Sunday, December 23, 2007

Led Zeppelin Takes London to the Promised Land

Who knows if Led Zeppelin will ever tour again? But if its last show was indeed Dec. 10 at London's O2 Arena, one thing is for sure: the band ended as it began, concise, precise and dynamic.

Like it was in the last few months of 1968, when the band toured as the New Yard birds to fulfill old obligations and start new dreams, each of the 16 songs played at the 02 remained amazingly faithful to their original framework. But within each song, the band never failed to evoke the power, majesty and yes, the hammer wielded during its original incarnation.

The 130-minute show began with "Good Times, Bad Times," which lurched from off-kilter rhythms and explosive outbursts of kinetic energy in what was little more than two minutes. As the crew at the board struggled to get the sound together during the second song, "Ramble On" ignited the audience and from there it went on from one peak to the next.

By the time "Black Dog" kicked in, there was no doubt the band was strutting its stuff. Singer Robert Plant, supposedly the most reluctant about future Zeppelin activity, appeared to be having the most fun on the stage, displaying many of the moves associated with the physical vocabulary he helped invent as one of rock's great front men.

While Led Zeppelin is as vaunted for the shading and dynamics built within its original framework, the so-called light side of its sound was hardly evoked during the evening, with the band moving into still even heavier territory. For starters, Zeppelin unleashed "In My Time of Dying," where Jason Bonham reminds the audience that he is his father's son and shows the Zep foundation is in good hands.

"For Your Life," from the band's somewhat overlooked yet magnificent "Presence" album, was followed by a frenetic "Trampled Underfoot" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine." These songs are showcases for the architects of the band's sound, guitarist Jimmy Page and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, who shifted from bass to keyboard throughout the night.
These tunes set the stage for some of the band's signature magnum opuses: "No Quarter," "Since I've Been Loving You," "Dazed and Confused" and "Stairway to Heaven."

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