By Mark Smotroff
The Blu-ray Disc version of Celebration Day is a keeper and a worthy addition to the Led Zeppelin catalogue. It's a snapshot of a band playing at a critical juncture, reconvening and discovering that they CAN still rock, and rock righteously at that! There is much love on the stage and it comes across in the music. It captures a moment when all the stars aligned, promises were kept, dreams met and the band played on brilliantly.
Jason Bonham is at the center of this success and his contribution should not be underestimated. A rock monster in his own right, Bonham channels his father's manic energy yet keeps time tight. Much as Zak Starkey (who studied with Keith Moon) has done for The Who the past 15 or so years, Bonham's focus lets the others relax and do what they do best.
His control lets us focus on John Paul Jones' often overlooked contributions, playing keys and bass parts with his feet (ala The Doors' Ray Manzarek). He's pretty astounding to watch, like when he picks up the fretless bass on "In My Time of Dying," mimicking Page's slide playing. Plant has matured over the years and now delivers his vocals with the air of the experienced blues, country and folk great he has become -- not just the "king of cock rock" (as some termed it back in the day). There is more richness and depth there these days -- some singers get better with age and Plant is one of them.
For a concert recorded digitally in a cavernous Arena,"Celebration Day" sounds remarkably good both on the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix and the LPCM stereo. Zeppelin is a blues-based power trio at its core so there is only so much that can be done with drums, bass and guitar mix-wise. Plant and Bonham are mostly dead center with John Paul Jones to the left and Jimmy Page in the right.
The surround mix is fun and engaging. By the time they get to the one-two punch of "Since I've Been Loving You" followed by "Dazed and Confused," the arena crowd has been reduced to a reverent hushed silence that I've honestly only heard at Springsteen concerts! You can feel the heavy air of the concert hall in the surrounds! Plant's periodic vocal bursts pepper the surrounds (I am guessing they did this in the actual concert hall). When Page breaks out his violin bow, the mixers have un with surrounds, swirling his screeches through the room in tandem with the pyramid shaped laser revolving around him. Its a cool moment and just right without being gimmicky. This set is filled with many such moments and will warrant multiple viewings.
Is the fidelity as good as, say, Peter Gabriel's New Blood Live Blu-ray? No and I would not expect it to! This is a loud rock 'n roll band in a cavernous arena. Set expectations realistically, folks! Recorded in Pro Tools, probably at the 48K/24-bit rate we get on the disc,"Celebration Day" is what it is: a rocking show that looks great! Fun intercutting of (obvious) handheld fan footage reminding you just how good the high res pro shot video looks.
If you like Led Zeppelin even a little, you'll probably enjoy this one a lot.