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My day out on Monday

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I posted this on another forum yesterday, but I dunno, some people here might fancy a read:

We drove down from Manchester, leaving at 10am and getting to the O2 just after 2pm, so an incredibly smooth run and a good omen. Omens are everything on a day like this. We drove past the £20 parking spaces and found loads of room in a normal pay & display car park about 2 minutes walk from the entrance for £6. Omen No 2, check. Walked straight in past a giant statue of Anubis, Egyptian God of the Dead. Omen 3... uh oh. But wait, there was a queue of zero at ticket collection. Wrist bands on, ticket in wallet, sorted. Omen No 4, check. (Yeah, alright, that's enough Omens.)

So then we stopped and looked around and realised we were in the set of the ice planet Hoth out of Star Wars, complete with foggy breath and need for ski jackets. The place is fucking freezing, and massively tacky to go with it. It was about 2.30pm and we had at least three and a half hours to kill. So we ate some food and tried not to drink much beer. There was an advert saying that O2 customers could send a text message to a given number and win access to a VIP area, so I entered that to kill about 30 seconds.

The atmosphere was really subdued at that time. The only busy bit was the astonishingly long queue for merchandise. The t-shirts looked very nice, except that they said, "Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and Foreigner" in almost as big letters as "Led Zeppelin". Didn't buy anything. We wandered aimlessly. There was a blimp outside, blowing round like mad in the icy wind, advertising Mothership. Hopefully it slipped its moorings and someone has a nice souvenir in their back garden this morning.

We went and sat in the car for a bit to warm up and listen to some music and I got a text message saying, "Congratulations, you've won entry to the VIP area"! I should've bought a lottery ticket yesterday really. We rushed in and demanded access, but we had to wait till 6pm. The lady assured us that it was a really cool area with its own bar and access to a smoking area etc, but we couldn't actually watch the show from there. Bummer. Still, we went in at 6pm, only to find that it was the shittest "VIP" area imaginable. It was basically a paying bar, packed with other "VIPs" (i.e. tricked people like us) and so completely out of the way of the actual arena that you felt like you were being deliberately isolated. They also had a "juke box" which was playing default Led Zep tunes which you could "request" by texting a song number to them. So a song which might cost 50p to listen to on a juke box would be requested by about 20 people for 50p each. Duh. Bad taste. Left asap.

Went in to Arena. At this point it occurred to me that we'd had a security check when we first entered the O2, but that we'd been in and out of the place several times since and the security barrier had completely disappeared. (I had to check with my mate that I hadn't imagined it earlier.) As long as you weren't carrying a bag they just waved you straight through, and my mate was wearing a giant overcoat which could've concealed Steven Spielberg and a complete film and lighting crew.

We found our seats. Way, way up high; way, way at the back. Hmm. Plan B. My mate suffers from vertigo. This is genuine. However, he suddenly had an attack of height phobia which was quite terrifying. Clinging to the rails, he edged along to an O2 member of staff who said they might be able to relocate us. They had a whole wad of unsold tickets. A couple of books full of them. They took us to Level 1, to a spot with a side view of the stage (I'll post some pics later). This was proceeding magnificently. I'd brought some binoculars and was able to read the lighting man's laptop screen and also see into the stage side access area. There were empty seats all around us, though they did fill up later. I'm guessing that a least some tickets were sold at the last minute, though I haven't seen this confirmed yet.

The show started at 7.15pm prompt, with Harvey Goldsmith introducing a short film about Ahmet which I wasn't concentrating on but is apparently an excerpt from a DVD which is included in the programme. It included Mick Jagger talking to Ahmet Ertegun about Led Zeppelin??? I didn't buy a programme on the night but might get one so I can check that out.

The stage was completely wedged with gear at this point as there were a stack of musicians due to play. They kicked off with Keith Emerson, Chris Squire, Alan White and Simon Kirke, along with a brass section, playing Fanfare For The Common Man. Lots of fun and a really good, light hearted start to the show. Bill Wyman and band came on. He's got Albert Lee, and I think it's Billy Fury on keyboards??? Bland enough, but they're ideal for shows like this where you want to bring on guests to do a quick spot without a big set up hassle - kind of like Jools Holland's band does.

Paul Rodgers stole the show out of these guests. He really went for it and looked and sounded great. He did All Right Now and a solo accoustic one which I can't remember what it was. Maggie Bell did an Aretha Franklin number, etc. Paolo Nuttini also came on and was quite good and well received. His voice is ace, just the heavy accent sounds like he's putting it on, like a cartoon Mexican or something. I wasn't sure what that was about. Might check him out though.

What else? Stage was cleared a bit. No sign of Ronnie Wood, which everyone has in big letters on their t-shirts. Poor old Foreigner came on and did an hysterical I Wanna Know What Love Is, with a children's choir (*queazy*) and tried to get the crowd to sing along, "for Ahmet", and completely failed. They were filming this after all. Imagine if the camera happened to catch you singing along to I Wanna Know What Love Is and it went out on the DVD or something. (*even queazier*)

It was about 8.30pm by then I suppose. The stage crew did a stunningly efficient job of clearing the stage and getting up into the lighting rigs and the time actually flew by. There were lots of people pouring in now, a lot of them steaming drunk. One guy in front of me put his plastic pint glass in the drink holder on the armrest of his seat, then promptly sat down on it! Beer everywhere. Love a bit of slapstick, I do.

Then the lights went down and a clip of a contemporary 70s news report about Tampa was played on the screen. The reporter ended with the words, "...and for those who were there, this is what they saw..." BANG! ... BANG BANG! Fucking HELL! LED ZEPPELIN! Good Times Bad Times. I don't mind admitting that I welled up. I had a ridiculous grin on my face. The whole arena did. There wasn't even a particularly big a roar from the crowd and I think it's because everyone was knocked out. I've read that the original Led Zeppelin were the only band where the audience would sit down when they started playing!

The intent was immediately stated and they were totally going for it. The sound was a bit low at this point, but clear enough where we were. Jimmy's guitar was dirty, know what I mean. That's his total trade mark, to make the guitar growl and sizzle like no one else ever has done, including Hendrix, and he kept it like that all night.

Ramble On was a good crowd stirrer, but no different from Page & Plant doing it, as has been suggested before. Black Dog was another great crowd booster with the obvious sing along bit. Plant was really going for it with the voice. I see the telly is showing clips of this so you'll have got an idea at least. He wasn't holding back at all, almost angry it seemed to me. The sound levels were upped a lot by now too and seemed to get progressively louder, which was a huge bonus.

Then the first real great performance. For In My Time Of Dying Page had a Gibson semi-accoustic (is it ES? not up on guitars) and this was wild. I mean, the sound he was getting was pure evil. Jason was playing his heart out and was spot on, totally reliable. I was so knocked out that I don't think I even got my camera out before the end of this song. Then they did For Your Life, which is one of my all time favourite Zep tracks and a complete trademark bizarre time signature thing of course. Great. I forgot to mention that Plant introduced IMTOD with a humerous reference to the fact they nicked it, and he did the same with the next song, talking about Robert Johnson's Terraplane Blues which gave it away, along with the fact that JPJ was sat at the keyboards. Trampled Underfoot was completely dominated by Jimmy. Honestly, he was totally on fire last night and I don't care if I'm a fawning fan talking like that. He had the whole show under control man.

Nobody's Fault But Mine was another relentless power job. Plant seemed to be quite enjoying this, but at the same time there was quite a bit of anger about him I thought. Didn't see him smile, y'know. But I could well have misinterpreted that. He was kind of acting like it was Robert Plant, backed by Led Zeppelin. Which I suppose it is in a way, being as he's front man and that. I think it made for a good show, bit of tension and competitiveness and that. I may be rambling though, as I said.

No Quarter was good, but dare I say it probably not as good as the Page & Plant version from Shepherds Bush (on the Shining In The Light CD) which is pretty untouchable I suspect, even for a close on perfect Led Zeppelin line-up.

Since I've Been Loving You was great. Again, absolutely no sign of voice problems for Robert Plant. He really screamed at one point. Throughout the show there were occasional cock-ups, from Page mostly (as is traditional), but the overwhelming impression was of a very tightly rehearsed performance, but managing to sound loose and dirty without messing it up like the old Led Zep did fairly regularly (going by bootlegs).

The Dazed And Confused violin bow bit, which a guy on the radio this morning was ridiculing, was totally engrossing in the arena. There was a laser box around Jimmy, and dry ice and the controlled sound filling every frequency (I did actually check this fact, using my ears).

I was actually not expecting them to play Stairway To Heaven. It wasn't necessary, but maybe it was. It was actually a little uncomfortable, especially watching Robert Plant. He did it, he didn't ask if anybody remembered laughter (or, indeed, forests), and the crowd were certainly completely into it by the end with a massive singalong of the "...and as we wind on down the road..." bit, but it was really quite spooky watching it. Can't put my finger on what I mean, sorry.

They moved straight on to The Song Remains The Same while Jimmy had the double-neck still on and that was good but not outstandlingly memorable. At the end, Plant started going on about Jason's singing, and how his dad used to sing, and how they were going to demonstrate his vocal talents. I assumed he was talking about, "We've done four already, and now we're steady..." kind of vocal talents, but Jason stood up and did a great Percy impression of "I can't quit you babe..." (Just that line, but spot on.) Weird and funny. First sign of Plant having a larf anyway, I thought. Then they went straight into Misty Mountain Hop, which again didn't kind of stand out for me but was nothing wrong with it or anything.

Kashmir, on the other hand, was the total highlight of the night. This was truly taking them beyond any other band, hands down, no argument. At one point, with three musicians playing - drums, guitar, keyboards - the sound of ten orchestras was filling the room, I swear it. Possibly twelve. My ears simply lost count. Electric, this was. Fucking stunning. Then they left the stage after taking bows - Plant, Page, Bonham, Jones, in that order in the arms-around line-up.

Great Lord, that was something. The place was ringing, howling. The Americans behind me were actually having multiple orgasms, bless them.

I don't know how long we screamed for, probably five minutes or so, and then they came back and fired off a standard issue (i.e. no medleys) Whole Lotta Love, but the theramin/guitar chaotic mash up bit was great to see live and yet again filled the room magnificently. More group-bowing and they left again, as did huge numbers of the audience, even including people in good spots in the standing area, which they must've queued for hours or days to get?? Who the hell would leave at that point? We continued yelling. The Americans lit up a joint. All was well. The band came back on and fired off Rock And Roll, including extended "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely etc", then Jason finished off in traditional style and did a great job, as he did all night.

The immediate question is about a tour, of course. From being there, I just don't know. Seems to me that hardly anyone can have seen The Beatles play live really, and even fewer without a wall of screams to accompany them. Everyone and their grandparents has seen The Stones and The Who. Seeing Led Zeppelin in concert is just this massive void for music fans, but one that's clearly still possible to fill. Jimmy Page is a total master of guitar, perhaps the only one of the old lot that really can still do it, still raise the hairs on the back of your neck. He deserves the chance to show that, at least as much as music fans need to see this band. Robert Plant can do it. There was no embarassing strain in his performance last night, he was totally Percy, whether there were key compensations or not. But, to me, he really didn't show that he wanted to do it at all, just that he was willing and able, for that night. If they never play together again then they went out on a high. That's an awful worry. But Kashmir last night says to me that they have magic, and if only Robert Plant felt that magic...

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Thanks for the reveiw. I would have been estatic to see this show, just out of my reach. I had tickets for the show in Cincinnati Ohio in 1980 when Bonham died. I have never seen them as I was only 16 when that show was cancelled. I have always agreed with the bands decision not to carry on without Bonzo, but a reunion is really cool after so many years. You and many have stated that Jason did a fabulous job. I seen him with his Zep tribute band a number of years ago and honestly was a little disipointed. Although he is a tremendous drummer, he just didn't seem to possess his dad's tecnique/s. Maybe he had his own agenda at the time and really does have the style. Are there any drummers who seen the show Monday night that can respond?

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Thanks for the review, heres another:

‘We did it Ahmet’

….. I am so glad and so privileged I heard Robert Plant say those words at the O2 on 10th Dec 2007; I never thought it would happen.

I came back from holiday on 15th October hoping that I had been allocated a ticket but like hundreds of thousands of others I had not.

As it proved later I could not attend the 26th November anyway.

Then everything turned around JP injured his finger, the gig was put back two weeks and I got lucky in the fourth ballot.

Until I got the wristband and the ticket on the Sunday I still could not believe my luck, I tried to recall what it was like in the days of Knebworth and Berlin but it was all so different then, I was a youthful fan going to ‘just another gig’, like the band I was high on booze and Mary Jane came along too, and it was great, a wonderful experience.

This gig felt so different;

I, like the band was full of trepidation,

Like the band I was the wrong side of 50,

Like the band I was sober,

Like the band I rarely did gigs,

And like the band I desperately wanted it all to go well.

I just had the feeling that so many people wanted it to fail or wanted to say ‘I told you Planty couldn’t hit the notes any more’ or ‘without Bonzo they will fall flat’ and even the outrageous ‘JP pretended to hurt his finger, he can’t cut it anymore’.

I found myself wishing my life away and just wanting the day to arrive, and it did …..

The retro TV and the newsreel images that pre empted the show rammed it home ‘God had it really been that long????.....much trepidation’.

Suddenly a familiar sound and the opening THUD, THUD of Mr. J. Bonham the percussionist, then Jonesy and JP and finally Percy….LIGHTS and ACTION. A smile appeared on my face, (my wife called it a manic grin) and it remained for the next 2hours and 8 minutes.

Good Times Bad Times opened the most fantastic gig I have ever had the pleasure to attend, maybe it was the anticipation, maybe relief who knows but I will always believe it was just the band, that band being Led Zeppelin and for all those who say it cant be LZ without John Bonham I say b*****ks. It may not have been John Henry but it most definitely was the Son of Thunder.

As the days since the concert pass and all the well meaning folk start dissecting it in minute detail finding the tiniest fault I just want to write it down now as I recall it, fresh in my memory.

The Band (capital B) was tight musically, very concentrated to begin with but superb in all they did, sober and rehearsed. As the gig moved on they began to smile, laugh and have fun, I believe they enjoyed the whole thing, they knew it was good (‘How did that sound Eddie?’). Long before the bow made it’s appearance for D&C it was as if they had never been away, all the gestures and movements of ‘back in the day’ were there, not manufactured or contrived in any way just flowing naturally with the sounds.

Jason Bonham was absolutely brilliant, I, like you all miss JHB but musically the band did not, the Son of Thunder can stand tall, if he had goofed the whole thing could have come crashing down, at some points before the gig I pondered that maybe he was the ready made excuse, but no, he was at the peak of his craft, In My Time of Dying and Kashmir (Now forever known as the 51st country) proving the point., like the mighty arms of Atlas he held the heavens from the earth.

For the guys (you know who you are) that supported the ‘over rated tracks’ thread, yes they did play Stairway, WLL, D&C and Black Dog and as for those of you who thought these over rated (‘I didn’t see too many this time’) I hope you went out and bought another raspberryade during these numbers.

I have no intention of going through each song or each self indulgence, as I said earlier the geeks will do that. I just want those of you not as fortunate as those lucky few to know that it was a truly great gig and the Band you love in no way let any of you down, if they allow a DVD you must buy it, even if they call it The Ahmet Ertegun Educational Fund Concert and charge the earth you must buy it, even if you have to produce 12 kinds of photo ID a signed letter from Osama Bin Liner and hop a flight to queue outside the Rangoon and district DVD store…buy it, buy it, buy it.

Should they tour? Maybe another one off at MSG?

Who knows, all I can do is give an opinion. I wish all fans could have been there for this show, but that is impossible.

I wish the Band could do another gig like this for the fans that missed them, but that is impossible also, you can’t get another gig like this.

I will never see Led Zeppelin play live again even if they announce a UK tour doing lots of gigs (including Achilles and Levee) at a reasonable price I wouldn’t apply for tickets.

I saw them at the O2 play in my opinion the ultimate gig and it cannot ever get better than that. I fear for those that missed the gig that in the cold light of day after the euphoria the Band will look at the reviews and the master tapes (once mixed and cut) and also know that it was the perfect end, they said goodbye to Ahmet, they said goodbye to Bonzo they said goodbye to all those demons and they have freed the genie, I for one hope they cork the bottle.

Led Zeppelin the Hammer of the Gods, thank you.

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