After the lights went down at London's O2 Arena, newsreel footage of a 1973 performance in Tampa, Fla., was projected onstage. With thousands of fans worked into a frenzy, drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late John Bonham, began thumping the skittering beat, soon to be joined by guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones and singer Robert Plant.
The song, rarely played live in the band's heyday, proved a perfect starting point for this performance:
"In days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man," sang Plant, showing no trouble reproducing his trademark wail at 59. "Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can. ... No matter how I try, I find my way to the same old jam."
While Page and Bonham both sported sunglasses, Plant mercifully kept his button-down shirt buttoned up.
Zeppelin returned for the benefit show to play its first full set since 1980, the year John Bonham died after choking on his own vomit. Robbed of "Bonzo's" pulsing drums, the band decided it couldn't go on and split up on Dec. 4, 1980.
Now, with an estimated 20 million fans vying for tickets pared down to a lucky 18,000 or so - including one who paid more than $168,000 for his pair - most of the rest are hoping for more tour dates.
"The whole idea of being on a cavalcade of merciless repetition is not what it's all about," the 59-year-old Page told The Sunday Times leading up to the performance.
That certainly won't be music to the ears of millions of fans who are hoping to hear "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Kashmir" in concert again. Plant, who recently released a successful album with bluegrass star Alison Krauss, did give an indication that this may not be the last of Led Zeppelin, however.
"It wouldn't be such a bad idea to play together from time to time," Plant added.
Monday's concert wasn't the first Led Zeppelin reunion, but it was surely the biggest. The band played together in 1985 at Live Aid, and joined forces again three years later - with Jason Bonham on drums - to play at the 40th anniversary concert for Atlantic Records.
At their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1995, they teamed up with other musicians for another short set.
Priced at $250, tickets have been selling on the Internet for upwards of $2,000.
Kenneth Donnell, 25, said he paid $168,500 for his tickets from British Broadcasting Corp. radio's "Things That Money Can't Buy" charity auction last month.
"I was gutted that I was not born in the 1960s and able to see Led Zeppelin in the 1970s like my dad," Donnell told The Sunday Times.
Monday's show is dedicated to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died last year. Proceeds from the show are to go to the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, which provides scholarships to universities in the United States, Britain and Turkey.
The show was originally scheduled for Nov. 26, but was postponed until Monday because Page injured the little finger on his left hand.