Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Song Remains the Same (Led Zeppelin)

By now you all should realize that my reviews and/or recommendations revolve around the base word of "awesome", so you're forgiven for jumping the gun. But to do so would undermine the greatness of one of the best recorded live shows in history.

Led Zeppelin, if you don't know yet, is only the hardest band ever. The put the hardness into hard rock. They are the heaviest of metals (lead pun intended, ho ho), the bluest of the blues, and the melancholiest of the soulful. In their album recordings, they were impeccably well-synchronized. John Bonham's keen drumming, John Paul Jone's bass, Robert Plant's singing (in almost all forms and pitches), and of course, at the forefront, Jimmy Page's amazing guitar playing. It's been said that no part of their songs went unplanned, all their albums were essentially all killer, everything was treated as if it would be the best song in each album. And that's pretty much true.

So, how do they hold up playing live? Well, you've seen in previous posts their performances of Tangerine and In The Evening, which actually surpass the album versions in terms of emotion and impact. For The Song Remains the Same, what Led Zep did was record live in New York, and for the concert movie, intersperse the footage with some visual effects and also include some video montages, either auto-biographical or fantastical in nature.

For the Rain Song, for example, there was a story shown called "The Fire and The Sword", I think, which shows Robert Plant obtaining a sword from some goddess-maiden and wandering through the forest until he lays siege to a castle. It sort of set a benchmark for future heavy metal videos to come! But the sword was obviously part rubber, it's weird seeing the hilt wobble. In another sequence, John Bonham plays what has to be an at least 15 minute drum solo. The video for this shows John Bonham, esquire, tinkering with cars, buildings, his family (is it?) and finally a drag racer. As a drum solo, it totally rocks. At some point he sets the sticks aside and plays the drums like a set of bongos. It's a sequence that is bittersweet; we see him at his happiest moments, but we know of his too-soon demise to come. A fitting video tribute, and a damn good drum solo.

As a concert, the set is, in as few words as possible: unfuckingbelievably awesome! They launch into a few of their classics, while introducing the audience to some new songs, the title track being one of them. Robert Plant's vocals in their concerts tends not to be as high pitched, opting for a lower cadence and not overly stressing it. I feel that this is their biggest limitation in concert; to have him sing the way he does on the records would definitely be kickass. Jimmy Page was one of the hardest working guitarists of his generation, and one of the most dedicated. To see and hear him play live is an experience unto itself. He can launch into solos that reach upwards of ten minutes at least, and not drop a single beat. His showmanship here is topnotch.

As for the rhythm section, what can I say? John Paul Jones is the quintessential rock bassist, standing still in one corner, setting a steady rhythm thumping. John Bonham's drumming is one of the best things to have ever been printed on vinyl. The closest thing to drumming now is the drummer for the Raconteurs, he's awesome.

As a concert, this is definitely worth watching. As a music video montage, a lot of it might seem a little outdated in today's lens, but that's alright. After all, it's the music that counts. That said, this is definitely not one for people with short attention spans. If fifteen minute drum solos or a version of Dazed and Confused that lasts about half an hour long is not your thing, you might want to skip ahead a few minutes. Otherwise, all killer baby.


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