Led Zeppelin - "The Song Remains the Same" (127 min. Warner Bros. 1976)
Led Zeppelin's classic concert movie had its premiere in 1976, but works on the movie had started already three years earlier back in 1973 when the concert material was filmed in New York's Madison Square Garden. It's quite clear from the very beginning that the band wanted to make something special and more than just an ordinary concert movie, interspersing the concert footage with grandiose fantasy sequences and more down-to-earth backstage situations. The movie starts with a very surreal and artsy sequence that shows manager Peter Grant as the leader for some mobsters who attack some other gangsters, ending in a very weird shoot-out. Next we move over to the band members themselves, showed home with their families and surrounded by some impressively beautiful scenery, especially Page and Plant. They then get the letters that tell them they have to do a show in New York the day after, and off they go.
When the band arrives in New York, they are escorted to Madison Square Garden by police, and seeing the cars and traffic are just a couple of the many things that give the movie its delightful '70s atmosphere. The band then enters the stage, and kicks right into some thundering versions of "Rock and Roll" and "Black Dog", taking Madison Square Garden with storm. It's interesting to see the interaction between the audience and the band during "Since I've Been Loving You", and it's no doubt that both parties liked what they saw and heard. The backstage footage of Peter Grant swearing and mouthing off to some employees after he had discovered the sale of unofficial Led Zeppelin merchandise in the building shows that he was not a man to be messed with.
One of the most atmospheric moments during the concert is the performance of "No Quarter", framed in blue dry-ice smoke, and also featuring Jones' fantasy sequence showing him as some sort of masked and mystical rider. Plant's sequence during the title-track and "The Rain Song" is beautifully filmed, and clearly inspired by old British medieval legends. However, my favourite of the fantasy parts is Jimmy Page's during "Dazed and Confused", where he acts out the scene from inside the gatefold cover of the fourth album. By the way, this was filmed at Loch Ness, behind Boleskine House, the former residence of Aleister Crowley. "Stairway to Heaven" is of course pure beauty, and the simple but cool movie effects on the solo-part further enhances the already VERY accomplished '70s feel of the film. Bonham is revealed as the most down-to-earth of the members of the group, as his sequence in "Moby Dick" just shows him having a good time with his family and racing around in cars and on bike. Edits of "Heartbreaker" are shown together with a short news report of the band's safe deposit box being robbed during the concert! "Whole Lotta Love" makes an impressive encore to the concert, both musically and visually, with Bonham's burning gongs.
The movie then ends with the band being escorted out to their limousines which take them out to their plane. Watching "The Song Remains the Same" feels like a visual and musical adventure, and the movie was with good reason probably the most popular rock concert movies of the '70s. Completely essential viewing and listening!
Read my review of the soundtrack album here.