Last night’s (Dec. 10) Led Zeppelin comeback concert has now moved into memory for the chosen few who attended. But as the dust settles after the gig at London’s O2 Arena, a Billboard roundup of executive attendees suggests the performance certainly lived up to the unrelenting pre-event hype.
The 18,000-capacity concert — a tribute to the late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun — gathered a veritable “who’s who” of rock royalty, including the Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, U2’s the Edge and Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, with such leading music industry executives as Atlantic Records president Julie Greenwald and Warner Music International president Patrick Vien.
None of those interviewed by Billboard had anything but glowing praise for the reunited rockers’ performance. “It was inspirational,” says Atlantic Records U.K. president Max Lousada. “It reminded me of why I’m in the business.”
“It was just outstanding,” says Ric Salmon, the former Warner Music International VP of A&R who now helms a new venture, Harvest Entertainment. “There was an enormous amount of goodwill for the band. Technically, it was outstanding, and the production was outstanding. And the star of the show was (drummer) Jason Bonham, who did an unbelievable job in filling his dad’s shoes.”
Columbia U.K. managing director Mike Smith said, “Beyond belief probably best describes the gig,” adding “no one in the crowd ever thought they would see that band playing those songs ever again. It took the audience a good half-an-hour to wind in their collective jaw.”
For Stephen Budd, founder of Channelfly Group-owned Stephen Budd Management, the concert measured up favorably with the 1970s incarnation of Led Zeppelin. “I saw them in 1976 at Earls Court, when I was a 16-year-old,” he said. “And I remember it vividly. This gig was better than when they were in their prime. They just looked like they really, really enjoyed themselves last night. You could see the music bursting out of them. It was wonderful.”
PPL director of PR and corporate communications Jonathan Morrish described the event as “incredible,” and one that showcased the more muscular side of the rock titans’ catalog. As a gig, it was “like watching a moment in the ‘Big Bang’ of creation; a moment when ‘rock’ music was moving out of the ‘60s and into the ‘70s and all that followed,” he said.
Attention now turns to whether or not the band will hit the road for a full-scale tour. “Even though this will probably turn out to be the greatest marketing campaign of all time,” quips Budd, “I really got the sense that they aren’t doing this for the money. This won’t be like some of the slightly dodgier reunions, which have taken place over the last years. This comes from another place.”
Others reckon a Led Zeppelin tour is a fait accompli. “I don’t believe there’s any question,” notes Salmon. “As far as I’m concerned, the tour is already booked.”