CINCINNATI — It was one of those moments where all you can do is look at the guy next to you and wonder, "Did he really just say that?"
Is it possible that Ian Astbury, lead singer of '80s rock powerhouse the Cult, spilled the beans on the biggest secret in rock — during a club show in Cincinnati?
"We'll be back next year," a breathless Astbury said midway through the band's gig at Bogart's nightclub Saturday night. "Because we're opening for a band you may have heard of ... the name starts with an 'L' and has a 'Z' in it." Stunned looks bounced around the room until one sweat-drenched superfan shouted out the obvious: "Led Zeppelin!" Astbury, his eyes hidden behind dark shades, nodded affirmatively and stuck his hand in the air triumphantly before plowing into one of the band's signature Zeppelinesque rockers.
When asked about Astbury's seeming confirmation of the world tour, spokespeople for the Cult and Zeppelin both declined to comment. Zeppelin's spokesperson added that no decision has been made on any Led Zeppelin tour and the band is focusing on its appearance at the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert in London on December 10; a Cult spokesperson declined to answer questions about Astbury's comment.
It's no secret that the three living members of Zeppelin — singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and long-estranged bassist John Paul Jones — will be performing together for the first time in many years at the December 10 show, which celebrates their mentor, late Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. But so far, despite breathless speculation, the one-off gig — which was recently rescheduled from its original November 26 date after Page injured his finger — is the only official reunion show the trio has planned.
Spokespeople for the legendary group, who will perform with Jason Bonham, the son of late drummer John Bonham, have batted down rumors of a full-blown world tour — and as recently as last month, Plant said it was not in the cards. But Page suggested in an recent Guitar World magazine article that playing just one show would be foolish. "It's a bit silly not to because there is such massive demand," Page told the magazine. "It's a bit selfish to do just one show. If that's it, we probably shouldn't have taken the genie out of the bottle."
The group originally disbanded after John Bonham's death from alcohol poisoning in 1980. Plant, Page and Jones performed at Live Aid in 1985 (with Phil Collins and Chic's Tony Thompson tag-teaming on drums) and at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary show in 1988 with Jason Bonham; they also performed at Jason's wedding. Page and Plant joined forces for two albums and a world tour in the mid-'90s and have performed together sporadically over the years.
Whether or not Astbury was speaking out of turn, the choice of the Cult as a potential opening act would make sense stylistically — given the huge debt the British band owes to Zeppelin — but perhaps less so given the band's lower profile in recent years.
It has been a hectic time in Zeppelinland lately, with a new two-disc best-of collection, Mothership, in stores last week, a recently launched all-Zeppelin XM satellite radio channel and the digital release of the band's catalog earlier this month, as well as the launch on Tuesday of the official ledzeppelin.com website.
Additionally, Page revealed in a recent Reuters interview that the group has plans to uncork a never-before-performed live song during the O2 show, though he would not specify what the "really intense" track would be. He also recently told the BBC that the group met in private for some practice sessions before committing to the reunion gig to make sure they were on the same page. "We wanted to see how well we'd be playing together, and once we played it was without doubt we wanted to do it," he said.
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