Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Soundcheck

Eight years ago today, just about now (allowing for the time difference and when you read this), the final O2 rehearsal/soundcheck was happening.

Tickets for the show itself, available through a lottery system, had been snatched up by some 16-18,000 lucky devils, with literally millions of us losers sobbing about it.

Some lucky suckers had gotten access to the rehearsal/soundcheck, too.

2007 Led Zeppelin O2 rehearsal
Meanwhile, back home millions of us remained crying into our beer (or wine, in my case), not having won
one of those precious concert tickets or an invitation to the soundcheck. But we were not idle. No we were not. We were searching online for every scrap of information, any report - first or second hand, or even rumor. Anything at all.

Much had been kept secret, but in this day and age, there are always leaks. What was out there was hard to distinguish from rumors, but you had to find trustworthy sources and, well, trust them. Early feedback from Cameron Crowe (who was not there but had heard from someone who was) was that the soundcheck was thrilling.

The few hundred or so blessed witnesses to this penultimate performance were not allowed to record, but yes, that happened anyway.

The setlist for the sound check included:
 Good Times Bad Times
 Ramble On
 In My Time Of Dying
 No Quarter
 Nobody's Fault But Mine
 D'yer Mak'er
 Communication Breakdown

It was already common knowledge that the band had been practicing For Your Life, a song they'd never played live before.

Afterwards, some of the blessed met up at the Pilot Inn/Pub for a Led Zeppelin fan club meeting arranged by Dave Lewis, who, after all was said and done, referred to the whole experience before, during and after, as inhabiting Planet Zeppelin.

Amazingly, after all these years I'm still upset that I wasn't there and I'm still green with envy even as I type this blog post. So go ahead, ticketholders.  Torture me. Post your story of O2 in the comments.





♪  Rock and Roll (Shepperton Studio, 05 December 2007) YouTube

♪ Mage Music 1 playlist at YouTube
♪ Mage Music 2 playlist at YouTube

20 comments:

  1. Like everyone else, I'd first heard rumors of Led Zeppelin reuniting in June 2007. I assumed this was just another in a long line of rumors that seemed to materialize on an almost regular basis.


    I didn't think much of these latest rounds of rumors until I received a cryptic email from my Zeppelin associate in September. He said it was definitely on and would be announced the public in a few weeks.

    I had to promise not to repeat this information to anybody until it's been officially announced.



    The rumors and web sites were lit up with speculation, theories, denials, dreamers, skeptics and nay-sayers. Finally the day came when an official announcement was made and the Zeppelin world on the Internet exploded.

    There was to be a concert on Nov 26th, 2007 in honor of Ahmet Ertegun with Jason Bonham joining the rest of the band.



    I immediately calculated the odds of getting a ticket, getting off from work and traveling to London. I didn't even have a valid passport. So I resigned myself to hearing about it and seeing clips of it on the Internet. I immediately assumed I would not be going and didn't entertain the thought an set myself up for disappointment.

    Like 20 million other fans over the world, I registered for a ticket online and didn't seriously consider having a chance at winning a ticket but it was definitely worth a try.


    However, a few weeks after the concert was announced in Sept, I got an email from my Zeppelin associate saying "Pack your bags". I didn't quite know what to make of it and wasn't sure what he was referring to or if he was playing some sort of practical joke.



    I replied to his email and asked something like "Is this what I think it is?" He said it was and it was serious and came from "the Source”, a reference I knew to mean his connection with the inner circle within the band, Jimmy Page's manager whom he'd known quite well since meeting him in 2003 at the release and premiere showing of "DVD" in NY.


    A few days later he forwarded me an email from 'The Source" outlining the itinerary for picking up our tickets:


    TICKET COLLECTION

    1. As you are a friend of ours, you won't be required to pick up your tickets at will call with the 20,000 other fans - you will however need to go to the Royal Garden Hotel at 2-24 Kensington High Street, London W8 4PT.

    Tel: 020-7937-8000.

    2. On Saturday 8th December, between the hours of 11.00am and 2.00pm, from the Royal Garden Hotel. Please ask for guest Mark Reiter in Room number 247.

    3. On Sunday 9th December, between the hours of 11.00am and 2.00pm, from the Royal Garden Hotel. Please ask for guest Mark Reiter in Room number 247.

    4. On Monday 10th December any uncollected tickets will be sent over

    to the o2 Arena. These may be collected from 10.00am onward, at the box

    office at the o2 Arena.

    Please note that you will be expected to provide ID in your name to collect your tickets.

    A few things NOT to ask Marc:

    Can I get passes? Can I get more tickets? Can I pick them up later? Are the seats good?

    While you may be a friend of ours, that doesn't necessarily, give you the right to give him grief or to be ignorant - unless of course he really asks for it!

    The show will start at 7.15pm with Bill Wymans All Stars. Led Zeppelin will be on stage at 9.00pm. The show will be over at 11.00pm.....

    If you have any other questions regarding ticket collection please feel free

    to email me at XX@XXXX.com



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    Replies
    1. SERIOUS envy here on my part! the years since then don't matter in the least!

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  2. Instantly calculating the odds of being able to find a flight, hotel, a passport and time off from work, I knew this would be a miracle to pull off. It all seemed too good to be true. It was all happening too fast.



    It came out of the blue and didn't seem real. Would I have enough time to renew my passport? Would it all fall apart after getting a ticket when all hinged on getting a new passport? My old passport was needed to in order to get a new one and it sat 800 miles away in storage.


    I didn't know if I could:

    1) Get back to Philly or

    2) Locate it and

    3) Send in with enough time to be renewed and returned to me in time.



    As it happened, I had to fly to Atlanta for work in early Nov. and I scheduled the flight to stop over in Philly with a long layover.



    I jumped in the rental car, drove to the storage place and immediately found the passport!

    Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Jimmy had broken his finger and the concert would be postponed until Dec 10th.

    Had the concert not been postponed, my worst fears would have been realized where I would have had a ticket but no passport.

    I actually did not have a ticket in my hand and was assured that I would be given one once in London. I booked a hotel and flight and everything seemed OK at that point.



    Not so OK was the fact that our contact within Zep's camp was evasive and frequently unavailable. Our hopes we dashed and then a reassurance would come on the roller coaster ride that was getting tickets to the concert.



    Many assurances were met with long intervals of silence that did not instill a lot of confidence that we, in fact, would have tickets in hand in London.



    So travel plans made, I left for the airport only to be called by my boss asking if I was working that night. After multiple calls, I scrambled and found a replacement at the last minute.


    Earlier as I was leaving, I superstitiously said that it would be a good concert if I'd seen a dog before the show. Well, I get to the airport and immediately see 2 German Shepherd working dogs. A good vibe straight away!

    A long flight to London then met up with my two fellow Zep friends at Heathrow airport. The airport was swarming with Zeppelin fans from all over the world. The customs agent even asked if I was there for the concert.

    The atmosphere was buzzing with Led Zeppelin magic.

    Jumping on a train with our luggage, we were instantly identified as Americans among the Londoners. The plan was to get off the train and locate a particular hotel and pick up the tickets.


    Arriving at the hotel, we were given the room number and excitedly knocked on the door. Upon entering the crowded room, we identified Jimmy's road manager on the cell phone and then sitting at a table making plans-mostly about tickets and passes. The room was filled with hangers-on, roadies, assistants and the obligatory model type named "Fern".

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  3. The three of us sat on the sofa as not to intrude on the proceedings. Finally, my buddy spoke with the manager and was told to wait.

    Thirty minutes later, we were each given an envelope. It was spilling over with tickets, passes and multi-colored wrist bands.

    Huh? Were we given the right envelopes? These apparently were for VIP's as the passes were for rehearsal access, multiple after parties and everything a fan could possible want and more. I could only say "Thank you, thank you".

    We left the hotel and noticed a marble plaque on the ground that read "All Will Be Revealed". It was eerie.


    Making it to the hotel, we had heard rumors of the stage crew also being there. I imagined Zeppelin style parties throughout the hallways. It has to be a rumor only as it simply would be too good to be true.

    We checked in to the hotel, the West India Quay Marriott which was $600/night when accounting for the exchange rate. I thought that rather steep but figured we were getting the tickets and passes for free so it was worth the expense.

    The girl at the desk said "It's taken care of". I looked at my buddy and didn't say a thing. We gathered in the lobby and asked "Did she mean what I thought she meant?". He thought so and we apparently were "comped" by the band. All 3 of us were staying at the hotel for 3 days for free. Unbelievable!


    My two buddies went sight-seeing around London and to buy t shirts and souvenirs but I decided to stay in the hotel and rest from the long flight and avoid the gloomy, cold December weather outside. I hadn't brought warm enough clothing and could kick myself for not bringing my leather Led Zeppelin jacket!!


    I stayed in and called friends from back in the States telling them I had made it to London and read all the Zep magazines I had picked up along the way.


    One of the passes we were given was for the sound check/rehearsal. The O2 was only a mile away but we had to take a train to get there. We boarded the train and made it to the venue. We immediately met familiar faces and spent time with the Zep tribute band Led Zepagain, also members of FBO. While in line, we could hear the rumblings of "No Quarter" coming thru the doors.


    After a 30 minute wait, we were escorted in to the stage area where we saw Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and Jason on stage casually working thru 'No Quarter',' Nobody's Fault But Mine' ,'In My Time of Dying' and a loose jam which was very cool.



    There were maybe 100 people among the audience-mostly crew, charity people and contest winners.

    Robert got down from the stage and wandered around on the floor to listen to the sound and socialize with the crew and fans. I think one of the people he was talking to was his daughter or a close female associate who was laying on the floor right in front of the stage.

    During the rehearsal, Jason's son did a little drum solo met with a nice round of applause. Robert's voice sounded great and Jimmy's guitar sound was powerful! It was amazing to see the band rehearsing and in such a casual mood. It was the best of both worlds where they were the famous rock stars but also casual enough to just be themselves hanging out and enjoying the chemistry. All 4 band members seemed relaxed and upbeat.

    After about an hour, we were all asked to leave and were back in to the O2 corridors. From the performance we had just witnessed, we anticipated a powerful concert.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG, I'm getting the chills just reading this!

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  4. That afternoon back at the hotel, I got a call from one of my buddies who said "Quick, get to the lobby. Jimmy's guitars are down in the lobby in cases!". I jumped on the elevator and made it to the lobby but the gear had disappeared as fast as it had arrived. Apparently it was true that the road crew was staying at our hotel after all. But there were no hot groupies running the hallways, unfortunately.



    Later that night, there was a planned social gathering at a local pub called "The Pilot" where Zep fans from different online fan groups had agreed to meet. Royal Orleans, FBO, Achilles Last Stand and representatives from the official forum were all meeting up that night at "The Pilot".




    Nech, Mike and I wandered over to the Pilot thru the cold night. Images of American tourists waiting to be pounced upon by a stray werewolf (to quote from Nech, himself).


    I was especially looking forward to meeting up with Annie Hollinshead, the organizer of the Knebworth event planned for the following August and Kevin ,a native Brit who I'd been in contact with for years but have yet to meet. Annie and I had been corresponding by phone and Skype for the previous 6 months in preparation for the Knebworth event and a book of collected fan stories to be given to Jimmy on his birthday for the previous 6 months or so. But I had yet to meet her too.

    Upon arriving at "The Pilot", I met up with Kevin and Annie where I recounted the afternoon's events at the rehearsal.

    There was a festive atmosphere at the pub where long held friendships were renewed or realized in the real world for the first time much like Annie, Kevin and myself. We met up with a guy who claimed to have recorded the Honolulu 71 concert who presented us with photos and his story of being at that concert.


    There also was a guy from Sweden outside the pub looking for tickets. It was a great environment but all 3 of us were absolutely starving as none of us had a thing to eat since arriving. The rush of events and location of the venue and hotel did not lend itself to access to restaurants. The pub had no food at that hour and we were all about to pass out.

    We made our way back to the O2 which was the closest place that had any food at that hour and split a pizza with Annie, Kevin and a mate of his.

    I think we finally got to bed back at the hotel around 2 or 3 am.


    The day of the concert, we all met up in the one hotel room and did multiple checks for tickets, passes, wrist bands and identification that we were told would be required to get in to the building. After a frantic search for a misplaced ticket, we headed to the train station.


    We boarded another train and met a few fellow Zep fans from all over the world, including a group of drunken British business men and another American.

    Arriving at the O2 , the atmosphere was cold but electric with anticipation. Fans spilled in and were spread out all over the place. The news media had camped out all over the grounds of the enormous venue grounds, covering the hottest news story all over the world for that day and days afterwards.

    I said to nobody in particular “I wonder if there will be any celebrities here"-not realizing this event was THE social event throughout all of Europe for everybody including non-Zeppelin fans. Models and celebrities from all over had descended on the event as the place to see and be seen.

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  5. A huge inflatable blimp outside the venue reinforces the omnipresence of the might Led Zeppelin. I was thinking how nice it would have been to have actual airships flying over the O2.


    We arrived at the door and were let in just on showing our wrist bands. We weren't even asked to show our driver's license or any of the checks put in place to prevent ticket scalping. It would have just taken too long and the security was not enforcing the identity checks put in place, at least not as strictly as had been announced.


    We then made our way up the ramp to where our seats were and realized the seats were in the VIP area!! At this security check point, they were looking for cameras and recording devices with a metal detecting wand. Jimmy's road manager was there and came over said to the security guy "It's OK, these guys are OK" and were let thru the line without any bother.

    We were seated to left of the stage up on the 2nd level from the floor. At some point, I grabbed a sandwich which I think was $18.

    The seats could NOT have been better. We were up about halfway of the first section on Jimmy's side of the stage.


    One of the guys ran in to some friends and went on a quest to find other friends from Europe. I met up with a fellow American and FBO member who now lived in the UK and we hung out talked about the show and who else was there we knew.

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    Replies
    1. I'm going crazy with envy and anticipation! Keep posting!

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  6. One of my buddies made it down to the side of the stage and was talking with the crew who were guarding Jimmy's guitars by the stage. He came back and said he also spoke with Brian May from Queen who was there with his girlfriend.

    A few minutes later there was a buzz to my left as Marilyn Manson arrived with his actress girlfriend (Evan Rachel Wood). And I could have sworn I saw Nuno Bettencourt sitting to our left. (It turns out that it was him).



    The warm up acts were given polite applause but nobody was interested. It was awkward for them as nobody was there to hear them. Everybody was only there to see Led Zeppelin and it was painfully obvious to the bands on stage (Foreigner etc.) and to the fans.

    There was a really nice filmed tribute to Ahmet and then a very nice filmed documentary of the band.


    Then I noticed Jimmy come to the side of the stage and was stretching his legs limbering up before the show.

    Finally the lights went down and a roar came up thru the crowd.


    The first chords of Good Times Bad Times raised the roof. It was a powerful, palpable sound!


    The set list continued as follows:

    Ramble On

    Black Dog

    -"Good Evening" announced Robert. He commented on Ahmet and the fact that there were fans from 129 countries at the show.

    In My Time of Dying-Powerful

    For Your Life- Was met with a huge roar. It was rumored to be played at the show but nobody was certain it would actually be played at the show.

    Trampled Under Foot (During the beginning of each song, I dialed my buddy AJ was at work who was recounting which song was being played to his Zep fan office mates.)

    Nobody's Fault But Mine

    No Quarter- Very powerful.

    Since I've Been Loving You-Great

    Dazed And Confused was great with Jimmy using his bow and the laser pyramid. My friends Annie and Kevin were in the front of the stage at this point and I was happy that she realized her lifelong dream to see Jimmy in concert which she had never done up until this night.

    Stairway To Heaven introduced by Robert as "This is for you, Ahmet" then "We did it Ahmet" afterwards.

    The Song Remains The Same

    Misty Mountain Hop

    Kashmir was the highlight of the night. Robert's vocals were great and the visuals were perfect and mesmerizing. The crowd reacted to this song the most. Someone threw a bowler hat up on stage at this point, in dedication to John Bonham, I assume.

    Jason Bonham came to the front of the stage and turned around to face Robert, Jimmy and JPJ in an "I'm not worthy" gesture.

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  7. -Encore:

    Whole Lotta Love

    Rock And Roll

    After the lights went up, I noticed that Richard Cole was standing 2 rows in front of me. I elbowed Mike and whispered "That's Richard Cole!!". He said "How do you know?" I just knew as I'd seen an interview with him on the E! Channel and he looked the same as in the interview. In the meantime, my buddy from NY spotted Mo Jones making her way out of her seat beneath us and to the left. He spoke with her briefly but she didn't recall him from their meeting in NY in 2003. She was there with her grandchildren and preoccupied with them.

    We reluctantly filed out of our seats and the place was buzzing. There was a bottleneck in the corridor as friends and fans were mulling around talking about the experience. My buddy was talking with Warren Haynes from Government Mule who was really nice.

    A minute later, I noticed Ben Harper and his girlfriend Laura Dern walking around. I took the chance and tapped her on the shoulder and told her that I loved the movie "October Sky" which is one of my favorites. She lit up and said "Thank you!" and was really sweet. She's tall! I could see that her boyfriend asked her what I'd said to her and I'm assuming she told him I commented on the movie. Meeting her was icing on the cake. An actress from one of my all-time favorite movies after the Zeppelin show!

    So we gathered together and were looking for how to get to the backstage area. There was a group of us all lost and apparently looking for the same place. Richard Cole was standing among us and looking for the same place. The elevator was crowded and he got on the next one.

    We found the corridor leading to the backstage area and got in line with our wristbands prominently displayed. Who was standing in line in front of me? Richard Cole, of course! Amazing. He's pretty tall too…six feet two, I would say. I wanted to reach out and talk to him but thought better of it. I regret not at least saying "Hi" to him.

    We entered the back stage area and got something to drink. My buddy and I found an area to stand and observed the crowd pass by.

    Eddie Kramer walked by! (I’d met him at a record convention in 1988 so I immediately recognized him). Lulu the British singer was there too. Lots of model types were milling around.

    The atmosphere in the backstage area was electric with anticipation of any of the band members showing up, of course.

    A small group gathered in front of us: Richard Cole, one of the guys from Oasis, Chad Smith, the drummer from Red Hot Chili Peppers and a few other cool musicians stood around talking about the concert. Richard Cole was maybe 10' in front of me the whole time and I really wanted to ask him for an autograph. But he was on his cell phone most of the time and I didn't want to intrude. It turns out that my buddy managed to get a photo with him which was cool. Damn, I should have been more forward with that!

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  8. So were standing around and all the sudden a murmur covers the room like a wave. Jason Bonham shows up to our left. He's with his son and is surrounded by maybe 10 people including my buddy who has a nice conversation with him. I could tell that Jason was really gracious and really friendly with all the fans.

    A few minutes later, Jimena Page makes an appearance. Like a streak across the room, she disappeared somewhere among a crowd, I think because I didn't see her after then. However, Jimmy's son, James Page Jr was there to my right and had a conversation with my buddy from NY. (He was very indifferent to being a world famous guitarist's song according to my buddy and apparently very down to Earth from what my buddy told me of their conversation)

    About 30 minutes later, John Paul Jones arrived surrounded by 15 people. He was glowing and obviously happy about the performance. He was inundated by questions from all around him. Again, I was so tempted to try to talk to him but didn't want to intrude and probably couldn't have penetrated the throng of people around him.


    A few hours had gone by. JPJ and Jason stayed about an hour or so. Finally, ushers came in and announced that we all must leave.

    After much prodding, we were forced out of the backstage area and made our way to the after party at the Indigo Club. After another line and wrist band checking, we entered the Indigo. Solomon Burke, the blues artist was on stage. What I would assume were record company people and friends of the band were milling around. We were all pretty tired at this point but managed to stick around until 3 am or so. Not much was really happening at the Indigo but we hung out and made the most of it.

    Finally leaving the O2, we attempted to flag down a taxi. We were told that it would cost $100 or so by a rather rude taxi driver who wasn't interested in taking us anywhere so close as our hotel.

    We were starving, tired, elated, and cold and lost in the area around the O2. We even tried to flag down a regular bus and a double- decker bus for two hours. We finally grabbed hot dogs off of a vendor working out of a cart there for working people on their way to work at 5 am.


    Eventually we got a gypsy cab who took us back to the hotel.

    My flight back to Chicago was at 11:30 am that morning and Heathrow was all the way on the other side of London which entailed taking 3 trains to get to the terminals.

    I slept for an hour and left the hotel at 7 am where I toured the London subway system to get to the airport and board the plane.

    Lots of hung over American Zep fans were on the shuttle bus and plane on the way back to the U.S. Everybody was recounting the previous night's events...still buzzing from the once in a lifetime experience.

    Fortunately the plane was almost empty and I stretched out across 4 seats to sleep the whole length of the flight back home.

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  9. Carrying my cache of souvenirs, I made it to the rental car and back to the hotel.

    That night I went in to work and recounted the whole story to my fellow co-workers. It all had not sunken it that I was actually there. A few weeks later, I had all the mementos framed from this amazing trip.


    http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u219/fsmith9095/IMG_0149_zps7ztcxlvf.jpg

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. I will read it over and over again, wishing I had been there. Your description is so detailed and clear - THANK YOU!

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    2. I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Lif. I hope your readers have some sense of the experience while reading my account. I wish I could have been even more descriptive, to be honest. But I wanted to get to the essence of the matter and allow the music to speak for itself. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind few days..it seemed like being in a dream. And its always fun hearing everyone's reactions to the account above as it feels as if I'm living it over again through new eyes and ears.

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