Led Zeppelin fans worldwide have been collectively churning a recent mega-rumour: that the band could reunite for a concert, possibly in 2018, and possibly at the Desert Trip festival in California to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary.
Speculation was set off by a cryptic post to lead-singer Robert Plant’s website: “Any time now…“
Then the fire was really set by a brief post at Feel Numb.
After a few days of in which Zep enthusiasts checked their bank balances and tried to figure out how to get themselves to Indio, Calif. — fully aware that when the group reunited in 2007 at London’s O2 arena, 20 million people tried to buy 20,000 tickets — Billboard appeared to quash the fun.
“[T]here’s no deal in place to get Led Zeppelin’s surviving members — Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones — back together, sources say, while AEG hasn’t announced another Desert Trip festival for this year,” the publication reported. “The promise on Mr. Plant’s website, meanwhile, is more likely a tease to a forthcoming album than to an upcoming performance, sources tell Billboard.”
Last year’s Desert Trip was classic-rock hootenanny, featuring acts such as Paul McCartney, The Who, Neil Young and Bob Dylan.
The event was expensive and controversial, but it was a musical festival for everyone who was either too old or too rich to go to Bonnaroo.
The perfect venue
The apparent negation of the tantalising Zep rumours notwithstanding, Desert Trip or some kind of stand in the California desert would be perfect for a Zep reunion. The band started out all those years ago playing festivals in Europe, and over its astounding run until drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980, decadent journeys to the Golden State were routine.
Additionally, Zep’s final performance by the original foursome — Bonham, Plant, Jimmy Page on guitar and John Paul Jones on bass — was at a festival, Knebworth, in 1979.
Between the 1980s and 2007, there were a few desultory reunions, and Plant and Page teamed up several times to engage in some interesting musical explorations. Plant undertook a successful solo career, Jones became more of a sideman, and Page released a solo record and formed two additional groups, Coverdale Page with Whitensake singer David Coverdale and The Firm with Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers.
Over the past ten years, Plant really entered some new musical territory, winning a Grammy with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss and touring with some offbeat groups that would cover Zep classics using rootsy or world-music inspired arrangements.
Page devoted himself to remastering the entire Zep catalogue to correct what he felt was a desecration of the band’s legacy when the original vinyl albums were transferred to CDs. But he also frequently teased fans with the prospects of his own revived solo career, while also grumbling that Plant refused to reunite Zep for extra shows following the O2 “Celebration Day” reboot, with Bonham’s son Jason on drums.
The show is often spoken of as the greatest rock concert of all time, from rock’s biggest bands.
The last “Whole Lotta Love”
What knocked Zep fans for a loop was both the rumour and the realisation that with Plant nearing 70 and both Page and Jones already there, a California stand in 2018 would perhaps be the last chance to see that band live.
Obviously, we’ll see. If Zep does decide to do something to celebrate the band’s formation in 1968 and the release of Led Zeppelin I, its first album, in 1969, it would be huge. The “Celebration Day” film has done nothing but stoke the appetites of fans to witness the mighty Zep give it one last go, a proper “Swan Song,” to borrow the name of the band’s own briefly lived label.
If form holds, Page would likely be up for the gig, although he’s been curiously absent from any live performance at all for some time now. When the band last reunited, it rehearsed for months to deliver a superb show in 2007. Jones would likely join in. Plant has been the holdout, insisting that he doesn’t want to revive his 20-something rock-god self and would prefer that his former bandmates at least consider taking Zep in different direction: less loud, less libidinous, in the end maybe less Zep.
Honestly, it seems odd that Plant’s website would be the place that an announcement would be made, so Billboard’s reporting is probably correct. But the rumours should have reminded everyone that Zep at 50 does loom. Just because the lastest speculation could be baseless, that doesn’t mean something isn’t in the works.