The DVDs also serve to remind us what an awesome drummer John Bonham was. He was equally capable of thrashing about his kit as Keith Moon was, but he had far more impeccable timing and control over his instrument. Nobody--and I mean nobody in rock could play a bass drum better than Bonham. "Kashmir" and "Good Times/Bad Times" are tributes to his ability to crank out rapid-fire 16th note hits on one bass drum faster than the average drummer could on two.
While Robert Plant shared the spotlight with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones' role in the band was long taken for granted. But he was the best overall musician in the group, an excellent multi-instrumentalist, and an inspired Fender bassist, bringing the sensibility of a James Jamerson to glue Zep's frontline to Bonham's drumming. His keyboards added many colors to Zeppelin's sound that the vast majority of crunchy rockers who dominated the arenas of America in the 1970s could only dream of emulating.
History Placed In Context
The DVDs do a good job of placing the band's history into context. The current conventional wisdom of Zep is that they were an incredibly tight band, until the early 1970s, when Page and Plant, indulged by their manager, Peter Grant, began to snort vast pharmaceutical quantities up their proboscides when they became a sloppy, self-indulgent mess.
Side one of the DVD is the band's 1970 show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Side two goes from Madison Square Garden in 1973 to Earl's Court in 1975 to Knebworth, their last and largest appearance in England, in 1979. It's this last concert that may provide the greatest revaluation of the band. Given their reputation during this period, the material from Knebworth shows a surprisingly tight group, even if it is led by a guitarist who's pipe cleaner thin. Having (in retrospect permanently) retired his bell-bottomed, Joan Crawford-shouldered dragon suits, Page was at his most emaciated during Knebworth, an appearance even more obvious in still photos.
And yet seen in video, Page is his usual Red Baron self, bopping across the stage, playing to the crowds, and generally tearing up the fretboards of his Les Pauls, Stratocaster, and Danelectro.
Incidentally, it's nice to see a man who can go from a 1959 Les Paul--at the time worth about $10,000, to a Danelectro guitar largely built out of Masonite, and worth about $125. Today, a '59 "Lester" is typically worth somewhere north of $100,000, and that same Danelectro is probably worth about $500. And it never sounded better than in Page's hands on "Kashmir", "White Summer" and "In My Time Of Dying".