The Song Remains The Same

1976

The Song Remains The Same

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

77%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 13

88%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,092
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Movie Info

The 1973 Madison Square Concert is embellished with fantasy footage.

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Critic Reviews for The Song Remains The Same

All Critics (13) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for The Song Remains The Same

  • Jun 21, 2013
    I can't tell if this film's title is referring to the actual song "The Song Remains the Same", or each individual song of this concert's setlist, because you can go take a bath, get a haircut and brush your teeth before coming back to this film to find that Led Zeppelin is still doing the same song that you walked away from, or at least that's the case with "Dazed and Confused". Don't get me wrong, I like this half-hour-long version better than the studio version, and plus, at least it's not as crazy as that one performance of the song at the Forum in Inglewood, CA, on March 27, 1975 (Look it up, bootleggers), but the fact of the matter is that if the term indulgent has never fit in any other situation, it fits in a discussion about this concert, as you can get a lot of things between during a song, even though all you're probably going to do is get high. I'd imagine Zeppelin was hoping for that when this film came out, as it's just a concert film, and they still crowbarred in all sorts of over-the-top psychedelic imagery that gives Pink Floyd a run for their money. This film is so trippy that the band just had to have seen John Bonham's death, and by that, I don't mean that they should have known that good ol' Bongo was going to overdose, - because it was just booze that took him out, like it did to plenty other great drummers (Even Keith Moon died taking pills to battle his alcoholism) - I mean that the psychedelic images presented in this film are so dope-tastic that the "writer" stopped just short of incorporating a scenario in which the group sees into the future. Shoot, they were so awesome that they probably didn't even need drugs to do just that, yet that didn't stop them from doing the only things that great rock bands do better than great rock music: "a whole lotta drugs" (*Insert Jimmy Page slide guitar riff here*). Hey, they were clearly doing something that kept them from doing that whole taking a bath, getting a haircut and brushing your teeth stuff I said you could do during "Dazed and Confused", because these boys were skinny and not especially well-groomed, and yet, they still looked better than me. Seriously though, these guys can sure put on a show, yet the quality of said show is not always consistent, because among the many flaws in this film concert film are issues within the concert itself. Greg Maltz of Blu-Ray.com describes some of the performances upon which this concert film is centered "amateurish", and while I won't go quite as far as to say that, there are moments in this concert that face blandness at the hands of some lapses within the punch of Led Zeppelin's showmanship, as well as the occasional improvable instrumental and vocal beat, yet what might be most offputting about the performances portrayed in this film are intentionally questionable moves by Zeppelin, such as overblown musical expansions that leave certain songs to feel more monotonous than their typically still fairly repetitious studio counterparts, as well as slips into overbearing intensity within, say, Jimmy Page's rapid-fire guitar work and Robert Plant's sometimes desperately commanding vocals. Perhaps the most notable reflection of the band's moments of overbearingness is a performance of "Stairway to Heaven" - Zeppelin's magnum opus and one of the greatest pieces of modern music - that is still pretty strong, but considerably inferior to its studio counterpart, which, in all fairness, raises such a high standard that it just had to be a fluke, with overstylized vocalization, indulgent guitar work and mostly light, but nevertheless present noisiness that dilute the soul that drove the masterpiece in the recording studio, and while that performance is the most obviously flawed, it's not the only problematic note in this concert, whose undeniable flaws slow down momentum in the film, which, of course, takes more blows from its own questionable moments in overstylizing. Now, look, I'm not saying that this film gets over the top, but it opens up with producer Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole as hitmen who bust into gangsters' gambling session to gun down a faceless man, what appears to be a werewolf, one actually completely human gangster, and another seemingly human gangster whose head ends up falling off from the gunfire, leaving several streams of flood of varying color to rise out of his neck, and the funny thing about that opening scene is that it is, of course, only the beginning, after which you can expect to find plenty of filler footage between, if not during the performances that ranges from down-to-earth enough to give this narrative-less documentary on one of the great rock bands some insightfulness, to strangely overstylized, with reasonably well-produced, but ultimately bizarre staged period and fantasy sequences. Some of the non-concert footage livens things up, but on the whole, the almost avant-garde filler feels forced and bizarre, and would be easier to forgive were it not for their being not quite as entertaining by their own right as you might expect, because no matter how over-the-top this film gets at times, when there's no music, or rather, non-bland moments within the music, things start to quiet down, while atmosphere is left to dry up, with dragged out meandering periods within the offstage sequences and, yes, even the fantasy sequences that prove to be often bland, and just as often downright dull. As an experimental concert film, this documentary is nothing if not an overambitious stylized presentation of Led Zeppelin, and sure, there's plenty of color to this project, but just as many questionable moments, both on and off of the Madison Square Garden stage, until you end up with an aimless film that, before too long, doesn't so much feel uneven as much as it feels unfocused. There's a fair bit to like about the film, and a whole lot to like about Led Zeppelin's performance, but the onstage and filmmaking mishaps are much too difficult to deny, slowing down momentum until the final product finds itself wandering into a bit of underwhelmingness. That being said, the film comes close to rewarding on the whole, being a flawed and unfocused documentary of an imperfect concert, but ultimately entertaining enough to be well worth visiting for its delivery of a generally worthwhile concert, as well as a colorful presentation of such a concert. The decision to incorporate filler footage of anything from backstage happenings to staged sequences - primarily of interpretive fantasy stories - as bridges between and visual punch-up during the performances is among the film's biggest problems, as the filler is so forced and typically just plain weird, sometimes to a laughable extent, yet not so much so that there aren't moments in which the filler really does succeed in coloring up this documentary, with the over-the-top fantasy imagery having a certain liveliness to them, while the offstage footage meets its dullness with a degree of intriguing immersion value that gives you insight into the band and their peers when all of the rockery takes a breather (In retrospect, the footage of John Bonham living his life and loving his family would be kind of depressing if the background music of the sequence was him demolishing his drums). Not all of the material within this very visually stylish film works, but it has its moments of liveliness, and is at least consistently well-shot, for although some of the camerawork during the performances are kind of amateurish, like Greg Maltz said (He didn't just have a bone to pick with the band's performance), Ernest Day's cinematography plays with sparse lighting and darker coloring in a fashion that is reasonably attractive, adding to the theatrical look of this high-profile cinematic concert experience. As a showcase of visual artistry, this experimental documentary offers plenty of pretty things to look at when it's not presenting junk that's just plain weird for weird's sake, boasting some nifty imagery and decent cinematography to color things up a bit, so it's not like the final product falls completely flat as a stylish concert film, but when it's all said and done, while this effort has filmmaking flaws to blame most for its underwhelmingness, at the end of the day, it's Led Zeppelin's performance that we have to worry about the most. Like I said, the Madison Square Garden concerts presented in this film are anything but perfect, as there are flaws within Zeppelin's performance, both of a mistake nature and of an intentional nature that reminds you of the band's not always exploring their full, barely paralleled potential, so don't go in expecting something like Bruce Springsteen's visit to MSG in 2000, but do expect one of the great rock bands to put on one heck of a show, with generally charismatic showmanship, stylishly dreamy, if occasionally drab lighting, and thumpingly gripping sound mixing to compliment some good music. Seeing as how "Stairway to Heaven" is certainly not what it used to be, to me, the highlight of the live show has to be "The Rain Song", whose studio debut is reasonably decent, but a meandering, kind of cheesy and not especially well-mixed piece whose blandness makes for a particularly forgettable track on the rather overrated "Houses of the Holy" album (Of course, "Over the Hills and Far Away" is one of the band's best songs), thus making this live translation one of the most considerable studio-to-live improvements I've ever heard, for although the performance gets to be a touch repetitious at times, the dynamic soul and sweep pumped into the well-structured mini-epic is remarkable, with hypnotic slow-downs that go anchored by beautifully well-tuned and subtly stylish guitar work by Jimmy Page, and commanding, yet warm and heartfelt vocals by Robert Plant, as well as thrilling pick-ups that make the climax of the song powerful and dizzying, and the new big ending thunderous and satisfying. Not only is this performance of "The Rain Song" the peak of this concert, but one of Led Zeppelin's best performances of any song ever, which isn't to say that there are plenty other memorable performances seen throughout this concert film, for although some tunes aren't killer, no performance is less than decent (Again, "Stairway to Heaven" is still excellent, it's just that it is, like most every other rock song, not quite its studio counterpart) with "Moby Dick" being a fairly overdrawn (Hey, it was technically an intermission for the rest of the band, so what are you going to do?) yet elaborate showcase of the skill of the late, great John Bonham, the titular "The Song Remains the Same" being an especially entertaining piece of hard rock filler, and "No Quarter" being highlighted by a somewhat overdrawn and overdone guitar solo, yet a generally awesome high mark in the concert that marries hypnotic somberness - particularly reflected by John Paul Jones' lovely keyboard work - with the powerful and technically-charged guitar work of Jimmy Page, and driving force of Bonham's drumming, in a dynamic and gripping fashion that creates such highlights as one of Page's best riffs (Hey, the riff was among the handful of killer things in the studio version, but they even made that more awesome in this live translation), while the notorious, almost half-hour-long version of "Dazed and Confused" proves to be exhaustingly overlong and indulgent, but generally excellent, with a trippy and solid bass performance by Jones, heart-racing drum performance by Bonham, and driving guitar performance by Page that boasts a certain epic sweep and dynamicity, as well as a stylish, progressive-esque technical style that makes Page's efforts technically upstanding and, in some ways, innovative (Man, you've just got to love that bow guitar solo). The concert has flaws, and the film certainly has too many shortcomings to be carried as rewarding by its primary focus, but when it's all said and done, the show upon which this documentary is centered is almost enough to make the final product rewarding on the whole, having enough thorough entertainment to keep you going, no matter how much momentum slow down. When the song is finally done, the final product takes too many blows from shortcomings in the concert it centers around, questionable stylistic choices, dull spots and unfocused aimlessness to escape underwhelmingness, yet there are still enough lively spots in the filler footage, handsome moments in cinematography, and high marks in the entertaining concert that stands at center focus with such must-see/hear highlights as "The Rain Song", "No Quarter, "Dazed and Confused", etc. for "The Song Remains the Same" to stand as an enjoyable, if overambitious and flawed stylish presentation the live skill of Led Zeppelin, one of the great rock bands. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2010
    The Song Remains the Same is a concert film by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. The recording of the film took place during three nights of concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City, during the band's 1973 concert tour of the United States. The film premiered on 20 October 1976, at Cinema I in New York and at Warner West End Cinema in London two weeks later.It was accompanied by a soundtrack album of the same name. Promotional materials stated that the film was "the band's special way of giving their millions of friends what they had been clamouring for - a personal and private tour of Led Zeppelin. For the first time the world has a front row seat on Led Zeppelin."A classic documment by the genious band of rock.Enjoy.
    Andre T Super Reviewer
  • Feb 15, 2010
    Not content with merely singing about it Led Zeppelin thought it would be a good idea for the band to dress up like jackasses and reenact scenes from The Lord of the Rings. John Bonham as a Hobbit, there's something no one needed to see.
    Brett W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 20, 2008
    This film shows Led Zeppelin at their legendary 1973 Madison Square Garden concert with mixed in scenes of the group members at their homes and in elaborate fantasy settings. John Bonham's live version of his "Moby Dick" drum solo is magical as it always was. As a drummer, I never tire of listening to his thunderous, jazzy brilliance.
    Eric S Super Reviewer

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