Thursday, 3 January 2008

Guest Blogger: Cliff v Led Zeppelin

Recently T&A had a post about THE Led Zeppelin concert.
As I commented, a dear friend of mine successfully bought a ticket and I asked if he could write a bit of a review. He has happily obliged and bought back Thump and I a T-Shirt as well! (We are having them framed)

Cliff is a Professional Audio supplier to Radio, TV and Recording Studios, a Drummer and an Audio Engineer/Producer.

I flew into London a couple of days before the concert and the first thing that hit me was the enormity of this concert. There was no one in the whole of Great Britain that didn't know that this concert was on, why it was on, where it was on and who was playing. Even my 86 year old mother up in Scotland knew all about it. The vibe about this event was incredible. There was more fervor about it than the last general election when Tony Blair got ousted!
This was a benefit concert to raise funds for the educational foundation that Ahmet Ertegun started just before he died in November 2006 at age 83 backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. Ahmet was the founder of Atlantic Records along with his brother Neshui.

Part of the process to eliminate ticket touts was that you had to front up at the venue to collect your ticket the day before or on the day of the event and produce your confirmation email, the credit card you purchased your ticket with and photo ID. You were then wrist banded and given your ticket. At the concert to get in you had to show your ticket, wrist band and randomly picked people were asked for there photo ID.

The O2 which is the renamed Millennium Dome is a massive complex. Even the surrounding forecourt and entrance to the North Greenwich Tube Station where most people arrive and depart is huge. Once inside you soon realise that the 20,000 seat auditorium is only part of the facility. The entrance lobby which includes the box office, merchandise stands, cafes and restaurants is about the same size as any city square you care to mention. Then off to the right is a boulevard with a continuous succession or bars, cafes, restaurants, night clubs. skating rink, karaoke recording studio, and more outlets still under construction. It's basically a whole city centre under the one roof.

At the merchandise stand the T-Shirts, Mugs, Programmes and Limited Edition Posters all sold out by the end of the concert. People who missed out on tickets in the ballot were going to the venue just to purchase what they could as a memento of this historic event. The organisers admitted that they had entirely underestimated the demand for these items and had an emergency shipment of more T- Shirts printed up the afternoon of the concert and they sold out even before the concert started. They are now collectors items.

The concert started at 7:15pm with Harvey Goldsmith (the promoter) announcing that the concert had raised enough money to secure, in perpetuity, a full scholarship to a university in the USA, one in Turkey and one in the UK and because they had raised so much money they had secured 5 full scholarships to a brand new university which was being built right next door to the O2. All of these scholarships are for ever! The concert was already a success.

After 5 minutes of a documentary about Ahmet, which was part of the DVD that is inside every programme, we were asked to welcome onstage the house band for the first half of the concert which was Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings followed by Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Chris Squire from Yes, Simon Kirke from Bad Company and Alan White from a whole string of UK bands. This instant Super Group started the concert off with non other than Fanfare For The Common Man - the crowd erupted! IT WAS ON!!!!

Following on from this was a constant procession of artists who came on and did a song or two backed by the well rehearsed Rhythm Kings. There was Paulo Nutini, the last artist to be signed by Ahmet, Michael Sanchez in his bright red Zoot Suit, Alvin Lee, Paul Rogers, Maggie Bell and Foreigner accompanied by the St. Lukes Anglican Choir in a fitting rendition of I Want To Know What Love Is.

This brought the first half of the 4 hour concert to a close.

The stage was cleared the house lights went down and an old black and white newsreel of Led Zeppelin's first tour in America was projected onto the rear screen. The band entered the stage - the crowd erupted - Led Zeppelin launched straight into Good Times Bad Times and the electricity in the air was amazing! Ramble On was next. Third song in, Black Dog, had the crowd singing as loud as the band was playing, an experience I'll never forget. In My Time Of Dying, For Your Life, Trampled Underfoot, Nobody's Fault and No Quarter followed. Robert Plant announced that there were people from 50 different countries there that night and collectively we had created the 51st. then sang Since I've Been Loving You. This was followed by the mammoth Dazed and Confused featuring the unique violin bowing technique of Jimmy Page playing his twin neck guitar while encased in the Green Laser Light cage of old. Classic stuff! He then launched into the intro of Stairway To Heaven and honestly I have never witnessed a crowd reaction like it! Hysterical screaming and cheering don't even come close to describing the euphoria at that moment. Every guitarists Badge of Honour is to learn that opening sequence and here in front of us was the man who wrote it, playing it for us WOW!
The Song Remains The Same blistered forth followed by Misty Mountain Hop and finishing the set with the brilliant slow pounding of Kashmir.

And talking of pounding - I am here to tell you that Jason Bonham is every inch his fathers son! This guy drove that band with all the power, skill and dexterity of his dad. Reading an interview with him in the days before the concert he was hoping to do justice to his dad's memory and knew he would be feeling his dad's presence over his shoulder in this full circle moment in time. John Bohnam Was There! The guy I sat next to on the train to Scotland the following day had been at the concert and he admitted to knowing nothing of drums or drumming but expressed amazement at how tight the band played and how good the drummer was.

If they thought that they were getting away with no encores then they were sadly mistaken. The band left the stage to rapturous applause and cheering which lasted unabated until they reappeared about four minutes later and treated us to Whole Lotta Love. Words cannot describe the reaction to this. The crowd went ballistic. Off they went again to a thunderous reaction, shaking the whole building then returning a couple of minutes later to give us the ultimate version of Rock and Roll. That was it! The band members linked arms and took several bows. Jason Bonham then broke free and turned to the other band members dropping to his knees and performing the "We Are Not Worthy" genuflect several times before they all exited the stage for the final time.

In the 40 minutes or so it took to exit the building along the boulevard (I was seated stage left at the side) the vibe still continued out into the night air with several Mexican Cheers which would start at the back of the crowd and continue through to the people who were at the exit. Even with alcohol available at the concert there were no incidents and everyone was too high on the experience as comrades to cause any trouble. I can't wait for the DVD.

As Witnessed By Cliff Blackburn

9 gems of wisdom:

T&A said...

Thanks Cliff! (and Protium)
I'm so jealous! There's talk they are taking this act on tour. I'd give my left nut to see them!

Thump Thump Eyes said...

T & A we're sitting here with Cliff right now (having some new years beers:) and showed him your response, he says they definitely won't tour as Robert Plant is committed to touring with Alison Krauss until at least the middle of this year with their successful duet album "Raising Sand"...he says wait for the HD DVD of the live show.

Thump Thump Eyes said...

Cliff, Fantastic descriptive writing mate, I felt like I was there *shivers* thanks so much for :-D

Protium said...

I just found this so it's possible they may tour.... Anyone near Tennessee?

Thump if they come to Perth we are closing that day!

Joe said...

T&A and I must be related. As I finished reading the post, I thought "I'd give my left nut to see them" and guess what T&A posted.

Vamp said...

GOD DAMN IT I felt like I was there, that was a wonderful piece.

I saw Zeppelin in '76 when I was a rockin' teen, in Chicago. along with ELP, and Foreigner, and .... (see my profile).

They have to tour eventually (*screams* they just have to), but you bet you freakin' ass I'm gonna buy the HD DVD of the live show when it hits.

T&A said...

I don't know, they are playing at Bonnaroo in Tennessee in June. They also hinted more shows afterward.

T&A said...

Oops, I see you found out about Bonnaroo after I posted. my bad. :)

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I don't know about my left nut, I am rather fond of the little fellas.

Thanks for the post Cliff.