I know what you're thinking: "What the hell is a 'near-Led Zeppelin moment'?" Good question.
Four out of five scientists seem to agree that a near-Led Zeppelin moment is a post-1980 live performance by one—or two—members of Led Zeppelin that captures—in any number of ways—some intangible spark of a classic Led Zeppelin performance.
Note that this does not include group performances by all three living members of the band, because that particular collection of musicians—whether it's Live Aid in 1985 or the O2 Arena in 2007—is Led Zeppelin. And something can't be "nearly" something if it is that thing.
The criteria I used to compile this list involves song choice, personnel, gear, the element of surprise, the quality of the performance and, of course, that certain je ne sais quoi.
Anyway, here they are, the Top Five Near-Led Zeppelin Moments (according to one writer with a bit too much time on his hands). And, because our math isn't too good, there are actually six songs here. Enjoy!
John Paul Jones with Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt and Steve Hackett: "Nobody's Fault But Mine"
Here's John Paul Jones fronting a talent-packed lineup featuring Steve Hackett (Check out that harmonica solo!), Nuno Bettencourt, Paul Gilbert, Mike Szuter and Pat Mastelotto. Simply put, this is a rocking performance of a classic Presence tune. You've got a very happy-looking Jones wailing away on steel guitar in front of some Marshall stacks—plus it's an instrumental, so you don't have to deal with the whole unspoken "Robert Plant doesn't quite sound like Robert Plant anymore" issue.
Coverdale/Page: "Black Dog"
This 1993 performance of "Black Dog" by Coverdale/Page in Osaka, Japan, benefits from several factors: First, you get some bonus Zeppelin, since the band teases the audience with several bars of "Out On the Tiles" from Led Zeppelin III (just like Zep used to do it). Then you have the ageless David Coverdale's very convincing vocals. Last but not least, there's the presence of one Jimmy Page, who launches into a lengthy—and very Led Zeppelin-esque—solo on a Gibson Les Paul at around 5:37.
Page & Plant: "Kashmir"
In the Nineties, still-brooding, still-misty-eyed Led Zeppelin fans were treated to a nice surprise: two albums (one live, one studio) and two tours by the officially-working-together-again Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (No comment on how John Paul Jones felt about all this). In 1994, the duo, dubbed Page & Plant, took part in a 90-minute MTV project called UnLedded, which was recorded in Morocco, Wales and London.
In addition to a few new songs and several other Led Zeppelin classics, the show featured a brilliant rendition of "Kashmir." This is not that version (it has disappeared from YouTube). It is, however, equally impressive; it features a fine-voiced Plant, a massive orchestra and Jimmy Page—with another very nice Les Paul.
Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones: "Rock and Roll"
One thing the previous songs on this list lack is the distinctive, heavy bass playing of John Paul Jones. That's not the case with this one. Throw in Jimmy Page (with yet another Les Paul) and the drumming of Dave Grohl (Check out the spot-on drum solo at the end of the song), and you've got something that sounds quite a bit like Led Zeppelin—at least in terms of the instruments. To be brutally honest, Taylor Hawkins should never, ever, sing Led Zeppelin songs outside of his shower.
Grohl sums it up nicely near the end of the video when he says, "Welcome to the greatest fucking day of my whole, entire life." I'm sure he spoke for all the random Zeppelin fans who happened to have been in the audience at London's Wembley Stadium that night in 2008.
Do yourself a favor and jump ahead to 3:18.
Robert Plant with Jimmy Page: "Wearing and Tearing"
Before there was Page & Plant, there were the increasingly frequent late-Eighties Page-and-Plant pairings, including "Tall Cool One" and "Heaven Knows" from Plant's 1988 Now and Zen album and "The Only One" from Page's Outrider album, also from 1988. From that same era comes this almost-note-perfect rendition of Led Zeppelin's "Wearing and Tearing" from the In Through the Out Door sessions, which was finally released on Coda in 1982.
Led Zeppelin never performed this tune live, but Plant—with surprise guest Jimmy Page—more than made up for it at Knebworth in 1990. Imagine you're in the audience, and you've come to see Plant's band, when all of a sudden, Page comes walking out with a red Les Paul. The oddball song choice just adds to the surprise.
Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes, "The Wanton Song"
On August 14, 2000, Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote their new album, Live at the Greek, and their ongoing tour, which wrapped up that October. They decided to play "The Wanton Song," one of many standouts from 1975's Physical Graffiti. The performance is interesting because it includes all of Page's guitar parts—his overdubs and all—from the original Led Zeppelin recording, sort of like a very good Led Zeppelin cover band. And—especially after catching Get the Led Out's show this past New Year's Eve in Pennsylvania, I mean that in a very good way.
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World. He writes things.