Led Zepagain at the House of Blues, Hollywood, CA
Jan 14, 2004
BEFORE THE SHOW
After soundcheck, as we were eating dinner at the HoB restaurant, promoter Rick Ortiz came over to tell us that Jimmy Page had called the club, and was going to come by to see the show. Now, that is just one of those "I'll believe THAT when I see it" kind of things! However, we did know that Jimmy was in town, as he'd been spotted at the nightclub, The Joint, 2 days earlier to see his old friend Terry Reid, who is there every Monday night. Our friend George runs the sound there, and he had called Swan that night to tell him who was there. We made sure that Rick knew to tell Jimmy that we'd love to have him sit in with us, or at the very least, we'd very much like to meet him! Rick assured us he would. But still, "I'll believe THAT when I see it!"
I ran into George up in the dressing room after dinner, and asked him if he had gotten to meet Jimmy (and if so, did you ask him to come to our show!), but George replied no, he didn't get to meet him. Ah well, then he probably doesn't know about our show, and it's all just a rumor. Carry on with the show as normal!
Time for the show and still no word on "the man" showing up. Rick gives us his usual rousing intro, and we launch into the opening to 'The Song Remains the Same.' The crowd is great, the venue is very full, and I get that shot of adrenaline I get every opening number when we play for a screaming crowd at the House of Blues! Many familiar faces in the front rows, some of the die-hards that keep coming back to see us over & over!
The show is going well, although the thought keeps popping into my head: "Jimmy Page just might be watching us right now! …naaaawwww" Every time that thought hits me, I have to concentrate extra hard to make sure I hit the right note!
Round about the 3rd or 4th song, and I'm starting to settle into the show, managing to push that thought further & further out of my head, when WHAM! I step back towards the drum riser, and Jim Kersey points his drum stick down to a piece of paper thrown down on the drum riser by one of our techs. "PAGE IN THE HOUSE." Jim & I give each other a wide eyed look, I tell him, "That's something I really didn't need to know right now!" and I turn back around to continue playing. Ok, try and concentrate on the job at hand! I tell myself, "well, I haven't actually seen him, so maybe they're just messing with us." After all, you know how these things go, someone says something, and before you know it, it gets blown all out of proportion. Besides, the VIP Foundation Room bar is up on the 3rd floor, so he's probably just hanging out there, and he'll be gone by the time we're done with our show. But the thought is still "Jimmy Page just might be watching us right now!" Still, I'm able to manage to keep that one a safe distance from the part of my brain that controls my ability to play guitar!
The show's going along nicely, till my guitar decides to go silent during 'In The Light.' Now, these things happen, and it's difficult enough to pinpoint and fix the problem when there are a couple of thousand eyes on you, and a couple of thousand ears all waiting to hear that wondrous guitar line. Throw into the mix that thought, and it's a wonder I ever got the thing working again! But I did, and just at the part of the song where it all kicks in. Luckily, I am amongst friends, and the sound of the guitar is greeted with a loud cheer! Thank you!
At some point during the show, it is whispered to me by one of the techs that we were NOT to say anything to the crowd about our guest of honor, or else he would pack up & leave. Fair enough, I'm really trying not to think about it right now anyway! Of course, Swan is the one with the mic, so telling me doesn't really do much good! And sure enough, after the next song, Swan begins to say to the crowd, "I heard a rumor about tonight..." NO!! I rush over to Swan and quickly whisper in his ear, "He doesn't want us to say anything, or he'll leave!" So Swan continues, "Uh, yeah, I heard a rumor about tonight" and introduces the next song with no explanation to the audience of just what that rumor might be!
Toward the end of the show, I noticed SOMEONE in the band was definitely feeling the pressure:
Swan whispers to Steve: "What's the first line in Kashmir"
Steve whispers to Swan: "Oh let the sun beat down upon my face!"
Swan replies, "Oh yeah!"
The rest of the show goes off pretty much without a hitch. I actually seem to have gotten used to the idea that maybe Jimmy's out there somewhere, and during Jim Kersey's drum solo, Swan & I quickly discuss extending the medley in Whole Lotta Love, just in case, to make it a little better. We had planned on just 'Communication Breakdown,' so we hastily add 'Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You,' and 'Nobody's Fault But Mine.' Ok, you tell one Jim, I'll tell the other!
The main set over, we run off stage, where the House of Blues stage manager says to us, with a very serious look on his face, "Jimmy Page has gone up to the dressing room, and would like to meet you guys. So if I were you, I'd keep the encore short." GULP! We ask the stage manager if Jimmy is interested in joining us onstage to play, and he said no, he would just like to meet you. A quick decision is made, 'Rock and Roll,' and we're back on stage.
Now I'm just downright giddy! As Jim Wootten would later comment, that must've been the fastest version of 'Rock and Roll' we've ever played! All I could think of was "when this song is over, I'm going to meet JIMMY PAGE!" I wanted to let the crowd know too; after all, they're a bunch of rabid Zeppelin fans just like we are, and would just LOVE to know they're sharing breathing space with one quarter of the band at this very moment! These are our friends, and we have to keep our mouths shut!
AFTER THE SHOW
Encore is over, we take our bows and walk off, ready for the hike up to the 3rd floor dressing room. Only there's a distinctly different feeling this time! When we get to the dressing room, there are more people than usual outside the door, waiting for us. Someone presses the security code, and Jim Wootten motions for me to go ahead. GULP! This is it!
I walk through the door and down the short hallway, which is lined with people I don't know. I hit the end of the hallway, and there he is, Jimmy Page, in the center of the room, smiling a huge, warm smile, and extending a hand to me! This is just too much! I reach out to shake his hand, and manage to say something like, "It's really wonderful to meet you!" Then he gives me a hug! By then, the rest of the guys are in the room too, and Jimmy greets & hugs each of them too! All of us are thanking him for coming to see us, and meet us. He tells us he loved the show. (HE LOVED THE SHOW!) He said, "It's amazing how much like us you sounded." (Did I hear that right?!) He said the attention to detail was fantastic, and we really got inside the music. "WOW," and "THANK YOU," was all we could say in reply! Ok, that's it, all those years learning to play guitar, back to when I sat trying to figure out Led Zeppelin songs from my old records, and now JIMMY PAGE is paying me the hugest compliment imaginable!
There's a bit more chatting, he tells us, "I can tell you guys really love the music." I wish him a happy birthday (he turned 60 just 5 days before), Jimmy talks to Swan about where he's from in Ireland, we introduce Jimmy to Roni Shea, our dear friend & guest singer on 'Battle of Evermore,' and then we ask Jimmy if he wouldn't mind taking some pictures with us. Fortunately, our trusty friend & photographer, Philip, is right there with his state-of-the-art digital camera! We line up for a shot, and Jimmy says, "I should have my arms around you guys!" After the shots, one of Jimmy's entourage tells him they should be going. We say our goodbyes one by one, each of us again thanking him profusely for coming to the show, coming up to meet us, and for everything he has just said to us!
As he's walking toward the door, he's held up talking to a few more people. Suddenly it hits me: I didn't even get an autograph! I run over to grab the only piece of paper I can find, a flyer for another of our shows, and grab a pen from somebody. Whew, he hasn't left yet! I walk up & ask Jimmy if he wouldn't mind signing something for me. He says, "Sure," and looks up, searching for something thoughtful to say, before writing, "STEVE - THANKS FOR SOUNDING SO GOOD!! JIMMY PAGE" I thank him, and he asks me where I'm from. I tell him I'm from California, northern, and that I saw him and Zeppelin in Oakland back in 1977. His eyes light up, and he says, "Oh, those were wild times back then!" I reply, "Yeah, so I've heard!" He says it was a shame that stuff didn't get recorded, as he's "seen the bootlegs." I compliment him on the great new Zeppelin DVD, and he tells me what's really remarkable is how little footage there actually was, and again, it's a shame nothing was recorded in 1977. He said "Of course, Robert lost his son right after that, and we had to stop then." Those 2 shows in Oakland would be the last shows Led Zeppelin would ever play in the US, as Robert Plant's son died a few days later, and the rest of the tour was cancelled. John Bonham died just as their 1980 US tour was announced. I get one final chance to tell him how much it means to all of us that he came to our show, and that he came to meet us, and he again tells me he thinks we're fantastic, and "sounded just like us." (Yes, I got to hear him say that TWICE!) One more handshake & hug, and he's out the door.
The overall feeling I got from Jimmy that night was a great sense of pride, on many levels. First off, he seemed really proud of us, for doing a good job with his music, and that is the best feeling in the world for us! Second, he seemed really proud of himself right then. After all, he was responsible for creating what our band was doing, and he had just witnessed close to a thousand people really getting off on that. I think that was very special for him, as it gave him the opportunity to see the effect of his music on a crowd from actually within the crowd! Of course, he's been getting accolades & standing ovations from audiences for most of his life, but I think it's different to be able to sit & see someone else do that with your material. It makes it timeless!
When I first walked into that dressing room and looked at Jimmy Page, the look on his face conveyed to me both that he was happy to meet us, as well as a confidence that he knew it would be extremely important to us to meet him. Yes, he knew it would blow us away! That look, as well as his compliments to us, instantly made me feel at ease talking to him. He was very reassuring in his manner towards us.
After the meeting, friends of ours immediately began telling us Jimmy's actual reactions while watching our show. Every single one of them told us that he was smiling, rocking out, and really enjoying it! Our friend Mark burst his way up to him at his table to meet him, and Jimmy said to him, "These guys are too good!" After he had gone up to our dressing room, while we were playing our encore, Jimmy was watching us on the tv monitor up there. He asked our friend Celeste if the sound could be turned on, but it wasn't working. He said, "That's ok, I can tell what they're doing, that's 'Rock & Roll!'" Celeste's brother Roger asked for his autograph, and he said, "Sure, but not now. I want to see this!" He pointed at me on the screen and said, "That's me up there!" He pointed at Jim Kersey on the drums and said, "Bonzo!"
Without a doubt, an evening that neither I nor the rest of Led Zepagain will EVER forget!
-- Steve Zukowsky 1/18/04
The Led Zeppelin reunion - 5 years ago today!
December 10, 2012 - As today is the 5 year anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s reunion show in London, which has just been released on CD & DVD, I’d like to share what I had originally written about the experience of being there while with Led Zepagain, as well as a more personal update to it afterwards.
Led Zepagain's trip to see Led Zeppelin at the
O2 Arena in London, Dec 10, 2007
by Steve Z
First, HUGE thanks must be given to Jimmy Page's tour manager, who made the tickets available for us. We are extremely honored, eternally grateful for and blown away by that gesture! (And for a few surprises which you are about to read about…)
We flew out to London Thurs night, Dec 6, arriving on Friday, Dec 7, to allow us some extra time to get over any jetlag for the show on Mon, Dec 10. On Sat evening I finally got over to an internet cafe to find an email from Jimmy's tour manager with the location to pick up our tickets, as well as Surprise #1: an invite to the rehearsal the next day! So, the next morning we headed over to get our tickets, and with the 4 tickets were Surprise #2: Four backstage after show party passes!
From there, we headed on over to the O2 Arena for the rehearsal. As we waited to be let in, we heard the guys start up 'Good Times Bad Times.' What a feeling, to stand outside, knowing it's LED ZEPPELIN playing in there! We also heard them do 'Ramble On' before we started inside. As we got our laminates and headed in, they're going through 'In My Time of Dying,' which sounded incredible! It was really cool to see Robert down in the middle of the floor watching the other 3 run through 'No Quarter'! Also, watching them work out a new rhythm part in 'Nobody's Fault', with the harp, was excellent. I was thinking they were going to open the song that way, since that's all we saw them do of it, but the show proved me wrong on that one. They did use that for the harp solo in the song, though.
From the rehearsal, we headed over to a local pub, The Pilot, for some drinks, and had a great time meeting and hanging out with fellow Zep fans from all over the world. This gathering was organized by the extremely nice Dave Lewis, founder of the awesome Led Zeppelin magazine 'Tight But Loose' and author of some fantastic Led Zep books as well. I got to chat with Dave, as well as people that I've only known from Led Zep internet sites and email lists, so this was really a great experience for me. (Nech, TangerineMan, SIBLY, jameskg, here's till the next time!) We also met Paul Hammond, a fellow Zep tribute band guitarist, from the Philly based band Get The Led Out, and even a few Led Zepagain fans who were over for the show (Hey Peter & Murph!).
Monday night: The Show!
We got to our seats, and had a great time just looking around at the crowd. Our section was just immediately off to Jimmy's side, first level (Sec 112, Row J). Would have been a perfect view if not for the sidefill monitors, but since we mostly stood up through the whole show, they didn't block too much. Just before the show started, a group walks in the row right in front of us, including Brian May from Queen, and actress Juliette Lewis, who are both patrons of the ABC Trust, Jimmy Page's wife's charity. Brian was extremely nice, shook all our hands and said hello. As a lifelong Queen fan (I saw them just a few months after I saw Led Zeppelin in 1977), this really added to the whole experience! In the next section over was Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin's former tour manager, who Swan has met previously, so he & I went over to say hello.
After a video tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, the show opened with an all-star band of Keith Emerson (ELP) on keys, Chris Squire (Yes) on bass, Simon Kirke (Bad Co) on drums and Alan White (Yes) on tympanis, plus a horn section, performing 'Fanfare for the Common Man.' Excellent way to open the show! This was followed by Bill Wyman & the Rhythm Kings, featuring some different guest singers. Guitarist Albert Lee was also a part of this, who was phenomenal. Paul Rodgers joined in for 'All Right Now', then did Bad Co's 'Seagull' solo on acoustic guitar. Right after 'All Right Now', which Brian May was really smiling through, I leaned over to him and said, "Hey, that guy's pretty good, you should audition him," which he (thankfully) laughed at!
Foreigner took the stage with a kids choir, for 'I Want to Know What Love Is,' and then the lights came on, and it would soon be time for the main event!
To actually see Led Zeppelin performing together again, words cannot describe! The opening was great, starting with the 1973 news report from Tampa on the video screen (from the new Song Remains the Same DVD), straight into the "DA DA" of Good Times Bad Times, and the place erupted! We had a great view of the floor with the crowd just rocking out. Jason Bonham was incredible, sounding at times like his dad, but putting a lot of his own style into it, too. 'Ramble On' started off darker and bluesier, until the chorus kicked in like the original, with Jason and Jimmy hitting the accents along with John Paul Jones' bass line. That ended with the final chords of 'What Is and What Should Never Be,' which led straight into 'Black Dog.' A huge highlight of the set was 'For Your Life,' which had never been done live by Led Zeppelin or Page/Plant. ('Good Times Bad Times' & 'Ramble On' were also not played live by Led Zep, but Page/Plant did them.) Jimmy debuted a brand new Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul for this one, issued this year as a new signature model, and built after the one that was stolen from him back in 1970! 'No Quarter' included the dry ice fog, and some great piano by Jones. In 'Dazed and Confused,' not only did Jimmy pull out the violin bow solo, but they included the green laser pyramid around him, as they did on the 1977 US tour and 1979 Knebworth shows! 'Stairway to Heaven' was indeed played, after which Robert said, "Hey Ahmet, we did it!" They did indeed, and followed it up with a rocking 'Song Remains the Same!' 'Kashmir' was simply EPIC, with Robert blowing everyone away, hitting notes that nobody expected him to be able to still hit! What an incredible ending to an incredible show! The first encore, 'Whole Lotta Love,' included Jimmy's theramin, and Robert teased us with "One night I was laying down," but it was just a tease... The final encore of 'Rock and Roll' brought the house down, and they took their bows as the video screen lit up a huge "LED ZEPPELIN" logo behind them. They were done! 2 hours 10 minutes of pure magic! LED ZEPPELIN 2007! I can still hardly believe it really happened!
Right after the show, first thing I saw was Jeff Beck trying to get down from our section, only to be told that he had to go back up to get out. I think he was ready to just hop over the rail and down on to the floor! So we all headed upstairs to the after party, with Heart's Ann Wilson just in front of me, although I didn't get a chance to meet her.
The party was a blast! We got to see and meet some celebs, and everyone was so cool, just raving about how great the show was. We met: Roy Harper, Jimmy Page's wife, Jimena, Joe Elliot (Def Leppard), JY (Styx), Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin remasters engineer), Warren Haynes (Govt Mule), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Evan Seinfeld (from the VH1 show "Supergroup" with Jason Bonham) and his wife, Tera Patrick (who's b-day party we played at last year), and probably some others that I'm forgetting! Jim Kersey got to say hello to his old bandmate from when he lived in Boston, Tom Gimbel, who is now a member of Foreigner! Then finally, Jason Bonham came in, and of course, there were quite a few people talking to him and waiting to talk to him. I asked Evan Seinfeld if he would introduce us to him, which he did, and we got to chat and get a great band shot with him. A little later, after the place had thinned out quite a bit, John Paul Jones came in! Luckily, there were not too many people around him, so we were able to also meet & get some shots with him. He was very gracious, and I made sure to thank him for giving us his time, and to tell him how amazing the show was. It was, of course, Jim Wootten's dream to meet him, so we made sure he got a shot of just the 2 of them together!
Back home in sunny CA, and what can I say except, "WOW!!" This was absolutely up there with every one of the most emotional moments in my life. These 3 guys (and 1 offspring), and this music, have been such an integral part of my life since about age 11, and to see them up there again is, as I said before, indescribable. That John Bonham's son was able to step up to the plate and fill in for his father made it all that more special to all of us who witnessed this performance. I can only imagine what it meant to Robert, Jimmy & John Paul. When we got home, I was totally exhausted (1 hour sleep after the show, a 3 hour trip to the airport and a 10 hour flight...), but still so wholly charged up. I don't think I'm gonna sleep a normal night's sleep for a long time to come!
As for the future of Led Zeppelin, well, they more than accomplished what they set out to do, to play a one-off show to set the record straight on the previous reunions, and to honor a man who was instrumental in their careers. If they end it there, it would be understandable. But for everyone who didn't get to see the London show, I do hope they decide to do some more.
Steve Zukowsky - December 2007
Update – Dec 10, 2012:
As I had originally written this while with Led Zepagain, I didn’t include what was another very special part about this show. Since we were only able to get the 4 tickets for the band (which we did pay for; as a charity event, they did not give us free tickets), my now wife, Catherine, was not going to be able to see the show, but wanted to go anyway to hang outside & hopefully catch a few notes! Catherine is also a huge Led Zeppelin fan, having seen them back on June 25, 1977 at the LA Forum, so this would be very special for us if we could both get to see them again 30 years later! (I saw them in 1977 in Oakland.) Well, as determined as she is (a true Virgo!), she managed to find a ticket on ebay that looked promising. Only there was a catch…
The tickets were done by lottery, in pairs only, and those who won the lottery & were able to buy tickets had to show up in person at the venue, starting from a couple of days before the show, until the show day, with their second person with them, to each get a wristband & ticket. The wristband could not be removed prior to the show. So, we had to trust that this stranger from ebay actually was a ticket buyer (we did have him email us his confirmation of purchase), and would actually show up thousands of miles away at a pre-arranged time to meet up & get the tickets! As fate would have it, the person selling the ticket was from the town where Catherine was born (when she first saw the listing, she knew it was meant to be!), and close to where I grew up, and even went to high school with a former band member of mine from back in those days! So with that reference and after a few phone conversations, he seemed trustworthy, and we took the risk. Sure enough, it paid off, and we were able to meet him 2 days before the show & they both got their tickets & wristbands.
As I wrote in my original story, we also received passes to the soundcheck/rehearsal the day before the show as well as the after party, and these were also for just the 4 band members.
Catherine, as well as Jim W’s wife, Brenda, (who didn’t get a ticket to the show, but came for the trip to London with Jim), came with us to wait in line for the soundcheck. They were just going to hang out while we were inside - the O2 complex is indoors, with shops & restaurants all around. As we waited, and we started to hear the band play, we wondered how we were going to get in on time if they were really going to check everyone’s ID’s to match to their list. Sure enough, someone started yelling at the staff to get everyone in, and they just ended up quickly ushering everyone in line into the arena, and we all got pushed inside, including Catherine & Brenda. Woo Hoo!
Since the band got our tickets through Jimmy Page’s management, we were in the reserved seating section, while Catherine’s ebay ticket was general admission down on the floor (“Down there with the peasants,” as she puts it!). So while we didn’t get to be together through the show, we weren’t too far apart, and could see each other from where we were. When Brian May came in & sat down in front of us before the show, I stood up to wave to her, and Brian was right in her line of sight, sitting in front of me. I wanted to make sure she saw him there, as Queen is what led to us meeting each other in the first place (but that’s another story…), and this was surely going to blow her mind. At first, she was just waving back to me, like there’s nothing going on, but I kept on waving. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she all of a sudden saw Brian May sitting there, did that cartoon double-take, & realized why I kept waving at her!
So, while we didn’t *quite* get to be together through the show, we still got to go together & feel like we were 16 all over again, awe struck at what we were witnessing!
For all those we met & hung out with at the rehearsal & at the Pilot Inn, Catherine says hello and “Happy 5 year Anniversary!” She had a great time meeting and chatting with everyone.
And now here we are, 5 years later, re-living this amazing moment at home through the “Celebration Day” DVD. Thanks to Led Zeppelin for the memories!!