Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, at MOMA on Tuesday with bandmates Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham, son of the band’s late original drummer John, for a press conference to promote their new concert film, “Celebration Day,” entered the journalist-packed auditorium singing, “treat me like a fool…” He was clearly in a festive mood.
That mood would not last.
Ever since the 2007 concert featured in the film, a tribute to the late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun at London’s O2 Arena, the band has said in countless interviews that they would never reunite again, largely due to Mr. Plant’s desire to focus on other projects and just generally move on. But that didn’t stop the assembled fourth estate from harping on the reunion talk, to the band’s growing annoyance.
At first, Mr. Plant showed flashes of humor. When asked if they find it difficult to watch themselves, he replied, “I used to be better looking than this.” Discussing Mr. Ertegun, Mr. Plant noted that he would talk about “everything from Coltrane, Modern Jazz Quartet, through to Ratt and White Lion.” He practically spat these last two band names, then paused for a contemptuous smirk that evoked laughter from the crowd.
But the scorn he felt toward cheesy hair metal was nothing compared to that he reserved for questions about a possible reunion. After one reporter asked if the film was in anticipation of something bigger, he replied, “We’d been thinking about all sorts of things. And then we can’t remember what we were thinking about. Schmuck.” Another asked whether after their previous reunion gigs they felt like they had “unfinished business,” and Mr. Plant seemed to be straining his face not to let his eyes roll.
Still, some did not get the message. One radio host said, “I’d like to ask a follow-up to the question posed by the schmuck, if I might.” He complimented them on the film, then said, “I don’t know that it’s gonna quench the thirst of those who wish to see you in the flesh.” Gasps of incredulity echoed through the room. “What would you say to them?”
Seven seconds of deadly silence followed, and then laughter bubbled up, almost drowning out Mr. Jones’ subdued, sing-songy answer to the question: “Sorry.” The laughter blazed anew, the moderators passed the mic to the next questioner, and twenty seconds after he had asked his question, the radio host, apparently not having heard Mr. Jones’ reply, said, “Is anybody gonna say anything?”
It took a whole three-and-a-half minutes before the next journalist jumped into the reunion fray, noting that in the film, they looked like they were having fun. “Why is it so hard to come together again?”
The band’s silence this time went on for twelve seconds before the journo implored, “can someone answer it?” A voice in the crowd cried out, “It’s been answered a million times, sir.”