Zeppelin Over Washington
Naturally, the show’s producers at CBS saved the Led Zeppelin tribute segment for last and pulled out all the stops. The Foo Fighters kicked it off with Dave Grohl behind the drum kit again and Taylor Hawkins tackling Robert Plant’s screams on "Rock and Roll." Kid Rock did "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" (which was unfortunately cut from the CBS telecast Dec. 26) and "Ramble On." Next up was Lenny Kravitz and his band funking up "Whole Lotta Love."
"It was quite exhilarating to hear the different approaches that people had to the songs," Page said later. He and his fellow Zeppelin bandmates could be seen throughout the entire tribute tapping their feet in rhythm, watching the musicians' hands closely; seeming to be genuinely intrigued by how their songs were being interpreted.
Finally, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart -- two girls that grew up idolizing Led Zeppelin -- walked onstage and repaid the inspiration. As the duo‘s sparse, acoustic “Stairway to Heaven” reached the song’s middle section, an orchestra joined in. Then came the 80-voice Joyce Garrett Youth Choir. The effect of so many voices singing the final chorus was overwhelmingly powerful. Tears could be seen in Robert Plant’s eyes when Jason Bonham suddenly materialized behind the drum kit, wearing his father‘s old signature bowler hat.
None of the members of Led Zeppelin had been told in advance that Jason was going to be there. They were clearly astonished -- and deeply touched -- when they saw him take his place onstage. Even Jimmy Page, a man not easily overwhelmed by emotion, had a tear rolling down his cheek.
That moment was just one of many in recent months that Plant and Page appeared to be closer and more in sync with one another than they had been in 15 years, since their last studio album together (“Walking Into Clarksdale”). Although the pair did two solo tours together in the 1990s, John Paul Jones was not included in those creative endeavors, which deepened friction within the Zeppelin family.
Jones was invited to join them at the O2 Arena in London for the 2007 reunion, which eventually became “Celebration Day.” During their many public appearances together this fall, it was readily apparent that the trio had re-established the chemistry and friendship of years past. All seemed to be forgiven. Jones, Page, and Jason Bonham have stated quite categorically that they would be in favor of a reunion album and tour. But for the past five years, Plant has been the last holdout.
Based on the band’s renewed camaraderie and recent public comments by Robert Plant, that may be about to change.
Could it be that Plant -- who always eschewed repeating the past in favor of moving forward with his own solo career -- is starting to feel a bit sentimental for the days of Led Zeppelin now? At age 64, perhaps the time has finally come for one final victory lap with his old bandmates. Plant is certainly ready to talk more about it than he’s been in years.
“If anybody wants to write some new songs, I'm game," Plant said after the Kennedy Center Honors. That’s an intriguing change of tune for the singer, who for the past five years said he was simply too busy with other projects to work with Zeppelin again.