Tonight, the Netflix Fairy delivered Led Zeppelin DVD. I have mixed feelings.
Led Zeppelin is one of my favorite bands and, at the same time, I fucking hate them.
Let me step back for a second.
Page and Bonham lay down some of the coolest, grooviest riffs in rock history. Of this there is no doubt. When I was learning guitar, I quickly burned through the entire Zep catalogue, teaching myself all the parts the old-fashioned way: lifting the needle off the vinyl and going back again and again until I had it. There's some truly great playing on those records. And "Immigrant Song" is still one of the hardest rocking songs ever.
But is there anything more irritating than the EXTENDED version of "Dazed and Confused"? The song pretty much sucks to begin with and it ain't getting any more interesting with the added four minutes of, um, Jimmy Page slapping his guitar with a violin bow. Ditto for any of the extended faux blues songs from Zep I. So boring, so difficult to endure. When I watch these clips, I am astonished that the band ever took off. Outside of "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown," the whole first record is a write-off to me. How many more times? How many more times can Plant say "Baby" in goddamned song! Feel my pain.
The 1970 Royal Albert Hall concert is a record of band that basically took already boring rip-offs of American blues and made them into extended jams with some of the sloppiest guitar playing around. I've always been a fan of Jimmy Page's playing, but there is precious little in this concert worth listening to. He sounds like the Sam Ash sales guy from hell. He is always playing too much, too fast and with incredible sloppiness. What's more, he is always way out on top of the beat, which is an achievement when Bonham is your drummer. The best the band sounds in this performance is on the Eddie Cochran tunes they play in the encore. All of a sudden, they come alive and seem like they are actually having fun.
Things pick up on DVD 2. For one thing, the band actually had some songs, as opposed to drawn out blues rip-offs. For another, Page is much more on the ball with his playing. And Bonham is a monster. In fact, without him and his ability to groove, I am tempted to say the band would never have gone anywhere. Still, despite the mammoth riffs, there is something just so...boring about Zeppelin.
In the words of Pete Townshend: "Led Zeppelin? Great blokes, great blokes. Never did like the band much, though."