But as Robert Plant chatted cosily with Princess Lilian and Jimmy Page politely clapped Nina Persson’s rendition of Whole Lotta Love, the days when Led Zeppelin rampaged through the world’s stadiums seemed distant.
In a packed Concert Hall in Stockholm, the Polar Music Prize was awarded for the fifteenth time. Having swapped denim for dinner suits, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Zoe Bonham, the daughter of John Bonham, were handed the prize by King Carl Gustaf.
In his acceptance speech, the 57 year old Robert Plant commented on how the band was recently summarized in a film clip: energetic, pioneers in the studio, experimental on stage, genre-defying, mystical, arrogant and testosterone-fuelled.
“It feels strange to see those pictures. I don’t even know if I was there,” he said.
He reminded the audience that in 1978 the band recorded its last album in the Polar Studio in Stockholm and referred to the groundbreaking musical journey that was Led Zeppelin’s career.
“This is a special moment for me after a long adventure. Thank you.”
The band broke up when drummer John Bonham died in 1980, but the music has stood the test of time. When the prize-winners were honoured in the Concert Hall, their somewhat younger Swedish colleagues were there to interpret Led Zeppelin’s music.
Nina Persson from The Cardigans sang Whole Lotta Love. Then Maja Ivarsson from The Sounds bashed out Rock and Roll wearing a short dress, startling the Royal family in the front row as she crouched on her haunches.
In reference to Zeppelin’s Moroccan influences, the Swedish band Soundtrack of our Lives performed Kashmir along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – which, earlier in the day, had performed Shostakovich’s eleventh symphony led by the other prize winner, Valery Gergiev.
In honour of the Russian conductor, the mezzo soprano Ekaterina Sementchuk sang Adieu, from Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans.
“I think of my mother, who couldn’t be here today, and my youth in the Caucasus over 40 years ago,” said Gergiev, in an emotional aceptance speech.
After the ceremony, the Grand Hotel hosted a banquet, which was followed by a party at Berns.