Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why only 18,000 tickets to rock's biggest reunion ever?

As soon as the era of Led Zeppelin concluded in 1980 due to circumstances beyond any earthling's control, persistent outside speculation began that the group's three survivors would carry on together in one form or another. This assumption has not become reality, except with the understanding that today, as they prepare to unleash a set lasting two hours, the three carry on as friends.

The fact is that since their breakup, the amount of time they have carried on together publicly in a musical fashion has amounted to approximately an hour: 20 minutes in 1985, another 20 in 1988, and 15 minutes in 1995. Not even a full hour of new moments in Led Zeppelin concert history has existed in the presence of public audiences.

We have learned many stated reasons for the scarcity of collaborations involving all three: It wouldn't be the same. The expectations would be too great. The associated travel would be too much. They have their own careers now. There was some rift among the three. They've already accomplished everything possible. There's something despicable about enormous shows.

The live tribute to Ahmet Ertegün announced yesterday does not negate or dismiss those reasons. In fact, a single concert date in England means no real need for travel. It's been a long time since they rock 'n' rolled – such a long time, in fact, that they have already adequately established themselves as career musicians outside of the context of their collective group. Wounds have healed, and they have nothing to prove. Although John Bonham will never be back, they have obtained the first in the direct familial line of succession to the drum stool throne. And, like it or not, the show they're playing is not going to be in front of an enormous crowd.

Perhaps the limited seating capacity of the venue chosen is the one attribute to this upcoming reunion that most upsets fans who have been persistent in their hopes that someday they would be able to see the Zeppelin once again take flight. A reunion is taking place, and the total number of randomly selected attendees from all over the world will be no more than 18,000 in a world inhabited by 6.6 billion people, of whom an estimated 20 million found themselves vying for the opportunity to register for tickets at a Web site that crashed within minutes of the official announcement. Eighteen thousand seems like a drop in the bucket, particularly when one considers that we're talking about the same band that broke its own records for highest paying concert attendance for a single act.

However, it's an appropriate number when you recall Robert Plant's disdain for "enormous shows," a term he used in an interview for the BBC yesterday. He resists playing them because, he says, "Once you get that big and you start playing those kind of shows, you lose the reins of what you're trying to do." Keep in mind that this is a guy who has played in the middle of the Sahara desert, with street musicians in Marrakech, and at a zoo a short commute from his home town – not exactly Rock in Rio. Robert prefers smaller, more intimate audiences, and he's going to get his wish as the first staged Led Zeppelin reunion concert in a dozen years takes place on Nov. 26.

If you've registered for the concert lottery, don't worry: You have as fair a chance in attending as anybody else does. You could jeopardize that chance by registering more than once. If you successfully register, you will receive a confirmation by e-mail although not immediately. Please be satisfied if the Web site itself displays a confirmation. It will instruct you to be patient. Only the luckiest fans, randomly selected, will be contacted by a third-party vendor by Oct. 1 to give them a 72-hour window to pony up the money for one or two tickets, after which the opportunity is gone. These are the terms for rock's biggest reunion ever, and true fans will respect and abide by them just as they respect the musicians and their reasons for finally making a dream come true.

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