November 14, 2012

Celebration Day

I have a theory about successful rock and roll bands:
No successful rock and roll band has ever broken up and stayed broken up.
The financial incentives are eventually strong enough to reunite even the most broken of bands.
This theory only holds if all the band members are still alive. If key bandmembers die, the band may never reunite. (That gets to the core of what a "band" is - The Jimi Hendrix Experience never reunited, but were they really a band?) Even bands where the leader goes on to a successful solo career, sometimes a more lucrative career, they will still reunite: for example, I was disappointed but not surprised when The Police reunited after 20 years apart.
I have reviewed the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member groups and the exception that proves my rule is The Smiths. All the bandmembers are still with us, the band broke up 29 years ago and they're still broken up. I challenge you to name another successful rock and roll band that broke up and stayed broken up?
In my youth, the gold standard for reunions were The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It felt like The Beatles were broken up forever and permanently (since John Lennon died.) But 25 years after they broke up, the Fab Three reunited for two "new" singles featuring zombie John Lennon on lead vocal.
Most successful bands reunite not to record new songs, but to tour, where the real money lies. Led Zeppelin broke up after John Bonham died in 1980. The three surviving members have never toured or recorded new material together, but they have performed:

  • 1985: The band reunites for Live Aid. Page described the performance as "pretty shambolic", while Plant characterized it as an "atrocity". Phil Collins, sitting in on drums, implied in an 2016 interview that Page was too impaired to play properly - "drooling" was the word he used.
  • 1988: The band reunites again for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert. Page described the performance as "one big disappointment", and Plant said that "the gig was foul".
  • 1995: The band plays at their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction.
  • 2007: Led Zeppelin reunited for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, which is the subject of this movie.

Their performance is terrific. I found that the performance peeled away their mystique and revealed the band for what they really were: the original, and best, blues-rock band. They sound like every blues-rock band you've ever heard over the succeeding generations, but Led Zep invented it.

At the Regent Theater, Arlington, with George and Scott; the only other movie I ever saw there was another classic rock movie, A Hard Day's Night, ten years earlier.