Tuesday, November 20, 2007

DVD REVIEW: LED ZEPPELIN - THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME


I’ll be honest. I received my copy of Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same and figured it would be the typical concert dvd. I know, there were claims that it wasn’t the same, but that’s what all promotional items say. “A mesmerizing movie” featuring Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. Mesmerizing? I was skeptical but it deserved a chance.

The film started with what might be the oddest collection of scenes I have ever seen. Naked children playing in a stream while the parents watch from the bank, a father telling stories to his children…a group of guys ambushing a back room and lighting it up with gunfire. One guy has his head blown off only to have streams of colors shoot out of his neck. Huh?? I was baffled by what I was seeing, although I was intrigued as well. Call it my sick side.

Apparently these scenes were part of the band’s fantasy sequences and shouldn’t be subject to much over-analyzing. Just take them for what they are, an added element to break up the monotony of the usual concert film.

A few minutes after the scenes from The Godfather in Oz, I was taken to the band members exiting a plane and heading toward their destination, Madison Square Garden. That’s when the fun began.

I’m not someone who would be considered a big Led Zeppelin fan, but I do enjoy the music and appreciate the group’s place in history. The band helped change the face of rock and continues to influence today’s musicians. So, to watch this group of talented men perform in 1973, amidst tons of hype and electricity, should be considered a gift.

The performances include many of the expected songs, the first being “Bron-Yr-Aur.” As the journey continues with “Rock and Roll,” “Black Dog,” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” video clips (including more of the band member fantasies) are inserted and provide viewers with something more than watching four guys on stage. This is the general flow of the film and, at some point, I started to feel like it might be losing its entertainment value.

That’s when “Stairway to Heaven” kicked in. Unless you have been locked in a cave for about 40 years, you’ve heard this one. I have talked to numerous people who believe it might be the best rock song ever, without question one of the top ten. But the version in the film is different than the one always pumped over the radio. This time it’s live and there are added dimensions of feeling, entertainment, showmanship, etc. It’s a different, exciting twist on a classic and was surely going to be my favorite part of the movie. At least that’s what I thought.

When “Stairway” ended, Plant called attention to Bonham on drums and introduced the song “Moby Dick.” That’s when the drummer went on an impressive solo show that had me on the edge of my seat. I was especially entertained when he put down the sticks and started playing with his hands. Now, this may be something that other drummers do, but seeing a legend like Bonham do it provided a special quality. Seeing his intensity and focus only added to the experience. During his solo, video clips once again appear, so viewers don’t have to just stare at a man behind a drum set. The clips were somewhat sad to me, leaving me wondering what would have happened had he not passed as a result of alcohol poisoning.

When the rest of the band came back out, apparently going backstage during the drum solo, Plant summed up the performance by saying, “John Bonham, 130 pounds of glory.” Perfect.

Two songs, “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love,” finish out the concert footage. The film then follows the band as it boards a plane and heads off. The more familiar version of “Stairway to Heaven” plays as they take flight, continues through the end of the credits and then plays on over black. It was a fitting end to this surprisingly entertaining film.

Even though, after almost two hours of concert video, it seems like I may have had enough, I still felt the urge to pop in Disc 2. It’s full of standard “extras,” from the BBC interview of Plant and Peter Grant (while boating on the Thames) to the added concert footage, including the never-before-released “Over the Hills and Far Away” and a cutting copy of “Celebration Day.”

As a member of the media, I was fond of the Tampa News Report (from PULSE in Tampa, includes airplane footage of the band’s arrival) and the news report about the band being robbed while on tour. While my interest in those to features comes from being in news, those outside of the business should also enjoy them simply because they are a look at elements of an exciting time in music history.

Also included are the original film trailer and a unique radio profile by Cameron Crowe (who also has a printed commentary in the booklet included with the 2-cd set).


(For fans looking for more, a Limited Collector's Edition is also being released and includes: Exclusive T-shirt with Album Artwork Design • Collectible Lobby Cards • Clippings and reproductions of Original Premiere Invitations • Original Tour Schedule • Press Memorabilia • Mail-in Poster Offer.)



GRADE: 8.5/10
Obviously, for fans of Led Zeppelin, this is an item they must have and it’s probably already on their wishlists. But, what about those who aren’t diehards? If you’re a fan of music, I highly recommend it. It’s a chance to see a band that holds a key place in music history as it approaches its peak. It’s an opportunity, in today’s world of lip syncs and choreographed dance shows, to actually see what an old fashioned rock and roll show was all about. And Plant, Page, Bonham and Jones definitely knew how to entertain. This type of performance is what helped create a spot in the Rock Hall for Led Zeppelin and why that name still carries weight today. Add in the fact that it’s just plain great music and you have a top-shelf concert video. If you are a fan of music, look into this title.


Rated: PG

Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the Same (Warner Home Video)
Disc One Performances
- Bron-Yr-Aur
- Rock and Roll
- Black Dog
- Since I’ve Been Loving You
- No Quarter
- The Song Remains the Same
- The Rain Song
- Dazed and Confused
- Stairway to Heaven
- Moby Dick
- Heartbreaker
- Whole Lotta Love

Disc Two
- Tampa News Report
- “Over the Hills and Far Away” (never-before-released)
- Boating Down the Thames (BBC interview with Plant/Grant)
- “Celebration Day” (cutting copy; never-before-released)
- The Robbery
- “Misty Mountain Hop”
- Original film trailer
- “The Ocean”Radio profile spotlight by Cameron Crowe


AVAILABLE NOW (HD DVD and Blu-ray available December 11th)