From the early moments of Led Zeppelin's days in 1968 to its sudden ending due to the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, the case could easily be made that they were the best band going on the music landscape. A band built on a mix of rock, blues and even some rockabilly combined with dazzling guitar solos and long mind-bending performances, the band's persona when viewing live became the stuff of legend. Hits in the Zeppelin song catalog like "Dazed and Confused" and "Whole Lotta Love" frequently stretched into the twenty and thirty minute length. Unlike most acts that could very easily turn such songs into self-indulgent pursuits, the songs were entertaining to listen to.
Sadly when Bonham died, the band disbanded as a result and as performed scarcely since. Aside from a showing during 1985's Live Aid concert and singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page reinterpreting of some songs as part of an 'Unledded' tour (the latter of which excluded bassist John Paul Jones in a surprising omission), the sparse times the band has formed has been with Bonham's son Jason on drums. The group performed a 1988 concert to celebrate Atlantic Records and its founder Ahmet Ertegun, and again in 2007 as a tribute concert for Ertegun, who had died in 2006 as a result of injuries suffered from a fall. Perhaps it was the rarity of seeing the band, and perhaps the last opportunity of seeing the band live at all, but the concert instantly achieved 'must-see' status.
To be performed at London's O2 arena, the show had such a demand for its 20,000 seats that it exploded, with requests numbering 100 times capacity, servers crashing online, and people from Nebraska and Colorado flying to London just to wait for seats. The show had to be delayed several weeks due to Page breaking a finger during rehearsals. The set list was a mix of songs never before experienced live and hits, and is as follows:
"Good Times Bad Times"
"In My Time Of Dying"
"For Your Life"
"Nobody's Fault But Mine"
"Since I've Been Loving You"
"Dazed And Confused"
"Stairway To Heaven"
"The Song Remains The Same"
"Misty Mountain Hop"
"Whole Lotta Love"
"Rock And Roll"
As far as the concert goes, it is mind-blowing to realize that Bonham was 40 when he took part in this show while the surviving members of the band were in their 60s at the time of the show. And granted on some of the high notes in "Love," there was no way that Plant was going to reach the vocal heights that he had scaled in his earlier years. But there is a certain refinement in his vocals that makes you not only appreciate what he did before, but this slight tweak making for enjoyment in the songs the group plays.
This alteration leads to added comfort that translates to the other members of the band. Jones provides a calming influence on bass and helps bring the fans back to another era when the opening notes of "Quarter" are played on the keyboard, and Bonham's drumming is not unlike his Dad's at times, with his power on the kit coming through in the arena at the beginning of the show and continuing throughout, providing additional backing vocals when needed as well. As for Page, he continues to wield the ax with a fury at times that is still impressive to see for a guy his age. He handles the solos in "Dazed" and elsewhere nicely, and while he seems to labor because of the finger occasionally (or maybe it's due to age), he plays through it without any significant deterrence to the show's overall quality.
While it took awhile for the show to finally reach store shelves and in the past had been circulated around in bootleg video copies since then, seeing this bright, shiny version of Celebration Day in encouraging to see. And there may not be any more instances on the horizon for a Zeppelin tour, the morsels that fans get from time to time are worth devouring and savoring, and this helps us remember just how good the mighty Zep were and still are on the rock landscape.
Celebration Day comes to Blu-ray in 1.78:1 widescreen and uses the AVC codec. Appearing in 1080i, the concert looks pretty good in high definition. Image detail is lacking a little, which I was expecting, and the disc has fleeting moments of image noise, but both of those are to be expected with concert/performance discs. The clarity of the image is quite sharp, and there is no DNR experienced during viewing. The feature tends to throw in some crowd captured video of the show also to gain a little bit of a grit feeling to it, and that film appears in full frame and looks as good as bootleg video usually looks also, but otherwise the disc looks fine.
The concert has an uncompressed two-channel track and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround to choose from, and both are quality selections. Directional effects such as crowd noise sound clear and effective, and while channel panning is not entirely evident, the concert possesses a nice level of immersion that makes for a persuasive listening experience. Bonham's powerful drumming helps provide a nice low end to the material and the show sound clear and robust through the sound stage. Past Zeppelin concert Blu-rays and DVDs have sounded superb and this one is no different.
There are various combinations of the Celebration Day set for DVD and Blu-ray palettes to go along with two CDs for the show, but the addition of an additional standard definition disc appears to be the reason to call it a "Deluxe" set or not, and it is the Deluxe version we are looking at here. So to go with the Blu-ray of the show and the two-CD set, this standard definition disc includes a rehearsal of the set list by the band done six months before the concert in Shepperton studios in England (1:56:39). The rehearsal is shot fairly straightforward, with one camera placed in the back of the rehearsal space while the band and cameraman get an idea of their general bearings. While hardly revelatory by any stretch of the imagination, its inclusion is thoughtful. Next is "Zeppelin Media Moment" (3:39), where the London-based reporters of BBC give us a quick look into the show before and after it transpired. "Tampa Opening Film" (1:42) is the film from the opening of the concert brought here for the viewer.
Celebration Day is a welcome arrival to Blu-ray, and with a bonus DVD and CDs of the performance are a perfect holiday gift for fans of the band and of good music. Technically the material is given additional love and attention, and this is something that I will easily find myself watching and rewatching as the years go on. Very much worth the enjoyment.