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Whole lotta herb tea of Led Zeppelin's stairlift to heaven

In their heyday they were the lords of excess - with vodka for breakfast and champagne for supper fueling a 24-hour party habit.

Yesterday, however, it was clear that Led Zeppelin had come down to Earth after a very long high.

Instead of the notorious "coke" lady employed on their 1973 U.S. tour to keep the rockers rocking, last night's reunion gig was more in need of a tea lady.

The band - reformed for the first time in 19 years - requested little more than a constant flow of caffeine-free herbal tea and sparkling water for their backstage dressing room.

The one-off performance by Robert Plant, 59, Jimmy Page, 63, and John Paul Jones, 61, at London's O2 Arena was in honour of Ahmet Ertegun, the late Atlantic Records founder who first signed them in 1968.

Concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith said: "They are much older now obviously and are very low maintenance. They've asked for cups of tea. We'll have some beer and a bottle of wine for them backstage but they have said they require very little.

"They are extremely focused and have been rehearsing. They know that a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this gig."

The three originals teamed up last night with Jason Bonham, 41, the son of their deceased drummer John Bonham, who died after a breakfast vodka binge while rehearsing for a tour in 1980.

Perhaps aware of their greying temples both Plant and Page have put effort into their appearance as well as their playing in the run-up to the concert.

Plant has been seen working out with a personal trainer while Page was spotted leaving a London tanning salon. More than 20 million fans are believed to have applied in a lottery for one of the 20,000 seats.

Early yesterday tickets with backstage passes were still open for bids on eBay starting at £4,000.

The reunion performance was originally scheduled for November 26 but the audience was kept waiting for an extra month after guitarist Page broke his finger when he tripped over a slab in his garden.

One man, Kenneth Donnell, 25, who was not even born when the band rose to fame, paid £83,000 for two tickets in a charity auction during Terry Wogan's BBC Radio 2 show.

Last night, hundreds of fans from around the world queued up at the arena in Docklands waiting to hear classics such as Whole Lotta Love and Stairway to Heaven.

Security steward Lisa Irvine said: "I've seen people travelling from Canada, Israel and Brazil to see the group. There is such a buzz here."

Jens Nielsen, from Oslo, Norway: "I have been here for three hours.

"It doesn't matter how long I wait because I've been a fan for over ten years. I think I'm going to cry when I actually see them on stage."


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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

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December 16, 1968 - Zep plays Bath Pavilion for a mere £75.
December 26, 1968 - First American concert at the Coliseum in Denver, CO
December xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are reported to have sold 5 million dollars worth of albums in the US
December 11, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are presented gold and platinum discs for their first two albums
December xx, 1970 - The band enters Island Studios to begin work on the fourth album
December xx, 1971 - The band plays a few low-key shows back in England
December 23, 1972 - The band break for Christmas holiday after a London gig
December xx, 1973 - John Paul Jones works on studio productions for Madeline Bell
December xx, 1973 - Joe Massot films Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence at Loch Ness
December 19, 1974 - John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page jam with Bad Company at the Rainbow Theater
December 10, 1975 - Led Zeppelin play a 45-minute show with Norman Hale at Behan’s in Jersey
December xx, 1976 - Led Zeppelin rehearses for the 1977 tour
December 25, 1976 - It’s announced that Plant and Bonham will reunite with the Band of Joy for three shows in the new year
December xx, 1977 - The band minus Robert gather to discuss Led Zeppelin’s future plans
December xx, 1978 - The new album is completed quickly at Polar Studios and mixed at Jimmy’s Plumpton Studio
December xx, 1979 - John Bonham considers joining Paul McCartney’s Wings
December 29, 1979 - The band minus Jimmy Page attend the Paul McCartney And Wings Kampuchea befefit show
December 04, 1980 - Led Zeppelin issue the following statement not to carry on as a band: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
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