Rumors swirl about a Zeppelin tour

Times Staff Writer

Will Led Zeppelin play Bonnaroo, the huge rock festival staged each June in Manchester, Tenn.?

That's the big rumor in the music industry leading up to the classic-rock demigods' performance today at a tribute concert in London and lead singer Robert Plant's recent comments advocating a full-scale reunion tour (which Rolling Stone has already dubbed "the biggest tour ever" on its cover).

Bonnaroo, which hosted a high-profile stop on the Police reunion tour this year, would seem like an ideal spot (and Zep bassist John Paul Jones even played there already as part of this year's bill) but we hear that Zeppelin will not be flying high at the jam-inclined festival.

"It's just a rumor, none of that is real," says Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, the concert promotion company that runs O2, the London arena where Zep will be playing in a tribute to Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder of Atlantic Records and one of the most celebrated figures in the music industry. AEG is pushing hard for the Zeppelin tour; Phillips said Friday that he was headed from Los Angeles to England to "meet with Bill Curbishly, the band's manager, and hand him a huge offer."

Plant has a tour on tap with Alison Krauss to promote their new duet album, "Raising Sand." The Zeppelin tour would have Plant, guitar hero Jimmy Page, Jones and drummer Jason Bonham (behind the kit in place of his late father, rock icon John Bonham), and, by all appearances, it seems to be girding up with the same positive inertia that recently carried the Police back on the road and the Eagles back into the studio.

"The reality is Zeppelin has not agreed to a tour," Phillips said. "They want to play this show and see how it goes, how it feels, and then go from there. There's nothing firm yet, but maybe afterward."

Zeppelin is the bestselling heavy-metal act ever, with nearly 110 million albums shipped, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. The group hasn't toured since 1980 (the year Bonham died), and their last full concert dates in the U.S. were in 1977. (The surviving members did perform a short set at the industry banquet for their 1995 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

How much appetite is there for a Zeppelin reunion? Industry sources compare the likely box office to the recent record-setting road runs by the Rolling Stones or U2, but it may be even more: Organizers of the online ticket lottery for the Ertegun tribute said 20 million requests came in for a show with 16,000 seats.


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