O2 Arena, 12-10-07 (Third Eye Productions)
It is safe to assume that, if you are reading this review, you probably did not get to see the landmark December 10, 2007 Led Zeppelin performance at London’s O2 arena. My assumption is based not only on the fact that I wasn’t there, but the frenzy by fans “from 50 countries” (as Robert said before Kashmir) for about 18-20,000 available tickets. For those of us who were not fortunate enough to see what happened at the O2, Third Eye Productions has produced a magnificent DVD of the complete show in what may well be record time (about 2 weeks from the concert date).
The title is presented in 16.9 widescreen on a dual layer DVD-R remixed and remastered in PCM stereo. The disc itself is attractively decorated with the artwork accompanying the DVD, and there’s an extra insert inside the DVD case of a collage with concert shots, ticket stub, and blue wristband for the lucky concertgoer.
The DVD begins with an indigenous image of a small boat sitting on still water, cutting to various pre-concert shots of the O2 Arena, happy fans gathering, and then closes with an outside shot of the O2 at night. An awesome start that is perfectly accompanied by a loop from the beginning of “In the Evening”. The title menu is accompanied by a loop of the studio recording of “Tangerine”, and shows the stage before the concert, with the audience electricity and anticipation clearly evident. Play, England Tour, and Songs are the available options on this menu screen. I have only watched the concert, repeatedly, and have not yet delved into the England Tour portion of the disc, which I have read elsewhere is another classy element to this production as it shows many local images near and dear to the hearts of all of us lifelong lovers of Led Zeppelin.
To me, what is most striking about this production is how it enables me to see what I have been listening to in audio since about 2 days after the show. The filming is shot from almost straight away, center, and up a tier in the arena. It begins with the broadcast of the Tampa news footage played on the big screen above the stage, is a bit dark and evidences our trusty camera man adjusting to the recording dynamic. Then, out of the dark crashes GTBT, with flashes of light matched to the song’s start. The audio’s very good, but seriously out of synch with the visuals in the beginning, but this resolves by around the second verse of the tune. There’s more adjusting to the recording angle, and some great shots of what’s displayed on the big screen, with the filming finally getting settled when the guitar solo starts in “Good Times, Bad Times”. The image is clear, only slightly obstructed at times by another fan’s head, but nothing awful at all. The band is also perfectly in the center of the picture. “Ramble On”, a low point in the show for me, is filmed in a similar fashion to GTBT, with the filming angles, zoom, etc. still being worked-out a bit. It’s during this song that our camera man thankfully finds a spot where the fan’s head is gone. From here on, the concert’s filmed in excellent and totally captivating quality.
The killer performances of “Black Dog”, “In My Time Of Dying”, “For Your Life”, etc., are all captured beautifully, showing how totally locked-in the band was on that memorable night. We get to witness the body language signaling changes and ends to songs, happy facial expressions from everyone on stage, and zooming used with great effect to show the ecstatic audience at times and full screen backdrop at other times. A particularly powerful moment for me, which is something I could not appreciate hearing just the audio, was how everyone centered around the front of the drum riser on an otherwise huge stage. An example is when Jimmy went to his effect pedals before the solo in “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, and then returned to the front of the drums where he, JPJ, and Jason just dug in. For me, not enough has been written about Jason Bonham’s remarkable performance that night under unthinkable circumstances. This video provides the chance to see him do what he did, and it’s excellent. The video also captures the fantastic light and stage show, particularly during “Kashmir,” which is simply epic and rivals any of Zep proper’s best performances of the song.
It could rightly be said that the vantage point used for this filming is superior to one that may only provide stage shots as there was so much more to see in the show. After the show, we get to see the band hugging following Jason bowing to Plant, Jones, and Page. It is fitting that the DVD insert quotes Guardian on its backside that “it’s difficult to believe this is a band who have barely played together for the best part of three decades.” I couldn’t agree more. A triumphant night, to put it mildly, which has thankfully been preserved in a totally professional production by Third Eye for all of us to view over and over again. (CH)