Hard rock giant Led Zeppelin is reforming, but for one night only. The British band will play a one-off show at London's 18,000-capacity O2 arena Nov. 26.
Veteran concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith, who is organizing the show, promises a full Led Zeppelin set of roughly two hours, featuring all the big hits.
The O2 event is a tribute to Atlantic Records co-founder and chairman emeritus Ahmet Ertegun, who died Dec. 14 2006, aged 83. Led Zeppelin's heavyweight manager, the late Peter Grant, signed the band to Ertegun's Atlantic in November 1968.
The Who's Pete Townshend, former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, Foreigner's Mick Jones and Paolo Nutini will also perform on the night. Profits will benefit the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which provides scholarships to universities in the United States, United Kingdom and Ertegun's homeland, Turkey.
Tickets costing £125 ($254) will be allocated on a lottery basis through the www.ahmettribute.com web site.
The O2 show was first tipped in Billboard's Aug. 4 issue, but industry sources acknowledge standing offers have been on the table for a Led Zeppelin tour for more than a decade.
Confirmation of the date, putting an end to several months of speculation, came at a press conference at the O2 today. Goldsmith confirmed that the three surviving members of the band, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones are to reunite onstage for the third time in 27 years. The drummer for the evening will be Jason Bonham, son of the band's original drummer John Bonham, who died from a heart attack in 1980.
"They are the last of the great rock gods that have yet to be seen (reunited)," Goldsmith said today.
"This is going to be the largest demand for one show in history," he added. "I can only tell from the buzz going around now, but its really just filtering around the world. I feel there's going to be a huge amount of pressure (on tickets)."
None of the band members, however, were on hand at the media gathering. "I didn't want them to come down today," Goldsmith tells Billboard.biz. "It's enough that they're committed to doing this show."
The venue's 22,000 capacity will be set at 18,000 for the Ertegun tribute, which will follow the release of a new Atlantic/Rhino two-disc, 24-track best-of set, "Mothership," in the United States on Nov. 13.
Goldsmith played-down prospects of the band members stepping out for bigger reunion party, and there are no plans to tape the event. "The band members are getting along really well at the moment, but there's no talk of them making a new record off the back of this," he noted.
The original band split shortly after Bonham's death. Page, Plant and Jones initially reformed, with Genesis' Phil Collins and Chic/Power Station sticksman Tony Thompson sharing drum duties, for a performance at Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985. And in May 1988, Jason Bonham joined the three originals for another "one-off" reunion at an Atlantic Records 40th-anniversary concert in New York City.
Post-Zeppelin, Plant has released a string of solo albums, while Page has collaborated with other vocalists, including David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake) and Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) and also scored two of the successful "Death Wish" action movie franchise in the early 1980s. Page and Plant teamed in 1994 for an MTV special, toured globally and released the live set "No Quarter" (Mercury, 1994). Jones has released two solo albums, although his post-Zeppelin work has largely concentrated on production and arranging.
Led Zeppelin was assembled in 1968 by Page, who at that time, was one of the United Kingdom's most in-demand session guitarists and a member of successful but newly-folded British Invasion act the Yardbirds. The latter act had been managed by former wrestler Grant. Page recruited the other three members initially as the New Yardbirds, but the band swiftly adopted the Led Zeppelin moniker.
Zeppelin was an immediate success, particularly in the United States, where its 10 albums, including the live film soundtrack "The Song Remains the Same" and the posthumous out-takes collection "Coda" all made the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. Industry sources suggest the band's total sales to date exceed 300 million albums. The act was also a huge live draw throughout the 1970s, equally famed for its lengthy, much-bootlegged, live sets and a reputation for off-stage excess.
Led Zeppelin formed its own Warner-distributed label, Swansong in 1974, signing Scottish blues-rock vocalist Maggie Bell and 1960s survivors the Pretty Things. Its own first release on the label was the 1976 double set "Physical Graffiti," a Billboard chart-topper.