LONDON (Reuters) - Legendary British rock band Led Zeppelin opened their first public concert in nearly two decades on Monday with a mesmerizing light show and “Good Times Bad Times” to 20,000 fans from around the world.
Singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones were joined by John Bonham’s son Jason on the drums for the one-off comeback, although there has been fevered speculation that the gig may be followed by a full-scale tour.
After showing news footage comparing Led Zeppelin, who created “Stairway to Heaven,” to the Beatles in terms of impact and following, the stage came alive and Jason Bonham pounded out the opening salvo as flashing lights pierced the darkness.
“In the days of my youth; I was told what it was to be a man; Now I’ve reached the age; I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can; No matter how I try; I find my way to do the same old jam,” the band belted out to an adoring crowd who cheered every bar and beat.
The three surviving members of the hugely successful 1970s group, also known worldwide for “Whole Lotta Love,” have rarely performed together since splitting in 1980 after the death of drummer Bonham following a drinking binge.
By their own admission, each reunion was a shambles, so anticipation ahead of the set at London’s O2 Arena was high.
“Let’s just do the O2 and we’ll see what happens from there,” 63-year-old Page told Reuters in a recent interview. “I haven’t got a crystal ball here and nor have you.”
Led Zeppelin sold more than 300 million albums and were legendary for their rock ‘n ‘roll excess, but their popularity is also attributed to the influence the music had on later acts.
When organizers announced the concert the Web site selling tickets crashed as more than a million people rushed for about 20,000 seats. One man from Scotland entered a charity auction last month and paid $170,000 for a pair of tickets to the show.
Steve D’Onofrio, a 17-year-old from New York accompanied by his mother Ellen, applied for tickets online having fallen in love with the band’s music several years ago.
“I’m a huge classic rock fan from the music mum and dad played,” he told Reuters on his way to the gig in southeast London. “I wasn’t a Led Zeppelin fan until I was about the age of 10. I started listening and everything they did was amazing.”
They arrived in London on Saturday and had a flight back to the United States on Tuesday.
Net profits from the concert will go to the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund which provides scholarships for gifted children.
The Turkish-born music promoter and record label founder died last year aged 83 after slipping backstage at a concert by the Rolling Stones and going into a coma.
As well as Led Zeppelin and the Stones, Ertegun and his Atlantic Records helped launched the careers of acts ranging from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin.
He was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1923. His father, a lawyer, served as Turkish ambassador in Switzerland, France, England and the United States.
Editing by Peter Millership