Saturday, June 21, 2008

That's 'Doctor' Jimmy Page to you; guitarist conferred honorary degree

The first time Led Zeppelin performed under that name, the date was Oct. 25, 1968. And the location was the Great Hall at Surrey University in Guildford, England.

Forty years later, Jimmy Page returned to the area, attending a ceremony during which he was given an honorary doctorate.

The ceremony took place yesterday at Guildford Cathedral.

In a press release regarding Page's doctorate, the university noted his involvement in charities as well as his musical contributions.

While on hand, Dr. Page autographed a guitar that is to be awarded to a contest winner at an upcoming festival.

Also honored with an honorary doctorate from the University of Surrey yesterday was George Martin, producer of the Beatles' records and many others in the British music industry.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What lies next for Led Zeppelin members: DVDs, more live work?

When many of today's most popular cultural icons were nobody yesterday and will presumably return to anonymity tomorrow, the members of Led Zeppelin have smartly managed to improve with age.

The modern era of Led Zeppelin history could be defined as a new peak for the men who, repeatedly throughout the 1970s, defied a popular media prejudice and packed stadiums, earning notoriety and awards based on their own inventiveness.

Jimmy Page and his bandmates from 1968 to 1980 had the savvy to know what fans wanted and how to give it to them. Over time, what the fans want has not changed. Society has revered the group's members as the best in their respective arts and their contributions collectively as classic and yet timeless.

Now that the band members have used a golden opportunity in December to demonstrate their lasting worthiness of coronation among rock royalty young and old, the passionate outcry for further collaboration has reached a new climax.

There remains no question of whether Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant are able to give the fans what they want. The only question lies in their willingness to do so. Whatever the future holds (more one-off concerts, additional partial reunions, a DVD of the 2007 show, an album of new material, none of the above), there is ample reason to reflect on what has occurred.

The band played a full set in remarkable fashion on Dec. 10, 2007, following a committed series of rehearsals, and recreated magic that hadn't existed for longer than a quarter of a century. This encapsulated moment in time was witnessed in person by only about 20,000 of the world's luckiest fans but has been pronounced overwhelmingly as a major achievement.

Last year's one-off concert appearance has now earned the band recognition from Mojo magazine as the best live act of 2007. Rolling Stone had bestowed a similar honor to Led Zeppelin earlier for the same two-hour show.

Thus, it is encouraging to know that, on some level, the moment will not vanish into the abyss of forgotten shows. It may be more along the lines of Woodstock, which many more claim to have attended than actually did attend just because they want to have the honor of saying they were there.

Many of us, like this writer, have watched and heard fan-created footage from the show and can attest to the power of that performance. Scores more would be privy to the show if someday it is issued in officially sanctioned form for a DVD release, in the event the band deems sharing that one-night run a high enough priority.

While it remains unclear if that show will ever proceed beyond its limited one-night run and result in a long-awaited official DVD, it appears that more recent footage of Led Zeppelin's members in action will meet the eye first.

A statement last week said a film of the pair of highly attended Foo Fighters shows is coming to movie theaters across England. However, the announcement left unresolved the issue of including the encore set that featured surprise guests Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones backing half the headlining band on a pair of Led Zeppelin tunes. (Keep it right here for any clarification on that note.)

Another announcement last week provided the dates for a pair of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss shows in St. Louis on Sept. 24-25 that would be filmed for an eventual DVD release. It would be the fans' permanent souvenir of the folksy act that has received rave reviews on tour in North America and Europe including appearances in the United Kingdom and festival appearances at JazzFest and Bonnaroo. More festival appearances are scheduled, and who knows what challenges lie ahead for Robert Plant next year.

Will Led Zeppelin surprise us once more and have another go-around? Will some, or even one, of our wildest dreams and hopes for the band come true? Of course, when we're talking about a band like Led Zeppelin, history has shown time and time again that anything is possible.

Just keep those fingers crossed and that mouse clicking back here to check.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Plant regales in the past on stage Led Zeppelin shared with the Who

A sign at Merriweather Post Pavilion informs or reminds modern-day concertgoers that "a little known band called Led Zeppelin" played there "in the early 70's" as the opening act for the Who.

Closer to the truth, the date was May 25, 1969. The guy who took me to the show and landed us a pair of seats in fourth-row center owns a handbill and an unused ticket from the '69 show and once owned a concert poster from it. We know better than the sign did. It wasn't the early '70s.

Robert Plant knows better too. At the beginning of the encore set on the same stage a few hours ago, he said he was well aware he and his old mates had been on that stage 39 years and 40-some days earlier. He even recited the date (although I think he said May 26, not 25).

But as a matter of fact, Plant said it was a phone call he'd taken this week that reminded him. On the other end of that call was the man who was Led Zeppelin's tour manager in those days, Richard Cole. Funny side note: When Plant mentioned Cole by name, a few people cheered, to Plant's surprise. He asked for clarification: "Richard Cole, 'woo'? Are you serious?"

Plant was surrounded at the show by reminders of his past. Just as in Knoxville this April, when a fan in the front row handed him a powder blue T-shirt with the message "Nurses Do It Better" -- replicating a message Plant wore onstage at the Oakland Coliseum in July 1977 -- Plant waved and spoke with a front-row fan who was wearing the same shirt.

Another fan, a few seats to my right in the fourth row, had the shirt on too, having obtained it along with a bootleg ordered online from Fishheads International. Popular item!

Speaking of popular items, earlier in the tour, paperback programs were being sold at concerts for $30. It was a hot item, and now only hardcover programs are available -- for $40.

A merchandising company called Bravado -- which recently was absorbed under the Universal umbrella along with Trinifold, Plant's management for longer than a decade -- is handling the sale of concert souvenirs. The company also sells Led Zeppelin memorabilia online, with the group's online store on the official Web site. Some concertgoers in Columbia, Md., came to the show wearing shirts with Zep's Mothership logo, probably ordered via Bravado.

Tote bags, which are adorned with Plant's feather symbol from the Led Zeppelin era and a heart assumedly representing Krauss, are $10 at the shows. About four different T-shirt designs are available at $20 apiece. Opening act Sharon Little also has T-shirts there as well as her CD. A disc of T Bone Burnett's is also available.

Strangely, there are no copies of Plant and Krauss's Raising Sand there. That's too bad for folks like the man and woman my buddy and I spoke to in line before the gates opened. She was a fan of rock music, and he was a fan of all music and the owner of an extensive collection of 45s his brother steals from. But neither of them had heard Raising Sand. My buddy actually sold them on the idea of buying the album. Well, they didn't have their chance to buy it from Bravado at the show. Hopefully, they enjoyed the show and are inspired to pick it up at a later date.

If their experience of the concert was anything like ours in row four, it was exciting. Every song was well received, and the band's performance was tight under the direction of T Bone Burnett. It improves from show to show -- this was my fourth and the best yet.

What I notice about Plant's performance is how seriously he's striving to do everything perfectly. Krauss? Either she really is as wonderful and note-perfect as she comes across or she hides it well. Whenever Plant hits a bum note (like he did in "Please Read the Letter") or misses part of a line (like he did in "The Battle of Evermore"), his facial expressions let you know he's not satisfied.

But those moments are few and far between. More often, those in the audience witness carefree moments of sheer fun. This was best exemplified tonight when Plant and Krauss laughed together from the side of the stage, during a song neither was singing, when they had the chance to watch a man in the front row who was swaying and dancing to whatever hallucinations he may have been having. It put me in the mindset to remember Joe Cocker at Woodstock; Cocker opens for the Steve Miller Band soon at the same venue.

The only Friday the 13th moment of the evening came during "Gone, Gone, Gone," when the curtains missed their cue to drop all at once and reveal a shimmering backdrop for the entire stage. I hope some enterprising photographers in the audience were wise enough to capture that moment as Plant and Krauss took notice of the mishap before it was quickly corrected by a stagehand. Their frolicking resumed at the end of the song, which for once featured more dancing from Krauss than from Plant. But Plant was barely dancing at all this time, so the couple of moves and poses she made took the cake.

The musical highlights of the night were too many to pick only a few. "The Battle of Evermore" awarded them the first widespread standing ovation of the night. What's stunning about hearing that song live is that Plant's vocals so closely resemble his vocals on the album version of that song, just as it first appeared in 1971. Tonight, he gave us a string of "Bring it, bring it, bring it, bring it ..." just as on the album, something I hadn't heard him do at any of the three earlier shows I attended.

Another vivid highlight, just as in Atlantic City last Sunday, was the little extra in Plant's delivery of the Townes Van Zandt tune "Nothin'." Tonight, instead of scatting before a verse, he just belted out a high note and really let it reverberate inside the old pavilion. That sent shivers down my spine. Thank goodness for the two West Virginians to my immediate left, Leslie and Laura, who helped me recover from that note.

These new friends of mine say they travel to see Krauss perform at least once every year, and they'd just seen Plant and Krauss in Roanoke, Va., and decided with only a few hours' notice to snag a pair of tickets online and trek up to Maryland to relive the occasion. While they were there for Krauss, I am sure I heard Leslie comment that Plant is the sexiest man ever. That's funny; my mirror begs to differ.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Plant, Krauss entertain Atlantic City

These pictures from June 7 show in Canandaigua, N.Y., are courtesy of Grant Burgess.

Things were pretty good at the Borgata Hotel and Casino on Sunday, June 8. I guess some people collected on the 38-1 odds for the Belmont Stakes winner yesterday. Whatever it was, the audience for the Alison Krauss and Robert Plant show in Atlantic City was appreciative when the Golden Gods took the stage.

Stuart Duncan played a quite amazing violin solo at the first break in "Black Dog" from Atlantic City. Robert Plant walked over to Stu's left to boogie with Stu. He seemed to enjoy watching a fellow musician rock out to a song Plant had a hand in writing 38 years ago.

After the song, Plant swang his mic and addressed the audience's applause as he often does: "Oh yeah?" He thanked the crowd for coming to see "our merry band of pranksters." Then he introduced the next song, "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," with this: "I'd like to introduce you to the most wonderful singing voice I've ever stood next to, Miss Alison Krauss."

She followed up "Through the Morning, Through the Night" with a song thy to my knowledge hasn't been done before on this tour. It was "Good-bye and So Long to You," a twist on the chorus in the song when performed by Mac Wiseman ("So Long and Good-bye to You").

As Robert led on "Fortune Teller," it's apparent he's the best dancer onstage. Alison's not even trying! Robert still must not have taught her any moves, after longer than a month on tour! Alison can sure step up with her voice though, and what else could you want from a singer? She filled in perfectly with Plant on their next duet, Plant's own "In the Mood." Little song that you want to sing. The song segued briefly into "Matty Groves," a tradition that I think was a Fairport Convention specialty.

Plant dropped his microphone during "Black Country Woman," but it was the song's only off moment. By the time Plant and Krauss left the stage for T Bone Burnett's two-song mini-set without them, they were firing up the place with their treatment of the song from Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti.

Plant left the stage immediately after giving his most heartfelt onstage speech about his current "little project" and the man at its helm. Burnett started his set with a newly developed intro to "Levez les Bons Temps Rouler." There were parts of the song in which Jay Bellerose was skillfully pounding the drums like a madman. Too bad Robert wasn't onstage to witness it! He sometimes is for that song, even strapping on a guitar in Chattanooga, where he played a pretty decent solo. Buddy Miller and Stuart Duncan were featured in that song's solos tonight.

There was still no sign of Robert onstage again during Krauss's renditions of "Trampled Rose" and "Green Pastures."

The next Plant sighting came as Alison sang "Down to the River to Pray," with Plant in that position of sharing a mic with Buddy and Stuart for three-part male harmony backing Alison's medley. Quite the sight, to see my favorite singer of all time taking such a backseat! This time, for the first time listening to this song (my third show this tour), I could tell which voice was Plant's; his was the lowest one, doubling Alison's melody one octave lower than hers.

The version of "Nothin'" Robert and the fellows performed in Atlantic City was head and shoulders above any I've seen them do previously. Although the words are Townes Van Zandt's and not Robert's, he spoke eloquently about the song before starting it. Then he thrashed the song, making it his over the duration of it. Before the second verse, Plant improvised by himself and saw that the band followed his lead by adding however measures of vamping were necessary for his moment of inspiration. Plant used Duncan's banjo later in the song as a muse to come up with some good ad-libbed interplay. The band really hasn't been this "on" before!

"The Battle of Evermore" was next, and the audience knew what it was immediately. This was going to be another high point, so soon after the last one! Incredible. And when it was over, it earned not only a standing ovation from everybody there, but also a visit from a drum tech who was very fast on his feet to appear for a quick fix. Whatever was retooled was ready on time for Jay to start the intro to "Please Read the Letter" on time.

To his credit, Robert spent the end of "Gone, Gone, Gone" showing Alison some moves she was then replicating. She was a little more playful tonight than before, which may be in part because she could get away with a few more moves with her tight pants compared with the dresses I saw her in the other two times. Anyway, she looked like she was having a good time striking a pose for Atlantic City.

An old-timer of Zep's online community, Grant Burgess, sent some remarks to For Badgeholders Only after he attended Saturday night's Plant/Krauss show in upstate New York. He writes:

"I was at the show last night in the second level of seats and took a few pics. I had a little bit of a go with 'The Battle of Evermore' and got five minutes of it here. I had a problem of a walkway right in front of me so it wasn't a good spot to video from. But you get a taste of the song."


Pre-show with Roy, Plant's sound guy

Just had a conversation with Roy Williams at the sound desk for tonight's Plant/Krauss show. Hailing from near Birmingham, England, he's been traveling with Robert doing his sound for the last 10 years. I asked if he records any of the shows. Roy says they record everything and it goes straight to disk, for reference purposes.

He said last night's Plant/Krauss show in upstate New York was a little different, in terms of crowd control. He called the place a shed and said the security was pretty lax, so much so that everybody rushed down to the floor. He said it didn't affect the performance per se, but it just pissed some people off a little.

We're a little over an hour from when Plant and Krauss take the stage. We just heard a Dr. John song and before that, a guy named Scott Matthews. Roy tells me Scott was the opening act for Plant and Krauss in Europe. Pretty soon, we'll hear the American choice, Sharon Little.

Roy was in London at the Zeppelin show in December, minding the sound along with another guy. It was a rock 'n' roll show and one with a lot of feedback. I asked him about that, and he said it was just in the first two songs. I asked specifically if the O2 set was recorded, and he confirmed if it was, like everything else, recorded for reference. I asked him if the quality was along the lines of something that could someday be released. He said yes it is, but everybody's running around doing other things and releasing it isn't a priority. I asked if the guys realize the demand for that recording, and he smirked as if to say, "Of course they know that." I said it wasn't just guys in Zeppelin T-shirts who want to hear that set. He said yeah, he would like to have a copy too.

Roy was in a Robert Plant and Strange Sensation tour shirt.

Top five concert lineups we'd like to see Jimmy Page in

My buddy Brad and I are traveling through Atlantic City on our way to see what Robert Plant's been up to since we saw him last in Tennessee at the end of April.

And we can't help but think of what happened in London last night. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones showed up, as rumored, at Wembley Stadium and jammed on two Zep songs with the Foo Fighters.

It's great that half of Led Zeppelin is playing together and seems raring to go, to jump at any occasion to don the stage clothes and rock out in front of an audience again. They haven't done that together regularly since I was learning to walk for the first time!

So we started speculating about what kind of bands could form to lure John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page back into the touring circuit. And we came up with some obvious, and some not-so-obvious solutions.

5. The Kinks featuring Jimmy Page
Know that animosity over claims that Page played in the studio for the Kinks' "You Really Got Me"? Put that to shreds. Let the guys go out on tour together. Jimmy can prove his worth in covering Kinks tunes, sitting in with them and offering a nice lead. Why even do more than two or three Zeppelin songs? Just play Kinks material all night! Oh, Jimmy! Go on tour with the Davies brothers the same way you went on tour with the Robinson brothers. Jonesy, you're not to be forgotten. Grab some acoustic instruments and work your way into the arrangement. You could modify "Lola" to "Stephanie" and "Soho" to "the French Quarter."

4. Page/Jones: The Guitar and Bass of Led Zeppelin
Want Page to prove he can have the success of Page and Plant without needing Plant? Want him to do what he and Coverdale missed out on doing? Just go out as "Page and Jones" and market it "The Guitar and Bass of Led Zeppelin." The same way Page and Plant's T-shirts and concert posters and TV spots proclaimed "The Guitar and Voice of Led Zeppelin." As for a singer and drummer, just have various people sit in and switch spots, like Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins did last night. Make it a long summer tour where different acts all live out their wildest dreams and sit in with half of Led Zeppelin!

3. The Chili Peppers broke up; Page and Jones should hook up with Anthony Kiedis
What kind of stuff would they come up with if the Red Hot Chili Peppers front man joined forces with Pagey and Jonesy? Forget regashing tunes from the past; give us a new album of originals and make it a double-album, Stadium Arcadium-style. We want to hear new stuff. And then go out and tour that. Kiedis in a band with Jones and Page: now that would be something like Blood Sugar Sexx Magick!

2. Jack Black supergroup: Tenacious Zeppelin
We all know Jimmy matches up with Jack White. But what about the opposite of White? Black! Jack Black and Jimmy Page. Toss in Dave Grohl on drums and John Paul Jones on bass, and you've got yourself a very solid lineup. Tenacious D guitarist Kyle Gass is also in the band of rock royalty, even if that royalty is facetiously self-proclaimed. Hell call the combination of guitarists "Page and Rage Cage."

And the No. 1 concert lineup we'd like to see Jimmy Page in:

1. Led Zeppelin
Of course! Back to basics! Jason Bonham, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page! That's what we would like to hear, by far, more than anything else!

Photos, footage of Page, Jones with Foo Fighters

"For someone that grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and never seen the guys live that was half of a dream. The Foos concert yesterday was brilliant but today was just awesome. Thanks for the great was worth every penny even if I nearly got squashed to death. I can't even sleep I am so hyper. The photo is not the best... but man... I was shaking with excitement."
That's what one fan wrote when posting the photo at right of Jimmy Page online after Page and John Paul Jones sat in at Wembley Stadium last night on an encore set with the Foo Fighters.

Please help out my Comments section with your thoughts on this onstage jam!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Led Zeppelin reunion at the Foo Fighters concert in London: A Fantasy

As Radiohead's Thom Yorke would be wont to tell me, "You're living in a fantasy."

Nonetheless, it was with sheer optimism that I devised a scenario for a surprise encore set by Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham at tonight's Foo Fighters show in London.

But it would take place only after the long show by the Foo Fighters, who are headlining the bill tonight at the second of two nights that were already more than six months in the making at Wembley Stadium.

And the whole time, the 85,000 screaming fans are even more enthusiastic tonight inside this packed house than the crowd of the same size was last night -- because, just as in a scenario straight out of the Led Zeppelin playbook written three decades ago, most of the band has been rumored to appear.

Tonight, Robert Plant is half a world away, at a place in upstate New York that locals refer to only as the CMAC. Not to be bothered, he's playing his own headlining show and even revisiting some Zep numbers with his current ensemble of bluegrass musicians -- Alison Krauss, T-Bone Burnett, Buddy Miller, etc.

Not an informed person in London expects Led Zeppelin's singer will show up. But some at the Foo Fighters show are swearing by it, that the rumor they heard, probably fifth-hand at best, was that Robert mysteriously didn't show up at his last few shows in America because he's been in London practicing all week.

One confused 13-year-old drummer from Liverpool has made his way to London with two of his friends, and he can't decide which member of the Foo Fighters he would rather have autograph his CD using his sweaty little Sharpie -- Taylor Hawkins or Dave Grohl. And he's heard every Foo Fighters song ever recorded and, unlike any other kid in his class, every Nirvana song.

But he hasn't heard more than three Led Zeppelin songs his whole life. He'll hear two of those tonight, but not the third, "Stairway to Heaven." And he's spooked at the thought of the scenario he and his two friends have concocted out of their imagination: that John Bonham has just returned from the grave and will now be reclaiming the drum stool warmed up for him recently by his son Jason.

Crazy little teen-age imagination.

When Jimmy Page was that young, he said he wanted to do chemical research when he grew up. And we all know how well that panned out.

The rumor, in its pure form, has been around for weeks but only recently repeated by the music press. Speculation began May 15 that something of interest to Led Zeppelin fans would happen when the Foo Fighters played Wembley. A very vaguely worded statement leaked out to a prominent member of a Led Zeppelin superfan online group, who said he had received the ambiguous message from the same confidential source who'd correctly predicted the precise timing last year of when Zep's reunion show was to be announced. Folks, that's the confirmed power of insight there, not a lucky guess.

Now, a British tabloid at week's end printed specifics from an undisclosed source who said Led Zeppelin would be represented onstage. The word is out. Fans may doubt its authenticity, but the word is out, and it's in the back of their minds at least. Some have chosen to accept it as gospel truth and can't wait to see Led Zeppelin.

At any rate, as the hours draw near to the stadium opening and admitting its first concert attendee, the lines at the venue are getting packed. People without tickets are hoping for a glimpse of Jimmy Page. They didn't bring cameras, but their cell phones can take mediocre pictures -- just in case. There's now a demand for tickets outside like you wouldn't believe. See how much a little rumor really means? Led Zeppelin T-shirts are everywhere.

Those who have tickets aren't giving them up. They were purchased with Foo Fighters in mind, so they're fine with the price they paid whether Led Zeppelin has anybody there or not. Ain't no tickets changing hands tonight. Grasp onto those, they're precious!

Backstage, a BBC Radio 1 broadcaster has been talking about the Foo Fighters for the last half an hour, hosting a "Request Show" going out live across the country. He introduces a segment between songs and holds out the microphone to John Paul Jones. He's clad in a black button-down shirt and blue jeans, unbeknownst to radio listeners, and he's smiling. In his soft mumble of a voice, he speaks about being a fan of the Foo Fighters and relates a story about his February appearance with the Foos outside the Grammy Awards ceremony four months ago. He conducted an orchestra that accompanied the Foos playing their recent hit, "The Pretender." Jonesy says some Grammy promotional contest, "My Grammy Moment," also gave him the chance two work with one young musician. He laughs that he never met either of the contest's other finalists.

That appearance, he says on the air, was just before of production at an L.A. studio for Sara Watkins, a singer he toured with a few summers ago, and with Tom Petty's Benmont Tench on keyboard. He's excited about that project but really can't wait for tonight's Foo Fighters appearance.

What's this? There's no mention of the Led Zeppelin rumor? The host didn't ask if Jimmy Page was there too? Or if Jonesy was even sitting in tonight? Well, at least we fans know John Paul Jones was there. Jason and Jimmy could be too, you never know.

But at least John Paul is there. You can always count on John Paul. After all, who showed up at the Marquee Club in 1976 when it was rumored Led Zeppelin was sitting in with the Pretty Things? Jonesy. Who would drag another instrument out onstage with him, or learn a new vocal harmony part, at the drop of a hat? Jonesy. Who had to have a guitar custom-made for him so he could play two different acoustic guitar necks and a mandolin together all at once, just because Robert Plant ordered him to do so? J-P-freakin'-J, baby.

In London, he's there. That we know. Why he's there, we're not sure.

The Brits are psyched as Grohl and Co. take the stage. Foo Fighters come out with a vengeance. They're playing with passion, playing with fire -- I mean, this set is smoking! This set is burning! They're absolutely wild, and the crowd is absolutely wild, and they're cheering! and they're clapping! they're pumping their fists in the air! they're crowd-surfing to the extent possible due to the security around (and because they're truly British in their grace and reservedness).

Only a few times in the past has London been so turned on to a band. Foo Fighters did what few could do, turn on the lights of Big Ben just with the fierce energy audiences would make at the city's several famous venues. What, like Oasis? Blur? Duran Duran? The Smiths? Queen? The Sex Pistols? Bowie? Pink Floyd? Led Zeppelin? The High Numbers? The Beatles? Dylan? In terms of fans, the Foo Fighters are doing what they all did. (Yeah, in a category with Led Zeppelin.)

So it's only fitting that tonight, more than halfway through the show, John Paul Jones seats himself at a piano to play, for the first time live, "Miracle," from the Foo Fighters album In Your Honor. He was on the studio recording. To the audience's delight, Jones sticks around for one more song. A roadie hands him a mandolin so he can play "Another Round" with the Foo Fighters, which he also played in the studio with them. He remembers it was sometime in the first three months of 2005.

So Jonesy accepts an enthusiastic ovation when he politely waves at the end of his second song. Dave Grohl on the mic screams his name, "John Paul Jones!!!!!!!" as the only confirmed guest walks back offstage. At this point, the Foo Fighters play four more songs and then their show is over. The packed house is really letting loose.

There will certainly be an encore set. Grohl, who's a bigger Zeppelin fan than anybody else within 50 kilometers, promises there'll be an encore. Immediately following the Foo Fighters' tight last note, Grohl shouts, "Don't you go anywhere! Ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned for Led Zep-puh-lin!!!!!!!!!......."

Now everybody is absolutely berzerk. They're getting it! They can't even fathom what they're going to see! Led Zeppelin is actually there, at Wembley Stadium, for the Foo Fighters show, and they're going to play! They're out of breath just thinking about it!

A few minutes pass in total blackness except for the lights of cell phones lit up everywhere. The sound is deafening. What in the world could possibly happen? Was Jimmy Page about to appear?

John Paul Jones makes the first appearance. It's his third instrument of the night. He walks from stage right with a bass strapped to him. A curtain opens, and centerstage, a new drum kit makes its appearance. This isn't at all the one Taylor Hawkins just used for two hours. This one is monstrous. It has a gong and kerosene. There's a crashing dirigible pictured front and center on the mammoth bass drum. And behind it walks a bald man in his forties who waves confidently as he assumes the stool. He's just puked backstage with nerves, but he hides that well, looking dapper with a pair of £600 shades in front of his face. Those who were guessing are right; this is is Jason Bonham.

Just those two, they gently slide into a funky groove not unlike Jonesy's instrumental from 2001, "Bass 'n' Drums." Displaying more than a few moments of inspiration, and even an obvious allusion to the riff of "Heartbreaker," it's been going on for a minute and a half when they stop. The curtains drop, and from stage right walks Jimmy Page with a cherry red Gibson Les Paul and a violin bow. He has a tall top hat in black on, with the type of long coat only a king would wear. He looks regal even without a crown. He may even look more like a magician, with his long, white hair. You even think maybe he has recently gone into chemical research in a laboratory where he's known as the mad scientist, ha ha.

He lets loose for a couple minutes playing the violin bow solo we all recognize. "Dazed and Confused," this is. After the solo, the curtains draw once again, to reveal Jones and Bonham now seen by all for the first time with Page. Cell phone lights flash, illuminating all points of the stadium. Led Zeppelin is here.

Page steps backward, to take his place opposite Jones. At Bonham's beckoning, they continue the song. There's no need for singing here. Page, leading, rips through parts of the song just like he did with the Yardbirds in 1967-1968, and with Led Zeppelin in 1968-1969. They're just as on fire as the Foo Fighters were at the beginning of their set! This place is rockin'!

And so, when the band goes back into its main theme, there's no screw-up like there somehow was in December when a full Led Zeppelin brought the house down at the O2. Tonight, everything is perfect. Their jamming was inventive and incendiary, but from here on out, this slow part is note-for-note, dead on. From Jones' side, Dave Grohl emerges with a handheld mic, ready to sing the last verse of "Dazed and Confused." For him, it's beyond his wildest dreams. Basically, he's here only to lead the audience in signing the words. He's not doing a Robert Plant imitation. But everybody else in the place, knowing there's no Robert Plant in the whole place, says it's OK if there are 85,000 amateur Robert Plant imitators in the place.

David Coverdale is even in attendance, rocking out in front of a mirror in a dressing room backstage with closed-circuit TV projecting the Led Zeppelin tune into his head. He was in the news recently, first telling an interviewer his Whitesnake enterprise was soon opening for Led Zeppelin, and then pulling back like John Kerry's vote for the war before his vote against the war.

"Dazed" goes over well, better than a lead balloon.

It's clear what song is next when Jason Bonham launches into the drum intro that his daddy copped off of a Little Richard B-side he and Robert loved. "Rock and Roll" is playing, and Grohl, though sharing the mic with Jimmy Page, is again merely singing to lead the audience. Page kills with his guitar solo. Jones and Grohl are grooving together at times. And Jason is tight but loose behind them all.

The song's last verse is followed by another quick guitar solo, and a final splash of Robert Plant imitation by 85,000 to sing, "lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time." Before "time," some come in right away like on Led Zeppelin's studio take. Others prefer to wait and imitate their favorite Robert Plant improvisation, from any era of his career.

But something unexpected happens after the word "time." Jason sits there, motionless. He's not playing the drum outro everyone expects. Over the public address system, a familiar drum pattern plays. It's clearly John Bonham, and people confirm it visually when they see him looking almost slender in a red tank top at the Royal Albert Hall, also in London, from Led Zeppelin's show on Jan. 9, 1970. It was Jimmy's birthday. It was a special night, and so is tonight, coincidentally a week after what would have been Bonzo's 60th birthday. This was Jonesy's, Jimmy's, Jason's and Dave's way of paying tribute to John Bonham.

The video of Bonzo is above everybody's heads, on a huge video screen on the ceiling nobody knew was there all night and not used until just now.

Jason has some drum responses to his dad throughout this version of "Moby Dick." This heartfelt tribute is exactly like Zappa Plays Zappa but wordless. Jason speaks nothing except for some of the grunts his dad would make -- or some tennis players. When the main riff of "Moby Dick" emerges, the screen goes from showing the 1970 performance to a live shot of modern-day Led Zeppelin still rocking one of their few instrumentals out. They extend it by adding guitar solos from Page that would have been performed at the beginning of the song. The place is going nuts.

That's it. Dave Grohl shouts "Led Zeppelin" half a dozen more times and thanks everybody for coming out. As if they need to be thanked for seeing two of the world's most kickass bands back to back!

But it wasn't broadcast live, so it makes the news worldwide tomorrow. And the night goes down in Led Zeppelin History, its story repeated for ages.

That's what I imagine is happening.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Zep members rumored to be gracing London stage for BBC broadcast

The Foo Fighters' long-anticipated concert series at London's Wembley Stadium just became even more anticipated, thanks to reported rumors that the American band would be joined onstage by members of Led Zeppelin.

Multiple U.K. news sites -- including the Daily Star, a tabloid, and the New Musical Express -- are reporting on possibilities that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham will perform onstage together this Saturday night for the first time since Led Zeppelin's reunion concert last December, also in London.

The Foo Fighters booked this pair of Wembley performances more than six months ago, and plans have been underway for a stage set up centrally in the venue to provide all concertgoers with a close-up view of the performers. Attendees may be getting even more musicians to admire if the Led Zeppelin members are really there to perform three of their songs, as the Daily Star has quoted a source as saying.

Aside from all that, the BBC is set to broadcast portions from Wembley Stadium. Those listening in may be able to hear this rare almost-Led Zeppelin performance.

Absent from the Zep members rumored to appear in London this Saturday is Robert Plant, who is currently touring North America with Alison Krauss. will be at his show in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sunday. Stay tuned to this site for further information as it becomes available.