Robert Plant Interview: Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day

39Movies QAThe Song Remains The Same so to speak, and then some, when the iconic Led Zeppelin took to the stage for a live concert reunion at London’s O2 Arena back in December 10th, 2007. And though the legendary rock band’s first headline show in twenty-seven years was a sold out smash sensation filling 18,000 seats, most of the 20 million avid Led Heads who bid for tickets in a worldwide lottery, were not as fortunate. But now the concert is in movie theaters this week and tagged as Celebration Day, with video and audio formats of the film being released next month from Swan Song/Atlantic Records.  And to mark this occasion, the entire band hit the Big Apple for a little Celebration Day conversation. Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, the apparent jokester among them, displayed his offstage wild and witty side during this exchange.


You all have quite an ecstatic look playing up there together for that massive audience.

That was the ‘where are we’ look! You know, it’s a funny thing. But I think I was amazed that I was playing with Led Zeppelin!

And sometimes I just have to shut up, instead of doing too much. But it was a great experience. And that was flying by the seat of the pants.

And these guys did such a great job on that. So it was very exciting. Great light show too!


Is it getting harder to look in the mirror as you get older?

I used to be better looking than this! I’m quite concerned about all that stuff, really. But it’s a bit late now!


What were the chain of events that actually brought you together?

Well, when we were kids in England – and before our drummer [Jason Bonham, son of the late Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham] was born! We were I guess, each individually in different parts of Britain. And we were all really avid music lovers.

And vinyl junkies! And it kind of didn’t really matter after we were signed on by Atlantic Records. Everybody hated you! You know, for getting that far.

And as the years progressed, we used to call ourselves the Band Of Nods. Because if you miss a cue, you just wait a bit and nod.

And that was nothing to do with opiates, or anything. It was just to do with the fact that, you know, we were just nodding! And now those nods have turned into…middle aged grins!


Is this movie in anticipation of something bigger for the band?

We’ve been thinking about all sorts of things. Then we can’t remember what we were thinking about!


How did you go about deciding what was right to play and for how long, and was there a feeling of unfinished business?

I think expectations are horrific things. I mean, if you go off and you play in North Africa or something like that, you know you’re gonna have a good time.

And you’re gonna work with people, and there’s nothing else about it. That’s how we started, in a little room with Jason’s dad, all that time ago.

So to actually do anything at all together, is such a kind of incredible weight. Because sometimes we were fucking awful!

But sometimes we were stunning. And a couple of times, we tried to get together. But I think we were really propelled by Jason. And his enthusiasm. And dark glasses!


He says they’re prescription glasses.

Prescription? I don’t believe that! Wait, it’s not in his family. I’ve known his family for fifty years! Anyway, he really broke the atmosphere of expectation for us.


How so?

Because Jason knows far more about us than we do! You know, he’s got all the bootlegs!

And he’s in touch with the people who make the bootlegs. And he’s got a very strong interest in the bootlegs!


This is a great concert film, but it may not quench the thirst of those wanting to see you in the flesh. What do you have to say about that?

[pretend snoring] Sorry!


Well, do you have anything to say?

Doesn’t look like it!


You’ve sold a gazillion records over the years. But as far as the music critics go, they could be really snobby and nasty to you. And it seemed like you were always apologizing to them for your great music. So my question is, why did you give their opinions so much importance?

Why were we so sensitive. Well because, look. Well we were!

But when you think about it, that’s silly.

Well, you’re right. And also, they were a lot older than us. There you go. At the time! They were. Well, who knows what happened to ’em.

But some people wanted it to be different. Yeah, everybody wanted Iron Butterfly, and they got us! No, that wasn’t right.

Um, but yeah. Sensitivity is a crazy thing. When you write and create music with a bunch of people, is it right. You never really know. It doesn’t work like that.

When you get to a certain point, you go shit. Is any of this right. You know? And thank god it’s like that. Because if you take it for granted, you’re finished.


How come you haven’t been exploring playing with other musicians?

What a great idea, to explore. I mean, isn’t that wonderful. And that’s how we got to be good. We kept developing and nuancing ideas.

And that came from all over the place. So yeah, I like the idea of exploring.


You were so great up on the stage together, so why no thoughts about a reunion?

The responsibility of doing that four night a week for the rest of time, is a different thing. Because we’re pretty good at what we do.

But we shouldn’t be, tails should never wag the dog. Really. If we’re capable of doing something in our own time, that will be what will happen.

So any inane questions from people who are from syndicated outlets, you should just really think about what it takes to answer a question like that in one second. You know? We know what we’ve got. Que sera.


How would you assess what went down for you up on the stage that night?

It’s a very interesting question. It’s almost transcendental! But you know, I think that night back then, we were just hanging on for dear life.

You know, just watching each other. And those expressions of watching each other working together were just, we were so happy that we were actually getting it right.

And really enjoying it, and taking it beyond what we thought we were about that night. There were moments in it, where we just took off. And pushed off into some place.


How do you feel about getting the Kennedy Center honors?

The Kennedy Center, that’s great. Everything that we talk about is American. And our musical tastes, more or less. And maybe North African and Egyptian, or something like that.

And I think, our mutual love and absolutely total influence by American music. Whether it’s from Mississippi or wherever.

Or it could have been from Chicago in 1982, you know? So it’s great, because we are kind of American, in a way. But not. Of course!


What are your best memories of John Bonham?

John was really good at playing the drums. And he could drive the van! Just generally fuck about, and have a really wonderful time.

And he said to me, you know you’re not very good, Plant. Just go out there and look good. And he was right!

But marvelous stuff, lots of memories of all that. And here in New York, actually, way back.


Do you think Led Zeppelin could come out and exist today, the music industry being what it is?

Our music, we were part of a huge movement. Where there was nothing enormous about anything.

We would play alongside so many amazing bands. I mean, we played the Atlanta Pop festival with Janis.  And the Airplane, and Pacific Gas & Electric. And John Lee Hooker.

So there was a huge community of people within our own age group, and above. But not below. We were really young, you know?

And we just played and played and played and played. And the thing that grew out of that became so big, that it became almost kind of intolerable, in a way.

Because there were no rules back then. We didn’t know what that whole ebb and flow of excitemnt and adrenaline would create.

But now, I’m sure that contemporary groups like Metallica or whomever, they probably govern it more. You know, they disappear and hide away.

We didn’t know anything about the protocol, or etiquette. You know, of what we were in the middle of.


Any truth to the rumor that you’re going to be doing the Superbowl?

Who said Americans aren’t funny!




Luminant Media


3 stars

Making a documentary about sophisticated hackers like Anonymous, who function underground and with a fluid and leaderless composition that has gone global, may have been just one of a myriad of challenges that director Brian Knappenberger faced in assembling We Are Legion: The Story Of The Hacktivists. The strange marriage of film and cyberspace aside in this decidedly sympathetic group portrait, Knappenberger – who no, is not one of them I’m guessing, but actually a conventional director of commercials and feature films for the likes of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel – had to tackle a host of thorny sidebar issues that kicked in as well.


Including the likely compilation of under the radar testimony and interviews, and then not actually showing them, from possible fugitives already on government watch lists. And a dilemma already faced by the directors of The Central Park Five, against whom and in reaction to an unlawful imprisonment lawsuit in the works against New York City by the wrongly convicted subjects of the film, that government has already issued a subpoena demanding all the film’s outtakes.


So was Knappenberger looking over his shoulder for any authorities on espionage duty while pursuing his story, and did that cautious approach influence his rather tame take on such a volatile subject? And on the other hand, will critics out there fear giving a less than glowing appraisal of this movie, looking over their collective shoulders for peeved hackers?


A distinct possibility indeed – on the part of Knappenberger, not the film critics. Which lends a kind of wag the dog directing vibe to the proceedings, as Knappenberger seems to allow his subjects to set the agenda for the ensuing discourse. As a brainiac couch potato activism (the hacker movement we’re told, was born at MIT) somehow balloons, and morphs into the Occupy Movement and global uprisings like the Arab Spring.


Though We Are Legion limits the conversation mostly to those already outed by the system, tending to take the drama and suspense out of a subject necessarily fueled by that. While those revealed faces populating hacktivist culture may astonish as much as engage audiences, in essence a nerdy succession of vocally defiant eggheads. So no, not a single bearded guerrilla armed to the teeth in this bunch. And yes, some confessing to still living in mom’s basement.


But most provocative about We Are Legion, would have to be the online communique networking in pursuit of information liberation and global justice that precipitated the Occupy movements and Middle Eastern uprisings, admittedly here as much of a surprise to the Anonymous collaborators as viewers of this movie. While the division within the movement between those with a political thrust and others like the hackers who delighted in going after Tom Cruise and the Scientologists because they just wanna have fun, could have benefited within this documentary from more analysis and insight.



Summit Entertainment

Rated PG-13

2  1/2 stars

Slipping out of his comfort zones for a bit as both Madea and director of his own movies, Tyler Perry tries on a new persona for size in Alex Cross as, well, Morgan Freeman. Sort of.


In kind of an all-in-one followup, reboot and prequel to the previous big screen incarnations of the James Patterson popular Alex Cross crime novel series, Perry takes on combo detective/police shrink duty. And that Freeman previously conjured in Gary Fleder’s Kiss The Girls (1997) and the Lee Tamahori 2001 potboiler, Along Came A Spider.


And not quite yet Morgan Freeman’s FBI sleuth, but seriously mulling that vocational switch as Perry’s Detroit investigator Cross segues into middle age slowdown. While having to measure up physically on the beat to his younger, hotshot partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns), in chasing down those ripped and rowdy perps on the loose.


And though priding himself on his nearly psychic gift of discerning what’s going down inside those criminal minds before their thoughts evolve into premeditated actions, Cross finds himself meeting his match in wits and way beyond in terms of where-with-al. When he encounters a local lunatic dubbed Picasso (Matthew Fox), so named for the depraved drawings he leaves behind at his horrific crime scenes. A super-scary military vet who apparently honed his psychopathic skills in combat previously, Picasso hires himself out when not doing battle with multinational tycoon bad guys, while indulging gleefully in rape and torture as his guilty pleasure amusements on the side.


But after being pursued by Cross and Kane, Picasso orchestrates elaborate payback in retaliation, involving significant others connected to the pair. Which sets in motion a series of attacks and counterattacks around town, and at times rapid fire role reversals as to exactly who may be chasing whom.


Helmed by action director Rob Cohen (The Fast And The Furious, XXX), Alex Cross goes for the collective audience jugular with extreme, nearly apocalyptic mayhem and gory violence. And as masterminded by a deliriously depraved Fox ferociously in character, who at times seems somewhat too over the edge nutty to actually pull off such intricately concocted dastardly deeds.


But which is always nicely counterbalanced with a subdued yet cool, calm and collected determined demeanor on the part of Perry, no matter what the imminent danger. And impressively demonstrating a surprising broad range of acting talents, even though Perry might have used more than a little help with her adept scoundrel busting skills, from that Madea.


Prairie Miller