Bombastic, pretentious and narcissistic, Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same is also one of the best concert films of the 1970s, capturing the greatest rock band of the decade in full...
Bombastic, pretentious and narcissistic, Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same is also one of the best concert films of the 1970s, capturing the greatest rock band of the decade in full flight at Madison Square Gardens in 1973. The notorious fantasy sequences punctuate the musical action but don't, fortunately, interrupt it. Playing true to their self-indulgent rock & roll personas, each band member has his own segment, as does legendary larger-than-life manager Peter Grant. Only John Bonham's is reasonably down-to-earth: during his mammoth drum solo (Moby Dick) he is seen driving his custom car, his Harley chopper, and a drag racer at Santa Pod, as well as inspecting bulls and doing a bit of building work. Well, what else would a working-class lad from Birmingham do with his millions? Elsewhere, John Paul Jones is a demented Phantom of the Opera with an unfeasibly large organ (No Quarter); Robert Plant is a quasi-Arthurian knight errant rescuing a suitable rock-chick damsel in distress (The Song Remains the Same/Rain Song); while Aleister Crowley acolyte Jimmy Page goes in for sorcery and mysticism as he encounters the wizard from the cover of Led Zep IV (Dazed & Confused). But the real magic is the onstage footage: Page wields his Gibson Les Paul as if he is indeed enchanted (the violin bow becomes his magician's wand in Dazed & Confused), while Plant preens and prowls his way around the stage, the very image of the rock idol; and quite how Jones and Bonham managed to be such a behemoth of a rhythm section is still a mystery. For all its many faults, this remains an essential document of an era when rock dinosaurs still walked the earth. On the DVD: No extra features to speak of at all, which is extremely disappointing given the wealth of archive material concerning the band and this movie that must be available. The picture and sound are respectable without being exceptional. --Mark Walker