and relieved smile


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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A rather negative review and I am guessing from someone who neither attended the original concert or has ever been a sound engineer at Hammersmith Odeon/Apollo!! Frankly having done the foremost once and the second too many times to count I was amazed at the audio quality and reproduction given the venues limits. The audio was fairly much original as the feedback on the vocals present in the first 2 numbers was still just audible (although obviously notch filtered out) but proved to me that not much rerecording had been undertaken. Overall a much better than I expected accurate reproduction of the concert. As to the lady in question I suggest she didn't attend the original gig as that was far louder.

Just returned from seeing Led Zepplin's celebration day at Hammersmith Odeon. The film is simply phenomenal, the sound out of this world. Thank you to all involved for blowing the mind of a man who thought he'd seen and heard it all. Thank you to Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for showing up to introduce the film. Will definitely be going again and again to see this one. Footnote: The sound was staggering. We were in the circle so the sound filled the whole auditorium and the full benefit of Hammersmith Odeons fantastic acoustics were realised. Full credit to all involved for a brilliant performance!

I didn't get a ticket for the O2 event but I was there last night. I'm a fan so I'm biased but I left last night with a huge smile on my face. I got what I'd expected and wanted. No break in the music so it seemed like I was there. The difference being you had the close ups close up! You could see them working as a band to get it to gel with all the rhythms that Page, Jones, Bonham interweave in the music. Magical! Plant looked like he was enjoying too, surprise, surprise! Jones was the glue, as master! Jimmy, a national treasure? Bonham was emotional at the end as you would expect. Led Zeppelin are like family that you welcome home after a long trip. I wish for more but have the memories of Earls Court 75. Sigh!!!

Lets look at it from a different view should we! I was fortunate enough, to first see Led Zeppelin with my best friend, on my 18th birthday on 16 February 1972, at the Subiaco Oval in Perth, Western Australia..........some present eh! Well last night, me and the same best friend (with our wives) went to the premiere to celebrate a momentous occasion -- seeing three of the greatest musicians ever, in person again, and on a stage together, albeit for a brief moment! I suspect for many people, that they has the same motive and this was little to do with seeing a film of a 2007 reunion, that was inevitably going to be available on CD and DVD! This was all about memories, feelings, emotions and personal experiences of the late 60's and early 70's -- a very special period in the history of world music! I suspect that much of what has been said in the past and is being said now, is about comparing or trying to compare the performance of artists in their late 50's early 60's, with what they produced three to four decades earlier....this is simply ridiculous and a waste of effort! Let's enjoy and remember the moment at The Apollo for what it was, and it was certainly a moment, was a time to catch a glimpse of the heroes of our youth again, rekindle memories of their phenomenal skills and make us feel proud that they got back together in 2007 and are still friends!

Well as one of the lucky ones to see the 2007 gig, and one of the unlucky ones to miss the premiere ( I know which one would be more disappointiing!) I cannot wait to see it on Wednesday with my mate Simon who I went with originally. Although we spent the entire day drinking in and around the 02, I still cannot forget the unbelievable atmosphere of the day with 18,000 people walking around like the richest people in the world. The concert itself was simply stunning and although I have spent my life and a large proportion of my income going to gigs throughout the years, NOTHING will ever top this night. I was very emotional on the night. I think I will be on Wednesday too.

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