Thursday, January 31, 2008

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same

The 70's Were a Hairier Time...

Yes, Mr. Samson, I like the Zep. That's partly what makes this concert documentary somewhat disappointing; they didn't choose a particularly energetic concert, and the bookends are somewhat pretentious and boring. Apparently the "How the West Was Won" DVD is a better sampling of their live performances.
It starts out with a scene of the band as gangsters shooting up a cottage where Nazis and also, the Wolf Man, happen to be holed up over invasion plans. It would have been great if the entire film were this bizarre, but from there it cuts to the band living their idyllic lives, before they are called forth to perform at Madison Square Garden.
Robert Plant and wife are sitting by a stream, watching their two young children cavort in the nude; John Bonham is cruising in a 30's roadster; Jimmy Page is sitting in the woods playing a hurdy-gurdy or something. And John Paul Jones is hunting unicorns on a hang-glider with a crossbow. Okay, not really. I can't remember what he was doing, except that he says "what, the concert's tomorrow?" and ends the quiet interlude.
So they open their shirts and are herded to the limousine, and then the jumbo jet. It's a hard life, and I'd hate to be the make-up gal who had to trim and primp their happy trails, which are on full display from hereon in. As my friend John remarked, "the 70's were a hairier time." Their band manager Peter Grant looks like he escaped from the gorilla exhibit, perhaps he was inspiration for the Nazi werewolf they perforated with tommy guns.

The concert is the meat of the film, and sounds incredible in TrueHD. If you can find the HD disc (eBay and xploitedcinema would be good places to start) it is well worth the $25 if you're a fan of the band.
They lean towards the slower bluesy songs rather than balls-out rockers, beginning the show with "Rock 'n Roll" and forgoing "Immigrant Song," to my immense sadness. They do long versions of "Moby Dick" and "Dazed and Confused," with good solos. In between some tracks there is footage of crashers being arrested, the crew letting a few people backstage, their manager talking about how $203,000 of ticket receipts were stolen from a safety deposit box, and stuff that's meant to give a hint of the Personality of the Rock Gods, but after seeing This is Spinal Tap, it is clear that this film was one of the inspirations. In fact, the Tap guys sometimes sound too intelligent to be rock stars.
The more fun interludes are some sword and sorcery shenanigans with Robert Plant following a doped-out blonde on a white horse, and Jimmy Page climbing a mountain to confront the robed man from the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. Under the hood is... Jimmy Page! In old man make-up. I get it, seek thyself! Don't bogart that jay, man, pass it over to me.
The end of the concert gets the psychedelic treatment with split screens and posterization, so if it takes you 2 hours and 10 minutes to get high, this is the point where you will officially Freak The Fuck Out. It's kind of funny now. As stuff to watch as they play, it's just fine, and looks great on the HD transfer. After all, it's about the music. It's much better than watching Robert Plant's bulging moose-knuckle aimed at you like a boil about to burst from his jeans. Where are studded leather codpieces when you need them?

The horror...

It's hypnotic, isn't it?

In other news, Lez Zeppelin, the all-female Led Zep tribute band, has a concert on March 29th. Tickets are only $20, and Robert Plant sounds so much like a girl that I bet they sound great.


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