Led Zeppelin took to the stage for the final time on December 10th, 2007, when they bowed out in style by bringing the roof crashing down on London’s O2 Arena and leaving 20,000 fans awestruck by their greatness. It is rightly remembered as the perfect way to end the Led Zeppelin story and it left fans clamouring for more. However, despite the success, Robert Plant found the reunion a distressing one overall and, aside from the barnstorming show, he just couldn’t bring himself to enjoy the whole experience.
Led Zeppelin’s final reunion came about when they agreed to perform a one-off set as the headline act at The Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert. Ahmet Ertegün, a music executive, the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records and an essential character in Zeppelin’s career, helped define music as we know it today. He was a figure who Zeppelin had to thank for their monumental success, Ertegün believed in them and they repaid the faith that he showed in them. There was a tangible excitement around the reunion and the interest in the show was truly unprecedented.
The 2009 Guinness World Records stated that, at the time, the show held the world record for the ‘Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert’ as a staggering 20 million people scrambled for the 20,000 golden tickets. The show gave Led Zeppelin the opportunity to bow out on cloud nine. That said, everyone involved apart from Robert Plant wanted this to kickstart a full-blown reunion. His refusal allowed the band to leave things on a positive note and, if they were taking to the stage every single night on a world tour, the sparkle which shined throughout their London show would undoubtedly have lessened.
Plant managed to allow himself to reenter the daunting environment of Zeppelin for one show but anything more than that was a no-go from his perspective. Speaking to Mojo in 2012 about why the universally positive reaction to the performance didn’t lead to any further performances, Plant was forthright in his response and opened up about why he didn’t find the experience a completely enjoyable one.
Following the show, Plant recalled that he needed to escape the hectic backstage environment and all the attention on him was all just too much. “Twenty minutes after we finished, the Gallagher brothers were leaning on the door of my dressing room,” the Led Zeppelin singer vividly remembered. “One of them said: ‘You’re the real fucking thing, you are.’ I said: ‘I’ve known that all down the line but I think you need to go a little further round the corridor, next door on the left.’ And with that, I left quickly.
“I ended up in the Marathon pub in Camden, drank four bottles of Keo lager and half a bottle of vodka, then went to bed,” he then added. “Because I had to get away from it. I’d done it. I had to go. It was too heavy. Beautiful, but talk about examining your own mortality! Crazy.”
“I’ve gone so far somewhere else that I almost can’t relate to it,” he later said of chances of another reunion to Rolling Stone. “It’s a bit of a pain in the pisser to be honest. Who cares? I know people care, but think about it from my angle – soon, I’m going to need help crossing the street.
“You can’t ever really go back,” he then reiterated once more in 2017. “It’s tough enough repeating yourself with something that’s a year old, never mind 49 years old. I’ve got to keep moving.”
As Plant lovingly says, the night was indeed “beautiful” but he’s not an artist that is drenched in nostalgia and is an ardent believer that some things are best left in the past. The singer would much rather keep moving forward whenever possible. Plant has carved out a rich solo career that represents the person he has grown into today and whilst Led Zeppelin still holds a special place in his heart, he’s just not that same person anymore.