LONDON (Reuters) - British band Led Zeppelin blasted their way through more than two hours of high-octane rock and roll on Monday, turning back time on a night of passion and nostalgia.
The quartet had a crowd of around 20,000 at London’s 02 Arena calling for more at the end of 16 tracks ranging from their most famous numbers to less familiar fare.
Many fans went away ecstatic, some even saying Led Zeppelin sounded better than in their hell-raising heyday of the 1970s.
“I saw them a couple of times in the 70s, and I think they were actually better,” said John, a fiftysomething fan. “The quality of the sound was so crap back then.”
There were none of the tight trousers and open shirts of the old days and the instrumentalists were largely static through the non-stop set.
But lead singer Robert Plant, 59, strutted his way through “Good Times Bad Times” to kick off one of the most eagerly-anticipated concerts in recent years.
“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,” Plant sang to a crowd cheering every bar and beat.
A grey-haired Jimmy Page, 63, reminded the world why he is considered one of the lead guitar greats, while John Paul Jones, 61, showed his versatility jumping from bass to keyboards.
Completing the quartet was Jason Bonham on drums. His father John died in 1980 after a drinking binge, prompting the demise of a group that has sold more than 300 million albums and influenced countless bands since.
Led Zeppelin played old favorites “Stairway to Heaven,” “Kashmir” and “Whole Lotta Love” as well as less well-known tracks like “In My Time of Dying” and “For Your Life,” which they performed live for the first time.
Monday’s concert was the first full set Led Zeppelin had played since 1979, according to music magazine NME, which gave the group a glowing review.
“If there were skeptics here tonight — there weren’t but just for the sake of argument consider it — Led Zeppelin silenced them and banished any rotten memories of their shambolic Live Aid reunion (in 1985),” it said.
Monday’s concert, a charity tribute to Ahmet Ertegun who signed the band in 1968, has led to fevered speculation that a full comeback tour could be on the cards.
“Let’s just do the O2 and we’ll see what happens from there,” Page told Reuters in a recent interview. “I haven’t got a crystal ball here and nor have you.”
When organizers announced the concert the Web site selling tickets crashed as more than a million people rushed for the 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 on a three-day trip to London by his mother Ellen, applied for tickets having fallen in love with the music several years ago.
“I’m a huge classic rock fan from the music mom 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.”
Turkish-born music promoter and record label founder Ertegun 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 launch the careers of acts ranging from Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin.