They made 'em sweat, then made 'em groove

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It wasn't all good times in the lead-up to Monday's Led Zeppelin reunion gig.

By midafternoon, the scene at the O2 Arena was frenzied, with a 500-strong line for merchandise and huge waits at the will-call windows. But the excitement surrounding the group's first full show since drummer John Bonham's 1980 death was not being felt in the media center inside the venue.

Deep in the bowels of what was the Millennium Dome complex in east London, members of the press were jammed into a drab, windowless room with white walls and cafeteria tables — sans food or drinks — where drones sat at computers filing about all the bustle.

Early in the evening, the PR firm running the show had run out of badges, and it took negotiations with a very officious security company before many members of the media were given wristbands from another event called Beige Brigade that they were prepared to recognize.

They had lumped radio reporters together with photographers and writers. So, as THR reviewer Ray Bennett put it, "I get to hear the guy from BBC Devon doing his stand-up as I grapple with the Internet communications."

The room's WiFi connection was reported to be "like sludge," but it was working.

An IT technician grappled with the single flat screen on which the show was to be screened for the world's press. For a while, it was blank; then there was an image from the BBC's quiz show "Mastermind" with no sound. Then the performance by Bill Wyman and his Rhythm Kings, one of the pre-Zeppelin acts on the bill, had a synch delay between sound and picture and the gentle but steady hum of feedback.

The Wyman set, with backing vocals by Paul Rodgers and Paolo Nutini, was followed by Rodgers doing "All Right Now" and then the Mick Jones-led Foreigner, which performed "I Want to Know What Love Is" with St. Luke's Church of England choir from Portsmouth on Britain's south coast.

Several top industry executives were present Monday, including Warner Music Group's Lyor Cohen, AEG Live's Randy Phillips, Best Buy's Gary Arnold, Apple's Jeff Jones, Rhino's David Dorn and Control Room's Kevin Wall.

Celebrity sightings included David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Steve Winwood, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Roger Taylor of Queen, Tony Banks from Genesis, Kate Moss, Jeri Hall, Marilyn Manson, members of Oasis and the Arctic Monkeys

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl showed off his Zeppelin tattoo and proclaimed: "I'm so excited. One of the best nights of my life."

With an estimated 20 million fans vying for tickets to Monday's show pared down to a lucky 18,000 or so — including one who paid more than $168,000 for his pair — most of the rest are hoping for more tour dates.

But singer Robert Plant may be toughest of Zeppelin's three surviving members to be convinced that it's a good idea to go on tour.

"The whole idea of being on a cavalcade of merciless repetition is not what it's all about," he told the Sunday Times leading up to the performance.

But Plant did give an indication that this may not be the last of Led Zeppelin, however.

"It wouldn't be such a bad idea to play together from time to time," Plant added.

Priced at $250, tickets for Monday's show had been selling on the Internet for upward of $2,000.

Kenneth Donnell, 25, said he paid $168,500 for his tickets from BBC Radio's "Things That Money Can't Buy" charity auction last month.

"I was gutted that I was not born in the 1960s and able to see Led Zeppelin in the 1970s like my dad," Donnell told the Sunday Times.

The show was dedicated to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died last year. Proceeds were earmarked for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which provides scholarships to universities in the U.S., Britain and Turkey.

The show was originally scheduled for Nov. 26 but was postponed after Page injured the little finger on his left hand.

Ray Bennett and Billboard's Ed Christman, Tamara Conniff and Mark Sutherland and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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