Wheatonians of all ages were stunned Friday morning, not only by the renewed availability of citrus fruits, canned goods, and other sundries at the Georgia-Reedie intersection, but also (secondarily) by the unannounced reunion of the English rock band Led Zeppelin, who regrouped in a decreasingly quiet corner of the new Safeway for their first live show with John Bonham* since 1978 and their first concert in Wheaton since 1969.**
Zeppelin ripped through a short set of hits, starting with Celebration Day, ranging from Kashorkreditmir to Custard Pie to The Lime Song, and finishing with a blistering The Safeway Remains The Same (But Now With Starbucks Inside). MoCo Executive Ike Leggett joined the crowd of hundreds dancing throughout the shiny new store, uprooting shelf displays and causing cleanups on aisles 3, 7, and 9.
“I’m really just here for the
photo op baked goods,” said Leggett, “but these guys sound pretty good, don’t they?”
Few had previously known the true extent of Zeppelin’s connection with Wheaton. Aside from the legendary 1969 show at the Wheaton Youth Center, singer Robert Plant also noted, over the opening riff to Escalator to Heaven, that the classic song was originally inspired by a post-WYC-show, adrenaline-and-drug-fueled premonition of Wheaton Metro’s longest-in-the-Western Hemisphere trio of moving staircases, which were completed in 1990.
“I’ve been wanting to return to Wheaton for decades,” said Plant, “and finally there was a suitable occasion, with the opening of this fine modern supermarket.”
The band also unveiled a new song, Feral Urbane Blues, hastily written Thursday night over vegetarian kaprow and several cases of Singha in a back room at Ruan Thai.
“I always fondly remember our ’69 show in Wheaton. whether it really happened or not,” said guitarist Jimmy Page as he purchased a cup of pre-show mulligatawny from the Safeway deli. “Who’s to say? I mean it’s no Machynlleth, but still quite wonderful. This soup is bloody tasty, innit?”
Plant and company refused to answer questions about possible other gigs, and after their performance the band was quickly swept by management into a large van in the Fern Street loading docks and whisked off to an undisclosed location. MoCo and Safeway officials also refused to comment.
Nice to have a grocery store there again.
* I can’t explain it, but there he was in the dairy section, banging away on the skins, looking somewhat moldy and less manic than before, but otherwise no worse for wear.
** Just like Woodstock, and just like today’s Safeway show, you only remember it if you weren’t there.
Substantial reporting on this story was done by Mrs. Me, for which I thank her profusely; however, any factual inaccuracies are mine alone — though I don’t think you’ll find any.