Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day

I haven’t listened to Led Zeppelin in probably two decades. I listened to them all the time in college, to the point where Led Zeppelin II was on constant rotation in my dorm room. As a result, I kind of overdosed on them, reached critical mass, and decided I needed to take a break. That break lasted pretty much until last night, when I went with a group of friends to the Sunshine Cinema on Houston Street to see Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day, a one-night-only, big-screen film of their 2007 reunion concert in honor of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. (The concert was such a big deal that they had to give away tickets by lottery. There were 18,000 seats in the arena. Twenty million people applied.)

Before the film began, I looked around and realized it was the first time I’d been in a movie theater in recent history, or perhaps ever, where everyone was my age or older. There were no teenagers texting, talking on their phones, shouting at each other, or throwing their garbage everywhere. I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old man, but hell, this is a blog post about Led Zeppelin, so why should I try to pretend otherwise? It was fucking awesome not having any kids in the theater. There, I said it!

The film doesn’t waste any time with backstage interviews or shots of the band arriving or any of that. After a short credit sequence, the lights come up on stage and the band kicks right into “Good Times, Bad Times.” Boom. Led fucking Zeppelin. Sure, they’re older now. They look doughy, weathered. Jimmy Page looks like a taller version of Harlan Ellison with his long white hair and sunglasses. (He also mugs hilariously throughout his guitar solos. The man can’t control his face!) John Paul Jones looks a bit like Lance Henriksen now. Robert Plant, well, he looks exactly the same because he’s a fucking rock god and will outlive all of us. (They’re joined on the drums by Jason Bonham, son of the band’s original drummer, the late John Bonham. Jason plays just like his dad, including all the off-beats and counter-beats, and clearly has a rapport of respect and friendship with the other band members.) You would be forgiven for thinking, Can they still play at this age? All I can say is: You have no idea. They brought their A game. They play with an assuredness that comes with age and experience, and they know they have nothing to prove. As a result, they play the best they ever have. This is one of the best concerts I have ever seen, and hell, I saw Peter Gabriel at Madison Square Garden in his 1980s heyday!

The strange thing about seeing the concert in a movie theater is that you almost immediately forget you’re not actually in the arena. The theater audience was hooting and hollering and clapping after every number, as if the band members could hear them through the screen and across the five year divide. It didn’t matter. I clapped and wooooooed with the rest of them.

The setlist was a nice mix of showstoppers like “Trampled Under Foot” and “Misty Mountain Hop,” as well as less-played numbers like “In My Time of Dying” and “For Your Love,” the latter of which I’m told they had never played live before. But it’s essentially a catalogue of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits, so they’re all showstoppers, really. Despite my twenty year moratorium, I realized I still knew every note, every word, every key change of every song. That’s how ingrained their music had become in my mind.

The concert is so high energy you’ll be going nuts from minute one, but by the time Jimmy Page breaks out the violin bow during “Dazed and Confused” and is suddenly surrounded by a spinning green laser pyramid, you’ll go apeshit. Which brings me to the only drawback of seeing a show like this in a movie theater. You have no outlet for all the energy you’re taking in. At a concert venue you can dance and jump around and scream like a madman to release that energy again, but in a movie theater you’re stuck in your chair, and the energy just keeps building and building inside you. By the halfway point I was already feeling overstimulated. You know those videos on YouTube of people fainting on rollercoasters? I felt like I was moments away from the same fate. But then, just as I thought my head was going to explode and I would die, the band, as if sensing this, mellows things out with “Stairway to Heaven.” After that, it was like they’d pressed the reset button, and I was okay again. “Stairway” was great, of course, but they close the show (pre-encores) with my second-favorite Led Zeppelin song, “Kashmir,” a version Zeppelin aficionados are apparently already calling the best live version of that song they’ve ever done. I won’t argue.

For the curious, here is the complete setlist:

1. Good Times, Bad Times

2. Ramble On

3. Black Dog

4. In My Time Of Dying

5. For Your Life

6. Trampled Under Foot

7. Nobody’s Fault But Mine

8. No Quarter

9. Since I’ve Been Loving You

10. Dazed And Confused

11. Stairway To Heaven

12. The Song Remains The Same

13. Misty Mountain Hop

14. Kashmir

15. Encore: Whole Lotta Love

16. Encore 2: Rock And Roll

At two hours long, it’s one of the greatest rock and roll experiences you’ll have. It’s also a reminder, in case we’ve forgotten, of just how influential and important a band they were. Led Zeppelin was one of the first bands, if not the first, to take the psychedelic rock and roll of the 1960s and add a harder edge and heavier beats to it, essentially inventing hard rock as we know it today. Maybe even metal and prog rock, too.

My only complaints about the concert are about songs they didn’t play. They didn’t play my favorite Led Zeppelin song of all time, “When the Levee Breaks,” and I would have lost my shit completely if they’d played “The Immigrant Song.” Maybe next time. (If there is a next time.) Until then, Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day is coming out on video and CD in November. If you’re a fan, catch it, and remember why you loved Zeppelin in the first place.

 

P.S. Oh, did I mention that during “Whole Lotta Love” Jimmy Page plays the fucking theremin? A theremin, people!

“Gangnam Style” Lyrics Translated Into English

There’s a danger in translating foreign language song lyrics into English. It loses some of the magic. We all felt a little disappointed when we learned the English translation of “Du Hast,” or “99 Luftballons,” or, really, any Falco song. But I got it in my head that I wanted to know just what Korean pop star PSY was singing about in the recent viral phenomenon “Gangnam Style” (click if you haven’t already seen the hilarious music video), so here it is. This is what he’s actually singing, translated into English:

Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style

A girl who is warm and humanly during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist

I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensible girl like that

I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two

You know what I’m saying

Oppa is Gangnam style

Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

Still confused? I am! Luckily, there’s a cultural (“Oppa” means older brother!) and geographical (Gangnam is a territory in Seoul!) explanation of the lyrics to be found at Business Insider.

(Also, for fun, here’s an equally hilarious “Gangnam Style” parody by the Oregon Duck.)

My Man MCA’s Got a Beard Like a Billy Goat

Adam Yauch, “MCA” of the Beastie Boys, passed away from cancer yesterday at the age of 47.

It’s impossible to measure the influence of the Beastie Boys on my life. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time, though when their first album, License to Ill, came out in 1986, I didn’t get what they were about. I was a senior in high school and “Fight for Your Right” was in constant rotation on MTV. I thought the video was juvenile, the music uninteresting, and their voices grating. When it came to hip-hop, of which I only knew a small amount, I was much more into Run-DMC. I was certain the Beasties would be a flash in the pan.

I was wrong. In college, once I heard the entirety of License to Ill, I finally understood the smart, often witty playfulness of their songs. I was a quick convert. In 1989, when their second album, Paul’s Boutique, was released, I rushed to the Sam Goody near campus and bought it on cassette. (I know, I’m old, get over it.) I thought it was even better than License to Ill, frankly, and it remains one of my favorite albums to this day. After that came 1992’s Check Your Head, which was on par (“Professor Booty” remains the apex of their oeuvre, I think), but after that my interest in the Beastie Boys began to slide downhill. I thought 1994’s Ill Communication was nothing special, despite a few standout songs like “Sabotage” (which gave us one of the greatest music videos of all time) and 1998’s Hello Nasty was completely forgettable (except maybe for “Intergalactic,” which I don’t think is a great song, but is definitely another of the greatest music videos of all time). When the Beastie Boys made a comeback in 2004 with To the 5 Boroughs, I was excited and rushed out to buy it. (It was, in fact, the first Beasties album I bought on CD instead of cassette!) Alas, aside from the song “An Open Letter to NYC,” I found the album lackluster enough that when they returned again in 2011 with Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2, I didn’t bother picking it up. My time with the Beasties was over. Either my taste in music had moved on, or the guys simply couldn’t recreate that late ’80s-early ’90s magic anymore. (I never heard their instrumental albums, 1995’s The In Sound from Way Out! or 2007’s The Mix-Up.)

But I still listen to them regularly. Paul’s Boutique comes out of its case at least once a year, and the song “Professor Booty” is constantly lurking in the recesses of my mind, springing forth like a hungry panther whenever it decides it needs to be heard. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is on my workout mix, so I hear it probably once a week. The Beastie Boys will always be a favorite of mine, right up there with Pink Floyd, Planet P Project, early Nine Inch Nails, Fish-era Marillion, and all the others that had such a big impact on me. Their music was fun, their lyrics often far more intelligent than one might think, and their prowess as actual musicians underestimated. MCA was like the older brother of the three members, his hoarse growl as iconic as the King Ad Rock’s nasally whine. I’m sorry it’s been silenced.

As someone said on Google+ yesterday, he finally reached Brooklyn. Sleep well, MCA.

 

 

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