Back on stage: Led Zeppelin to perform reunion gig
Six digits on the official website of Led Zeppelin was all it took yesterday to fuel fevered hopes that the longest-awaited and most-rumoured reunion in rock history is about to be announced - and spark a huge scramble for tickets.
The surviving members of the British band widely held to have redefined rock music - and how to indulge in its hedonistic excesses - are set to play their first full-scale concert in 27 years with a one-off appearance in November at the O2 venue in Greenwich, south-east London.
The group's front man, Robert Plant, was reported to have confirmed the performance to an autograph hunter, while those involved with promoting the gig said full details would be announced within the next 10 days.
Fan websites were buzzing with speculation that the concert would be held on 13 November after the home page of LedZeppelin.com carried the American-style date 11.13.07 without further explanation. The date is a day after the release of Mothership, the band's latest greatest hits collection.
A source said: "It is going to happen. We are finalising the precise timing but basically the guys have agreed they want to do it. It will be a one-off."
It is thought the concert in the former Millennium Dome will be a charity event in memory of Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, the jazz and blues label that signed Led Zeppelin in 1968 without ever seeing them perform, apparently on the advice of the singer Dusty Springfield.
But sources said claims that the band will also play two gigs in America - one in Florida and one in New York - were wide of the mark.
The London concert will be performed by Plant and the two other original band members, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones. The drums will be played by Jason Bonham, whose father, John, was Led Zeppelin's drummer until he died aged 32 by choking on his own vomit after a drinking binge in 1980 - an incident which prompted the remaining members to go their separate ways.
Talk of a reunion has periodically emerged ever since but the group have only performed two short sets since 1980 - one for the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in 1985 and one at the 40th birthday celebrations of Atlantic Records in 1988. Plant and Page have also performed together amid a rumoured rift between the band's singer and John Paul Jones, reported to have been resolved in 2002.
The O2 gig follows recent reunion performances by other bands such as The Police and Pink Floyd. The Rolling Stones continue to set the pace for ageing rockers, earning about €300m for each of their world tours.
It is unlikely the three men from Led Zeppelin, aged between 59 and 63, are reuniting for financial reasons. Widely lauded as one of the best bands of the 20th century with their album-based exploration of multiple musical genres and influences, they have sold 300 million records. The solo from "Stairway to Heaven" was voted the best guitar rock solo of all time in 2005.
But a chance to witness a reprise of such classics as "Whole Lotta Love", "Stairway to Heaven" and "Black Dog" will cause a stampede for tickets among the band's masses of fans. The band famously refused to endorse the release of any of their song as singles, preferring aficionados to experience their work in the album format or in live performances.
Several companies were yesterday offering tickets costing between €400 and €750 for the performance in the 20,000-seat O2 Arena, amid warnings that touts and fraudsters are seeking to profit from the demand. One company is offering a combined ticket and hotel package costing £369 (€550).
Internet chatrooms carried complaints from fans that the venue was too small for such an eagerly awaited concert and tickets would go to corporate sponsors and predatory touts who will seek to sell them on at inflated prices.
Harvey Goldsmith, the promoter who helped launch Live Aid and the O2, and has promoted Led Zeppelin in the past, warned fans earlier this week not to buy tickets before events had been officially announced. He said: "We are concerned the public will be fleeced. The bottom line is unless official adverts have appeared, tickets are not for sale. Do not buy from unauthorised sources."
After forming in 1968, the four members of Led Zeppelin (whose name according to one version of the band's history is a pun on the phrase 'lead balloon') became probably the world's biggest music act at the height of their popularity in the early 1970s.
They became known almost as much for their off-stage exploits as their musical mastery, often booking entire floors of hotels for drink-fuelled parties. But their music continues to have wide appeal.
Jimmy Page said recently: "I thought the music would endure; I didn't think I would. I always thought I'd be dead by 30, then dead by 40 and on and on."
He is now 63.