Earlier this week it was announced that the remaining members of Led Zeppelin would reunite for an exclusive one night only gig at London’s O2 Arena in mid November. The performance, the band’s first together in 19-years, is part of a honorary show in remembrance of Atlantic Record’s founder Ahmet Ertegun who passed away last year. Original drummer John Bonham will of course not be attending since his booze induced death in 1980 was the major catalyst for the band’s breakup, however, the exciting news from the announcement is that the late drummer’s son, Jason Bonham, will be filling the hard to fill shoes.
Having grown up on my parent’s Zeppelin vinyl collection (by age 6 it’s safe to say I could pull from memory all the beautiful nuances and details from II’s epic “Whole Lotta Love”) this was tickling news. Thoughts started racing through my head of possibly a full throttle world tour, perhaps some new material and maybe even a concert DVD in the same vein of the Rolling Stone’s “Four Flicks” set. Visions of grandeur I know, but hey, it does seem that tons of band’s from yesteryears are regrouping for elaborate reunion tours so why not Zeppelin?
In this past year alone we saw a slew of classic bands reunite for large-scale tours and in a few cases even a new album. This summer the Police tapped into its past at a sold out Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Genesis toured the globe (sans Peter Gabriel however), The Smashing Pumpkins (really 50% of the Pumpkins) released its first album since 2000, followed by its own world tour, Iggy Pop joined the Stooges for a tour and a new album, and even the Spice Girls announced its upcoming, highly anticipated reunion–an anxious nation can now be put to rest.
These are just a few names on a long list of bands or artists in recent years that decided that retirement just wasn’t in their cards. Last year Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey brought back The Who for a grand tour and a new and fairly decent album, Endless Wire. Roger Waters reunited with Pink Floyd for Live 8, there was a short lived Doors reunion tour some years back, and earlier this month Stevie Wonder played Chicago marking his first tour in over a decade.
More often than not I support reunion tours, especially when it comes to bands that split up prematurely before I had the chance of seeing them live. Selfish I know but hey, we all have dreams. Sure there are reunions that are unwarranted (did we really need a Motley Crew regrouping or any other loud 80s hair band for that matter), some come too late in the game (The Police in my humble opinion), and sometimes these tours are nothing more than money making schemes for desperate has-beens (Van Halen anyone? Or pretty much anything David Lee Roth does with his time) but more often than not these tours can be a perfect way to rekindle your past or experience for yourself what others reminisce about.
In 1999/2000 Bruce Springsteen recompiled the mighty E-Street Band for a massive and well-received reunion tour (wonderfully captured on the Live in New York City DVD and album), followed by a very strong record release, The Rising. Here’s a group known for their monstrous live shows proving that not only do they still have what it takes but in many ways have improved and matured with age (don’t believe me watch/listen to Nils Lofgren’s virtuosic guitar solos, particularly on the electric version of “Youngstown,” paired with the Boss and Little Stevie Van Zandt).
In 2004 The Pixies, arguably one of the largest cult bands out there put its differences aside and joined up for a massive world tour chronicled on the ironically titled Pixies Sell Out DVD. It was subsequently one of the biggest tours of the year and proved that there are Pixies fans everywhere who all got a short but sweet blast from the past.
One of the most warranted and underrated recent reunions of the past ten years was that of 70s Cali jazz rockers, Steely Dan, a band that was almost exclusively a studio group during its heyday, very rarely treating fans to live performances. After the duo won a Grammy in 2000 for Two Against Nature they began touring off and on with stellar backing musicians and a career-spanning catalogue at their disposal. The band may not be in its prime in terms of albums but by performing live they are giving fans a taste of something new and refreshing.
Reunion tours are like “Greatest Hits” compilation albums. It seems like all capable bands or artists take part in them at some point in their careers. The tours can be gambles not so much in terms of money because, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t pay to see Led Zeppelin live, but more in terms of credibility. As the years go by artists can sometimes lose their chops, musically and vocally, and sometimes bands should just remain dormant (The Smashing Pumpkins recent “reunion” stunt is one of the worst yet in my opinion). Still for true fans reunions can be liberating experiences.
The closest I’ve ever gotten to a true Zeppelin concert was seeing a fairly respectable Zeppelin cover band, Zoso, out of L.A. play a small bar in Southern Indiana. Even Jimmy Page’s raw live album with The Black Crowes circa 1999 or Robert Plant and Page’s No Quarter live album/tour in 1994 (done painstakingly without the brilliant John Paul Jones) couldn’t truly do the band the justice it deserves. For years there were rumors of a Zeppelin reunion tour with longtime Bonham fan Dave Grohl taking on the Moby Dick of drummer replacements but these remained only rumors, so the idea of seeing these legends on stage with Bonham blood is beyond alluring.
There are no guarantees of what’s in store for this newly hinted Zeppelin reincarnation and its hard to say which future bands are headed down reunion road in the near future (I don’t know about you but I smell a Smiths reunion sometime soon) all I know is my fingers will be crossed that bands like Zeppelin or the Talking Heads take that next step. Hopefully some day their time is gonna come.