Zeppelin confirms tribute show gig
EmptyLondon -- For at least one night, Led Zeppelin will rock again.
A long-simmering rumor was confirmed at a news conference here Wednesday: The three surviving members of the legendary band will take the stage as part of an Ahmet Ertegun tribute show Nov. 26 at the O2 arena in London.
Veteran concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith, who is organizing the show, confirmed that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are to reunite onstage for the third time in 27 years. The drummer will be Jason Bonham, son of the band's original drummer John Bonham, who died in 1980.
The band split shortly after Bonham's death. Page, Plant and Jones initially reformed for a performance at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985, with Genesis' Phil Collins and Chic/Power Station sticksman Tony Thompson sharing drum duties. And in May 1988, Jason Bonham joined the three originals for another "one-off" reunion at an Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert in New York.
Goldsmith promises a full Zeppelin set of roughly two hours, featuring all the big hits.
"They are the last of the great rock gods that have yet to be seen (reunited)," he said.
None of the band members, however, was on hand at the media gathering. "I didn't want them to come down today," Goldsmith said. "It's enough that they're committed to doing this show."
The O2 show, first tipped in Billboard's Aug. 4 issue, is a tribute to Ertegun, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Atlantic Records, who died in December. Led Zeppelin's manager, the late Peter Grant, signed the band to Atlantic in November 1968.
The Who's Pete Townshend, former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, Foreigner's Mick Jones and Scottish singer Paolo Nutini -- the last British act Ertegun signed -- also will perform on the night. Proceeds will benefit the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which provides scholarships to universities in the U.S., U.K. and Ertegun's homeland, Turkey.
Tickets priced at £125 ($254) will be allocated on a lottery basis online at www.ahmettribute.com.
"This is going to be the largest demand for one show in history," Goldsmith added. "I can only tell from the buzz going around now, but it's really just filtering around the world. I feel there's going to be a huge amount of pressure (on tickets)."
The venue's 22,000 capacity will be set at 18,000 for the show, which will follow the Nov. 13 U.S. release of "Mothership," an Atlantic/Rhino two-disc, 24-track best-of Zeppelin set.
Goldsmith played down prospects of the band members stepping out for bigger reunion party, and he said there are no plans to tape the event.
"The band members are getting along really well at the moment, but there's no talk of them making a new record off the back of this," he said.
Led Zeppelin was assembled in 1968 by Page, who at that time was one of the U.K.'s most in-demand session guitarists and a member of successful but newly folded British Invasion act the Yardbirds. The latter act had been managed by former wrestler Grant. Page recruited the other three members initially as the New Yardbirds, but the band swiftly adopted the Led Zeppelin moniker.
Zeppelin was an immediate success, particularly in the U.S., where its 10 albums -- including the live film soundtrack "The Song Remains the Same" and the 1982 outtakes collection "Coda" -- each made the top 10 of the Billboard 200. Industry sources suggest the band's total sales to date exceed 300 million albums worldwide, with the band's officially untitled fourth album tied for the third-best-selling album in the U.S. with 23 million units.
The act was also a huge live draw throughout the 1970s, equally famed for its lengthy, much-bootlegged live sets and a reputation for off-stage excess.
Led Zeppelin formed its own Warner-distributed label, Swan Song in 1974, signing Scottish blues-rock vocalist Maggie Bell and 1960s survivors the Pretty Things. Its own first release on the label was the 1976 double set "Physical Graffiti," a Billboard chart-topper.
Post-Zeppelin, Plant has released a string of solo albums and a forthcoming duets record with Alison Krauss, while Page has collaborated with other vocalists, including David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake) and Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company), scored two of the successful "Death Wish" films in the early 1980s and teamed with the Black Crowes for two Los Angeles concerts in October 1999 that produced a live album the following year.
Page and Plant teamed in 1994 for an "unplugged" MTV special called "Unledded," toured globally and released the 1994 live set "No Quarter." Jones has released two solo albums, though his post-Zeppelin work has largely concentrated on production and arranging, including the strings on R.E.M.'s 1992 album "Automatic for the People."
Lars Brandle is global news editor and Tom Ferguson is deputy global editor at Billboard. Erik Pedersen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.