Ah, yes – the duck face. The total abandonment of any attempt to look cool by a musician; the moment when one is simply a slave to the groove and can’t help but slightly hunch the shoulders, lean the head forward, and push all the available skin on the front of the skull into the lips – totally resembling a large duck. The deal was sealed a millisecond later when Page swung towards Jones, picking arm chunking away at his Les Paul and pulled his own DUCK FACE.
DOUBLE DUCK FACE: we were rolling. If the vibe wasn’t there; if the groove wasn’t there; if the music wasn’t happening, the duck face would be out of place … and would be sadly nothing more than an old man looking silly. But no: it only took a minute or two to establish the fact that these cats wanted to do this; needed to do this; just plain had to do this – and a 64-year-old man with hair like Beethoven and wearing a knee-length black coat could be held hostage by the music, play his ass off, and pull the duck face.
At the end of the second verse, Plant let fly with the microphone, snapping it back into his grasp on the downbeat that led into Page’s first solo of the night. The picking was classic – enough quoting of the original to please the fanatical; enough out there to be fresh at the same time. Again, the camera caught the moment that best told the tale: the quick glance Jones gave Page as he touched back down – and the grin that came with it.
I won’t turn this into a blow-by-blow account of the night. Our fellow viewers were like any concert crowd – everything from silent, rapt attention to hoots and hollers at each and every key moment. On screen, the energy never lagged – and the grins amongst the players kept on coming. Yes, there were moments that risked being clichés (Page had – had – to lay a bow to the Les Paul’s strings during “Dazed And Confused”, for instance) but the obvious fact that all hands were blowing themselves away with what was happening at their own hands overrode any feeling of a particular move being canned.
“Rock And Roll” was the finale: Jones worked his bass hard as Page blistered through his last solo of the night; Plant laid down the last “Lonely, lonely, lonely … time” as Jones and Page turn to face Jason, who launched into the drum roll of his life – and his father’s, as well; Plant, Page, and Jones visibly flinched at the young Bonham’s power – and then Page locked eyes with him and they landed the mighty beast with a beautiful crash.
You can’t fake joy; you can’t fake pride … and you really can’t fake the duck face.
Tigger and I left the theater grinning and talked about the music all the way home – and have returned to that night in conversation since.
Whether there’s ever another live Led Zeppelin performance or not doesn’t matter to me at this point. They certainly don’t owe it to us – they should only do it if they feel they owe it to themselves.
All I know is, I received reassurance by watching Celebration Day on the big screen.
Long live the duck face.
Visit the world of Brian Robbins at Brian-robbins.com