December 10th, The Day of the Show
The evening of the show was tense. There was a young man behind me, clutching his ticket so tightly, it was bending. Then he would flatten it out to make sure it was readable. I had mine in my bag after keeping it all night and day in the hotel safe. I looked at the fellow and said, “Don’t want to lose this ticket, do we?” and he said, “I’ve been holding this ticket all day.” We were probably about 50 feet from the door, and were still worried about losing their tickets somehow.
I found my seats and was somewhat disappointed on how high up I was. But I met some great people sitting next to me, and we realized that, in the end, we had the best seats in the house because our section was so far gone, that security felt bad for us and let us do whatever we wanted, including move to different seats.
At about 7:15, Harvey Goldsmith came out and did a welcome speech, including an introduction of Mrs. Ertegun, and acknowledging that 50 countries were represented here in the arena tonight.
A super-group of Keith Emerson, (Emerson Lake and Palmer) Simon Kirke (Bad Company), Chris Squire (Yes bassist)and Alan White (Yes drummer) kicked off the show. We heard the unmistakable brass intro of “Fanfare for the Common Man”, which went into a stunning and foreshadowing mix of riffs from Kashmir, and some reminders of Roundabout. It was poignant, and fantastic.
Bill Wyman/Mike Sanchez
We were treated to the cool, gritty jazzy tunes of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Mike Sanchez sang the classic Ray Charles tune, “I Got a Woman”. Clad in his red and black suit and hat, he commanded the stage with a powerful presence from the core of soulful jukebox blues. He marked the black American soul that was so integral to Ertegun’s inspiration for launching Atlantic.
Scottish singer Paolo Nutini, the last artist to be signed to Atlantic by Ahmet Ertegun, was the next announced. His popularity has seemed to escape most Zeppelin fans, but his significance there was understood. He is more recognizable on indie rock stations for his songs, “New Shoes” and “Last Request.” Surprisingly, he did neither of these songs, and instead performed a contemporary version of the Ray Charles’ classic “Mess Around”. He also did “Bang, Bang, (My Baby Shot Me Down).”
Maggie Bell/Albert Lee/Beverley Skeete
Maggie Bell performed a flawless version of Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and was a strong presence among the Rhythm Kings. Albert Lee was on guitar, during “Baby That’s Rock and Roll”, which brought the house down. Rhythm Queen Beverley Skeete , did a cool version of “Show Me” that was backed by great guitar, with a groovin jive.
Just like the timeline of Atlantic signings and the diversity of Ahmet’s musical interests, we were brought around full circle to the genre of all out rock. Paul Rogers descended onto the stage with “All Right Now” and everyone was taken back to the basics with Rogers’ solid voice and command of the stage. Fans were on their feet, singing in unison, happy to be joining in the familiarity and universality of Bad Company’s unmistakable rock anthem. The excitement was mounting.
Rogers then went into the ever moving “Seagull” and the anxious crowd was grounded and soothed by his experience and presence.
Foreigner’s “I Want Know What Love Is” included a shout out to the crowd for their participation in the refrains. The house lights were on and the energy was building for what was to come next. The St. Luke’s Church of England and the Portsmouth Soccer Club were part of the final chorus of the song, giving the song an ethereal feeling.
At 9 pm,the stage screen showed a video of some of the history of Zeppelin through the lens of the Atlantic records archives. There was a clip where Ahmet is talking with Jimmy describing how, Peter Grant kept everyone away from the creative controls of Zeppelin, “including me” Ahmet said, “to let me do the show the way the band wants, and that meant you (Jimmy).” You can see on that clip, a young Page infused with the confidence and mentorship of Ertegun. After studying Pages history of studio musicianship, production, writing and artistic control of the band, including the collaboration with the administrators, you had a feel for his genius coordination and what has made this band so great.