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Strider

STRIDER'S 1977 TOUR THREAD

229 posts in this topic

Post #21: Led Zeppelin Rip It Up on a Saturday Night!

Date: June 24 & 25, 1977

Once again, I was grateful to have a day to recuperate in between concerts. It felt sooooo gooood to sleep in Friday morning. 

With two gigs now under my belt, I was beginning to get a grasp on the setlist and general aura of the 1977 tour. Comparing the April 1 Dallas setlist I clipped from the LA Times to the notes I made for the June 21 & 23 shows, it appeared that:

1. Over the Hills and Far Away had replaced In My Time of Dying in the #4 slot.

2. Whole Lotta Love had replaced Black Dog as the first encore song.

3. They had added a wild card slot in the third hour...both Heartbreaker on the 21st and Trampled Under Foot on the 23rd had come as a complete surprise. It's always sweet to get bonus songs.

There were still three nights to go...plenty of chances for In My Time of Dying and Black Dog to make an appearance. It still felt strange to see a Led Zeppelin concert without Black Dog and Dazed and Confused in the setlist...especially Dazed and Confused. I heard a few people (usually first-timers) disappointed in not getting Dazed and Confused...they had seen the movie "The Song Remains the Same" and were hoping to see the song in person.

Of course, they still got the bow solo...with an even better light show than we got in 1973. But that's the nature of a band that keeps putting out great albums. As the setlist grows, some oldies have to be tossed aside to make way for new classics. That may piss off some newcomers who never had a chance to see the oldies performed in concert. 

I, for one, had no problem forsaking Black Dog and Dazed and Confused for Nobody's Fault But Mine and Achilles Last Stand and Ten Years Gone.

My initial impressions after the first two concerts I saw.

1. The Song Remains the Same/Sick Again/Nobody's Fault But Mine: The first 20 minutes or so were an all-out swaggering assault. Their goal? To hammer, hammer, hammer...and hammer the audience with an opening blow to the senses. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Aerosmith together on stage couldn't equal the sheer sonic blitzkrieg Led Zeppelin unleashed in those opening moments....and the audience ravenously ate it up. Jimmy Page in sunglasses and scarf, spinning and dropping to his knees to tease the audience with his double-neck. John Paul Jones (playing his fancy new bass) and John Bonham (with his shiny stainless steel Ludwigs) in lockstep rhythm rattling your bones. Robert Plant majesticallly striding the stage, arms holding the microphone aloft, waiting for his cue to come in. Bonham, especially, seemed like a pack of starving wolverines unleashed on their prey. He was improvising fills and relentlessly embellishing the songs in ways I had never heard bedore...and never in the same way or same place. How the others weren't thrown off their game by Bonzo's random clusterbombs was a testament to their inherent chemistry, even when chemically-altered to the gills. Plant blows the lyrics to Sick Again both nights. It's always 50/50 with him.

2. Over the Hills and Far Away/Since I've Been Loving You: Peaks and valleys. The band gives the audience a chance to catch its breath with these two dramatic songs that alternate soft and hard passages, both building to increasingly intense peaks before gently coming to a graceful end. The full recovery of Plant's voice from the ravages of 1975 is increasingly apparent as the concert moves on. SIBLY is the first song of the night from the band's early days...everything so far has been from Houses of the Holy and after.

3. No Quarter: In many respects, this took the place of Dazed and Confused as the improvisational centerpiece of the set. In retrospect, I could have done without the boogie piano segment...preferring the more jazz-oriented dark 1975 versions. But it was still like getting free bonus music each night...made up on the spot by Messrs Jones, Bonham and Page. Something you did not get with 99% of other rock bands. The dry ice and lighting was incredibly atmospheric...your mind was transported far away. If only the laser light show vibrating in time with the music had lasted longer. Plant again turns in powerful vocals...almost scary on the "dogs of doom are howling more" part at the end, with Jimmy going wild on the wah-wah pedal. We are about one hour into the set, so this is a convenient time to take a bathroom break for those not into Jonesey's piano solos.

4. Ten Years Gone: Yes! One of the best-loved tracks from the beloved Physical Graffiti album, this was an absolute crowd favourite from the start. A great addition to the set and a demonstration of the band's versatility on stage and ability to create a massive amount of sound and texture with basically just three instrumentalists. After the first bludgeoning 20 minutes of the show, Ten Years Gone ended the "light and shade" segment (OTAFA-SIBLY-NQ-TYG) with a glorious bang. It was a trip seeing John Paul Jones whip out that triple-neck...all while manipulating the bass pedals. It was also my first time seeing Jimmy Page play a Telecaster.

5. The Acoustic Set: Missing in action since 1972 (although Plant mistakenly says 1971), this indeed brought a warm vibe and turned the giant Forum into a campfire hootenany. Let Roger Waters bitch at fans and self-righteously complain about the sterility and impersonality of arena rock shows.  Led Zeppelin made a mockery of Roger's whinging. Perhaps it's a question of you get out of something what you put in. Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin never had a problem connecting with the audience in big arena and stadium concerts. There they all sat...from left to right, Jones with his triple-neck, Robert, Jimmy, and Bonzo. I would have liked for them to include That's the Way, Gallows Pole or Hey Hey What Can I Do. Battle of Evermore was surprising, given that they had no Sandy Denny or female equivalent handy. Brave John Paul Jones. This was the first time seeing Jimmy play mandolin. Jones always played mandolin in the 1972 shows while Jimmy played acoustic guitar. With Jonesey's triple-neck having a mandolin, I assumed he would perform mandolin duties on Battle of Evermore. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Jimmy looked like he had fun playing the mandolin. I have heard a lot of people say that Battle of Evermore was a song they skipped over on the way to Stairway to Heaven. So I think those people would be surprised how popular was at those shows at the Forum. Battle of Evermore drew a huge cheer every night. Of course, it was nothing compared to the rapturous response Going to California received. The ovation was always one of the loudest of the evening...only Kashmir and Stairway to Heaven topped it. For Going to California Jimmy switched to his Martin acoustic and Jones played mandolin. The adulation the acoustic set received showed that the band made the correct decision in bringing it back. It was a way of sharing the Welsh and Scottish countryside that the band took inspiration from to us Americans. Then they ramped up the energy with Black Country Woman and Bron-Yr-Stomp, bringing the acoustic set to a high energy close, and providing another peak to the concert. Jones picked up a bass (a funny-looking stand-up model) for the first time in an hour, since Over the Hills and Far Away, and Bonham was back behind his steel Ludwigs.

6. White Summer/Black Mountain Side/Kashmir: What I call the "Passage to India" segment. This featured Jimmy alone at first, sitting down with his Danelectro tuned to dadgad. Bonham played along for a bit, but basically your eyes were focused on Jimmy aglow in the low and subtle lighting. Led Zeppelin were always masters at dynamics...at lulling you into a sense of peace and tranquility before whipping out the hammer. Think of side 2 of Led Zeppelin IV and the calmness of Going to California just before the storm of When the Levee Breaks. This was similar. Because of the length of White Summer-Black Mountain Side, it was eaay to find yourself drifting into a chill state of mind. Before you realized what was happening, Jimmy was bolting upright and those gargantuan Godzilla riffs of Kashmir were crushing your skull as you were blinded by the white-hot intensity of the light. The rest of the song was the band applying the torniquet of tension ever tighter and tighter, spiraling and spiraling, driving the madness into your brain until they finally release it at around the 4:24 mark with Plant's epic roar and Bonham resetting the beat. All the while the shifting lights recreate the feeling of desert heat and dust in June. Seeing Kashmir performed anytime was special. Seeing Kashmir in 1977 was one of those supreme godhead moments that are impossible to adequately describe to someone who wasn't there.

7. Drum/Guitar solos: By the time Kashmir was over, more than two hours had passed since the show started. Not only was Led Zeppelin well pass the contractual amount every band is legally obligated to play (generally 45 minutes), but they were well pass the usual concert-length by every other band playing in 1977 (save Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and a few prog-rock bands). So what if the drum and guitar solos were self-indulgent? If you didn't like them, you could leave and still be content that you got two-plus hours of Led Zeppelin. Either go home and beat the traffic...or just take a bathroom break or hit the concession stands and look over the merch table until Achilles Last Stand begins. Yes, the solos were definitely helped by the visuals. It was a "you had to be there" moment. But, as someone who likes the Velvet Underground, Steve Reich, Stockhausen, Faust, and a bunch of other experimental-noise music, I can listen to Jimmy's noise solos even without the aid of visuals. Anyway, the solos didn't even seem that long. Around 15 minutes each by my reckoning on the 21st and 23rd. And if it helped Robert's foot rest for the final stretch run of the concert, all the better.

8. Achilles Last Stand/Stairway to Heaven: The epic close. The most popular song from Presence, followed by Led Zeppelin's most popular song period. I have called Achilles speed-prog or some other descriptors. It straddled that fine line between fast and furious and unhinged out-of-control. It also was an illustration of how hard the band worked...especially Jimmy Page. After three hours they are still attacking their instruments with incredible ferocity. I loved how Jimmy and Robert had a little pas de deux move worked out for the song. Stairway is the obvious set-closer. People can complain now about the song being overplayed but the audience in 1977 felt differently. There was no way Led Zeppelin could not play Stairway. It meant something to a whole lotta people. Just as I associate No Quarter with the colour blue, blue and gold is how I always think of Stairway to Heaven. Yellow light lighting Robert's hair from behind, giving him a golden halo, and blue light on him from the front. That, and Jimmy raising his double-neck to the heavens during the fanfare before the solo. The fact that Jimmy creates a new solo every time. Robert shaking his tambourine. Bonham blasting away on the drums, constantly creating new tempos and fills.The spinning mirrorball at the end. The gigantic roar from the crowd. The sea of Bic lighters. Another emotional peak has been reached.

9. Encore - Whole Lotta Love/Rock and Roll: Real savage, punk-like takes on both songs. Nothing prettty. Just raw rock 'n' roll. Jimmy's guitar is in your face and Bonzo is still playing like a man-on-fire. My only gripe is how dismissive they are towards Whole Lotta Love. One of my favourite moments of Whole Lotta Love in the past was the theremin freakout and the oldies medley. Even in 1975 when they shortened it and linked it to Black Dog, they still kept the theremin bit and even added a cool funk section, incorporating The Crunge. But in 1977, it is just the first two verses and chorus and then it goes into Rock and Roll. Why even bother playing it at all if you are going to neuter the song like that? Oh well...just a tiny complaint after three plus hours of awesomeness.

10. The tickets and tour ads did not lie...it truly was as advertised, "An Evening With Led Zeppelin". When you took in how much time you had to prep for the show, drive to the Forum, get your snacks and stuff and find your seat, then after the concert make your way back home...it was basically a 5pm to 2am block of time. Nine total hours.

So yes, I was most certainly looking forward to more Led Zeppelin concerts and not regretting getting tickets to multiple nights. Some changes in the setlist wouldn't hurt, naturally. But I was still willing to go the long haul.

Being that the 24th was a Friday, I took the opportunity to go see "The Song Remains the Same" at the midnight movies at our local theatre. Having the concerts still fresh in my mind, it was quite easy to contrast the differences between 1973 Zeppelin and 1977 Zeppelin...and what was the same.

For the Saturday June 25th show, I was going with a school pal, his girlfriend, and a girl that I asked when I found out she was into Led Zeppelin and had a ticket to the show. Remember that girl in my Algebra class earlier in the thread? That's the one. Her favourite Zeppelin songs were Over the Hills and Far Away and Stairway to Heaven, so she was thrilled when I told her the band played both of those songs at the earlier shows.

We all met at my friend's house that Saturday afternoon. Before I left my house, I almost forgot my tickets...since my friend and I were going to both Saturday and Sunday shows, I was staying the weekend at his place and needed both tickets. Having some time to kill before my friend's older brother drove us to the show, we smoked a little out in his treehouse...just enough to get a slight buzz. My friend was bummed when he heard about Keith Moon showing up the night of the 23rd. "Who knows" I said, "maybe someone else will pop up one of the other nights?"

Three of our seats were together in the Colonnade section on Jonesey's side (my friend, his gf, and me)...while my girl's seat was in another Colonnade section. We just crammed her in with us...sitting on my lap/legs. After being in the Loge, it kind of sucked. But we weren't in the last rows at least....only halfway up.

The crowd was amped as usual for a Saturday night. I was hoping the band would spring some setlist surprises for this Saturday night. I can't remember what time we got to the Forum but the wait seemed longer for the band to come on. Maybe it was because we were a little stoned. Maybe it was because we had girls with us.

That meant paying attention to them as much as the show and making sure they were comfortable and not feeling hassled. It meant endless trips to get them drinks and stuff, or escorting them to the ladies room. Okay, maybe 'endless' is an exaggeration. One thing we did take care of early was getting tour programs and shirts before the concert.

At long last, the music on the PA stopped, the house lights darkened, and the band, one by one, sauntered on stage. The usual testing of instruments commenced. I can't remember whose idea it was to bring them, but after the look of alarm on the girls' faces, we offered them earplugs.

I always was struck by the casual start of most Led Zeppelin concerts. Apart from the theatrical use of the drone immediately leading into Immigrant Song in 1972, the band shied away from the kind of dramatic entrances favoured by the Rolling Stones and ELO and the like. No, they would just stroll on stage and do a mini-soundcheck before blasting off.

There was a lot of jostling for seating in the beginning, even more than usual, which made it hard to focus on the show. I think I even heard a scuffle going on to my right. Plus, the usual assortment of cherry bomb explosions and all sorts of drinks and illicit substances being passed around made me sort of nervous. 

Again, the opening was a powerful rush. Again, Jimmy was wearing the white suit. Again, Jones was all in white, too.

It wasn't long before we got our setlist change. Finallly, In My Time of Dying made its appearance....replacing Over the Hills and Far Away. Or at least pushing it to another spot in the set. As one who loved the 1977 OTHAFAs, I was hoping they would still play it later that night.

Another fun surprise for this Little Richard fan was a short improv rendition of "Rip It Up", one of Little Richard's hits, right in the middle of In My Time of Dying. 

SIBLY turned into cuddling time with my girl. The constant aroma of marijuana and whatever-else was affecting us...as was the sensuous SIBLY. No Quarter was when the girls decided to take a break to the ladies room. Which was okay...at least they waited until the piano solo and I could still hear the song from the Forum concourse waiting for the girls to come out. While I waited for them, my friend went to get some snacks for us. It almost worked out that we all arrived back at our seats at the same time. A couple seats had opened up next to us...either they had moved to other seats or left the show, so now we weren't as scrunched in as before.

I was glad to be back in time for Ten Years Gone. Once again, it sounded so good. Jimmy was getting such emotion out of that Telecaster. By this time I was politely passing on all the illicit substances making the rounds. I didn't mind being a little buzzed, but I didn't want to be completely zonked. Not with the girls with us. So I didn't partake...you never could be sure what was in one of those joints or pipes being passed around.

The acoustic set also was excellent...it was hard to tell in all the excitement which song was better from night to night, but whether it was the Saturday night atmosphere or being at the show with friends, I just remember the acoustic set vibe on Saturday being very exuberant. Of course, the band were just little dots on stage from where we were sitting. But it still felt like Robert was singing directly to you.

That led to another jaw-dropping powerful Kashmir. No mistakes during the breakdown or during the coda, as has happened throughout its concert history. I didn't headbang or do anything during the song this time...I just sat and took it all in. From our seats you could see the entire sea of humanity swelling around the Forum, bathed in the glow of the lights on stage. With hanging mists of smoke...either coming from the stage or from the audience. It was hard to tell which. Robert Plant again gave a performance that was miles above and beyond 1975. Jimmy stalked and spun around and around in tune with the music. Jonesey's mellotron was mystical and melodramatic.

From the majestic splendour of Kashmir to the frenzied-funk of Trampled Under Foot. The best description I ever read about Trampled Under Foot was in Creem magazine. The writer wrote something about the effect of the song being like the stage moving forward crushing the audience in its path. It was also quite a kaleidoscope of colour...amazing how effective a cheap disco light trick could be under the right circumstances. Trampled should have always been in the 1977 setlist, in my opinion. It was a heavy dose of funky fun.

Now it was solo time...first the drums. After the relative 15-minute brevity of June 21 and 23, goddamn if Bonzo didn't go back to his 30-minute marathon days. The girls were feeling wiped out by this point. We let them rest...hell, even I took a rest at this point. The week was beginning to catch up with me.

At least Jimmy kept his solo spot the usual length of around 15-minutes. Visually, the laser show was the highlight of the night and the way we could hear Jimmy's guitar and theremin bouncing around the Forum from where we were sitting was a true mind-fuck. If I had been on acid, I probably would have melted. There is no sound more wicked than the sound of a bowed guitar.

If the girls had been sleeping, they surely weren't by now...and the opening blast of Achilles Last Stand made sure of that. Once again, it was a pure white-hot jolt of energy. Although, if you listen to the performance now, it's a bit more controlled and together than the first three nights. Bonzo still is drumming energetically, but the song doesn't have that "about to combust" feel I felt the other nights. I only wished our seats were closer so I could watch Jimmy more closely. He works so damn hard on this song.

Stairway to Heaven brings a squeal of delight from the girls. We reach for our Bics and flick them alight, holding them high. By this night, I was still not sure if I liked Jones switching to the Grand Piano. It sure gave the song a different feel. Plant apparently had made his "Do you remember laughter?" schtick a permanent feature of the song...and the movie "The Song Remains the Same" helped immortalize it and the crowd ate it up. No matter how many times radio played the song or how many times you saw them in concert, you still got chills when Jimmy raised his double-neck, and got ready to take us on a journey during his solo. Of course, you always got people singing along to this song, but tonight there was a particularly drunk guy singing off-key somewhere in our vicinity that was annoying. Fortunately, whether he stopped himself or someone told him to stop, his caterwauling did not last long.

During the long ovation after the song, waiting for the band to come back for an encore, I kept repeating "play a different song...play a different song". We had got In My Time of Dying earlier and I was hoping for something new for the encore. Six nights at the Forum...they should have done a different encore each night. 

When they finally came back on stage, I kind of groaned when they started Whole Lotta Love. A couple verses and into Rock and Roll is what I figured was coming. So I was delighted to be proved wrong when as Whole Lotta Love died down, Jimmy began the barrage of chords that signaled Communication Breakdown. Woohoo! Headbanging time!  An ocean of heads in the glow of the Forum hopping up and down. Problem was...it was over in a flash. No long funky interlude a la the 1973 tour.

It was Saturday night. We didn't want to go home yet. We wanted more. The crowd stomped and screamed for a second encore. Even when the house lights came on we still yelled for more. Old-timers still had memories of those multiple-encore shows at the Forum in the days of yore.

But it wasn't going to happen...at least not tonight. Perhaps they would do a second encore on the last night to make it special?

No time to think of that...we had to make our way through the post-concert debris of the Forum to find our ride home. It was way after midnight and our shoes were sticky from all the spilled crap on the floor. Then we almost forgot the bag with the tour program and shirts. Well...that was a tragedy. In the course of the night, our bag which we stashed under our seat, had been stepped on and had all manner of drinks spilled into it...the program was totally trashed. But at least the shirts could be saved with a good washing.

The girls had to be dropped off at their respective homes first. My date wished they had played OTHAFA....and she would have preferred Rock and Roll over Communication Breakdown. Oh well, wasn't my fault she could only go on a Saturday night.

It is funny what a slight change in setlist can do to the aura of a show. Because of the presence of IMTOD and Trampled Under Foot and Communication Breakdown in the set, not to mention the brute force of Kashmir and the lengthy drum solo, the June 25 show at the Forum felt heavier, more metal, than the other nights. It reminded me of the heaviosity of the 1975 shows.

I wasn't sure if that made it better than the other nights, but at least it was a change. It made me more excited for the last two shows...gave me hope that more changes in the setlist might be in store.

And for the first time all week, I had less than 24 hours (barely 12) to recuperate and be ready for the next show.

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I have my popcorn ready. 

Great thread. Brings back old memories. 

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When watching live versions of LZ, I love when the camera pans to the audience. That awestruck look on the faces of the audience members is priceless! It always makes me wonder who they are, what they must have been thinking, and where are they now? Thanks for bringing a voice to those lovely faces, Strider.  Great job! 

:cheer:

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Gave June 27 a listen this morning while doing a massive clean on the house...looking forward to yer recollections on that show, Strider- it's my favourite of the L.A. '77 run.

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Thanks again, Strider!  Can't wait for your recollections of the 26th & 27th!

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2 minutes ago, Nutrocker said:

Gave June 27 a listen this morning while doing a massive clean on the house...looking forward to yer recollections on that show, Strider- it's my favourite of the L.A. '77 run.

Really?  I do enjoy it quite a bit, and had my jaw drop during Jimmy's solo in TUF when I was listening today, but I don't think I could rank it higher than 5th personally. It does have a fantastic NQ though, a great acoustic set, and I love that little prologue Jimmy adds to the intro to OTHAFA.  

I was just reading the Year of Led Zeppelin review of this show, and I think it is excessively harsh.  Along those lines, it is beyond me how June 13 & June 21 are the only N.Y. & L.A. shows that he has labeled "Must Hear," when he has April 27 as a "Must Hear"!  6/10, 6/11, 6/22, 6/23 & 6/26 easily outclass 4/27 IMO.

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On 6/27/2017 at 11:28 PM, Bonzo_fan said:

Really?  I do enjoy it quite a bit, and had my jaw drop during Jimmy's solo in TUF when I was listening today, but I don't think I could rank it higher than 5th personally. It does have a fantastic NQ though, a great acoustic set, and I love that little prologue Jimmy adds to the intro to OTHAFA.  

I was just reading the Year of Led Zeppelin review of this show, and I think it is excessively harsh.  Along those lines, it is beyond me how June 13 & June 21 are the only N.Y. & L.A. shows that he has labeled "Must Hear," when he has April 27 as a "Must Hear"!  6/10, 6/11, 6/22, 6/23 & 6/26 easily outclass 4/27 IMO.

Oh yeah, June 27 isn't a perfect show by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy it- you pretty much nailed all the high points. Hell, I even listened to the goddamn 26 minute Noise Solo yesterday and I usually skip those :lol: 

As for the Year Of Led Zeppelin guy, I do sorta have to call into question his objectivity when he considers 4/27 a must hear buy not 4/28, which is easily one of the best shows of the tour...

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22 minutes ago, Nutrocker said:

Oh yeah, June 27 isn't a perfect show by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy it- you pretty much nailed all the high points. Hell, I even listened to the goddamn 26 minute Noise Solo yesterday and I usually skip those :lol: 

As for the Year Of Led Zeppelin guy, I do sorta have to call into question his objectivity when he considers 4/27 a must hear buy not 4/28, which is easily one of the best shows of the tour...

Fair enough.  If I were ranking the three marathon tour/leg-closing shows though, I would probably go:

1. 3/27/75

2. 5/25/75

3. 6/27/77 -- more a compliment to the other two than a slight against this one...

I just checked, and 4/28 is also a "Must Hear".  I'd say it should be 4/28 & 4/30, not 4/27 & 4/28.  4/27 clearly got a boost for its notoriety and the sound quality--I wonder why 6/23 didn't get the same boost...

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Posted (edited)

Post #22: How Weak the Mortal Frame

Date: June 26, 1977

To paraphrase Robert Plant's opening remarks at the June 23 concert, it was great to be back at the Forum Saturday night for a third Led Zeppelin concert... but how weak the mortal frame. I was exhausted.

After dropping off the girls at their homes after the show Saturday night (by now early Sunday morning), we went back to my friend's house and since it was a pleasant summer evening, grabbed some pillows and blankets and crashed in his treehouse in the backyard.

Upon waking around noon, I noticed I ached all over...especially around my neck and shoulders. Excessive headbanging had left its mark. My voice was shot from all the yelling and screaming. The ringing in my ears had not dissipated. On top of the concert volume, another cherry bomb (M80) had gone off near me and, quite frankly, startled me enough that I jumped.

I go to more than 60 concerts a year now and even the loudest concerts today don't feel half as loud as shows in the 1970s and '80s. Only Mötörhead, the Buzzcocks, Sunno)) and Swans are shows I have seen in the past 5 years that could compare to the shows I saw in the '70s.

Led Zeppelin was not only loud, but their concerts were marathon tests of endurance. It's one thing to see a band such as Sabbath, AC/DC, or Ramones play loud for an hour or 80-90 minutes. But three-plus hours takes a toll on you. A Led Zeppelin concert was like standing in the ring with Joe Frazier throwing body blows at you for three hours. Every thump of John Bonham's kick drum rattled your ribcage. You shook me, John Bonham...you shook me all night long.

After three concerts in five days, now I had to finish with back-to-back-to-back Zeppelin shows. Nine-plus cumulative hours of pounding. For that reason alone, I decided to wear earplugs at the Sunday(June 26) and Monday (27th) concerts. This would be my first time wearing earplugs at a show since I stopped wearing them in 1973.

Nobody would disturb us in the treehouse, and my buddy still had a little grass left that his older brother have him. So to ease our pain, we smoked some and saved the rest for later. 

My friend said if Led Zeppelin had played the same setlist Saturday night as they played on the first night, he might have decided to sell his ticket and skipped the show on the 26th. But they played three songs that they didn't on the 21st, so he was happy and hopeful for more additions to the setlist. As was i.

Like "The Rover"! What was up with teasing the audience every night with the intro and then not delivering the song? Ask most fans at that time and most would tell you "The Rover" was one of their favourite songs off "Physical Graffiti"...and certainly more popular and played on the radio more often than "Sick Again". 

I understand the link between "Sick Again" and Los Angeles and why the band would want to sing it at the Forum, especially. But with six shows, certainly the band could have found room in the setlist for "The Rover"? Perhaps do "The Rover" instead of "Sick Again" on alternate nights? 

Another mystery to long-time concert-goers was why "When the Levee Breaks" never got a shot at all the shows they played in L.A., despite the constant yelling for the song by people for years. Every Led Zeppelin concert I went to was accompanied by constant shouts for "When the Levee Breaks", "Gallows Pole", "Heartbreaker", "Whole Lotta Love", "Rock and Roll", and "Stairway to Heaven".

"Physical Graffiti" was still massively popular in 1977 (totally overshadowing "Presence") and songs from the album received heavy rotation on the local FM rock radio stations: KMET, KLOS, and KWST. "Physical Graffiti" songs I was hoping to hear at these 1977 Forum shows included "In the Light", "The Rover", "The Wanton Song", "Houses of the Holy", "Custard Pie", and "Down by the Seaside". Even "Boogie With Stu", haha. Since they had been played in 1975, I was pretty sure "Kashmir", "Trampled Under Foot", "In My Time of Dying" would be back in the setlist for 1977.

Right about now, I can hear you saying "You should be thankful for what you got and stop complaining about setlist minutiae." In hindsight, you may be right. But that is what we did back then...bitch if a band didn't play our favourite song or change up the setlist if they were playing multiple shows in the same venue. 

Sunday traffic wasn't bad on the way to the Forum, until we hit the 91/405 interchange and got closer to the Manchester exit. People complain about Led Zeppelin, and rock concerts in general starting late in the 1970s, but in a city like Los Angeles with traffic jams every day, the bands did us a favour by being late. If Led Zeppelin had started at the announced ticket time of 7:30 p.m., half the audience would have missed the first part of the show. Even if the band started at 9 or later, there were always scores of people running late and trying to get to their seat 20 minutes later...usually in your row.

Listening to the radio on the way to the Forum, there was some scuttlebutt about Led Zeppelin attending Swan Song band Detective's concert in Hollywood on one of Zeppelin's day off...can't remember if they meant June 20 or June 24. I'd have to check Detective's concert schedule for 1977...or perhaps Steve A. Jones has it handy?

Once in the parking lot of the Forum, we blazed the last of the marijuana before going inside. We both had decided to wear our 1977 tour shirts, as had quite a few others in the Forum crowd. It was obvious after talking with some others we weren't the only ones seeing multiple Led Zeppelin shows on their six-night stand at the Forum. That's how addicting a Led Zeppelin concert was...your fix constantly needed feeding.

Something else we discovered...not all attendees were from the Southern California area. During the week, we bumped into Brits, Aussies, Europeans, Canadiens, Texans, and some from South of the Border. People had flown thousands of miles to come to the Forum gigs.

I had to remind myself that it was pure luck that I was even able to go to as many shows as I did. If Plant had not got laryngitis/tonsillitis, and the 1977 tour schedule had remained what it originally had been, then the June 26 show would have been on Wednesday March 16, a school night. The June 25 was originally Tuesday March 15.

Basically, I would have only been able to see two of the Forum shows, three if I was lucky, if the tour had not been postponed and the Forum gigs moved to June 21-27, well after the school year was over. Thank you Robert Plant. I am sorry you had to suffer through your tonsillitis, but that's what allowed me to see you five times that week.

Whether it was because we were a little high, the wait for the June 26 show to start seemed longer than usual. Plus, I was really getting sick of hearing the Eagles "Hotel California" during the pre-show music.

At least our seats were good. For once, we were dead center looking towards the stage, just slightly above the floor on the floor risers behind the rear floor seats. So no heads were in our way, and after being on Jimmy's side one night and Jonesey's side two nights, it was refreshing to have a straight ahead view of the stage. Bonham's steel kit and those giant tympani gleaming in the lights. But I wondered why he didn't have his rune symbol on the kick drum as in previous tours.

It must have been well after 9pm when the house lights at last dimmed and Led Zeppelin made their way to the stage. The crowd went bonkers, as usual. By now, Led Zeppelin felt like family...our band of brothers...and the Forum was their home away from home.

At that moment, all thoughts of fatigue and soreness vanished as adrenaline took over and I felt reenergized and ready for the next few hours. Again, that opening rush that overwhelmed us as "The Song Remains the Same" commenced the concert proceedings made your hair stand on end and shocks shoot up and down your spine. 

The only negative was that my earplugs gave me the sensation I was hearing the show from underwater or on a cassette using Dolby Noise Reduction. The brightness and harmonic overtones were lost. Plus, I just don't like having things in my ear. Even worse was that I could still detect a ringing in my ears left over from the previous night's show. Was I doing serous damage to my hearing?

But that was a small price to pay to be able to witness rock and roll glory. And not having to hear my stepmother again would be a blessing. After a while, I got used to the earplugs. One benefit to using earplugs is that it made it easier to discern Robert Plant's words.

Unlike the previous night, where I was trying to be on my best behaviour because of our dates, tonight I partook more often in the illicit contraband that was offered to us. Before I knew it, the opening salvo was over and I was really flying by the time "Over the Hills and Far Away" started. Comparing "In My Time of Dying" from the night before to the return of "Over the Hills and Far Away", as much as I liked IMTOD, I was happy to see OTHAFA again. One of the highlights of the 1977 shows for me was watching Jimmy play those OTHAFA solos.

Jimmy was in his white dragon suit again. Where was his black dragon suit? I was sure I would see him break it out at least once during the Forum run. Of course, I found out later he did...on the one night I missed, June 22. Robert was wearing something different than blue jeans for the first time in all the concerts I had seen...shiny pants. I preferred him in blue jeans.

Maybe it was because I was stoned, but I really enjoyed the June 26 show. Bonham didn't seem as wildly unpredictable as in the earlier shows, but the band sounded good and solid. I had less distractions tonight, so I could focus all my attention on the stage and just enjoying watching the band play.

Even the crowd seemed less unruly around me than on previous nights. For once, I didn't hear any beefing or near-fights. Even the cherry bombs were at a minimum. It was a pleasant Sunday evening at a Led Zeppelin concert.

The No Quarter-Ten Years Gone was pure bliss. Just being able to sit back and relax and let the mind wander as the music went through many moods. From where we were sitting you could see the dry ice overflow the stage...I felt sorry for those in the front row engulfed in the fog. The lights and laser show was epic. At times it appeared the lasers were going through Robert and Jimmy...or maybe that was an optical illusion?

The acoustic set pleased me because, in addition to the usual fun, they added an Elvis Presley song! I knew it was an Elvis song...but because of my increasingly buzzed state, particulars were hard to recall afterwards. Mystery Train? That's All Right?  It wasn't until years later I heard the bootleg and confirmed it was "That's All Right".

"Kashmir" slayed...as it slayed every night. Yes, the Led Zeppelin of 1969-1973 was a well-oiled machine in concert (especially 1970-72), before the drugs, injuries and excess started to impair their performances. But one thing 1977 Led Zeppelin has over early-era Zeppelin is "Kashmir". It truly was like being visited by gods of another time and space and "Kashmir" was their gift to us.

Like June 25, the drum and guitar-noise solos seemed to drag on much longer than the first couple of shows. Thankfully the visuals helped. But I couldn't help notice the exodus of people to the bathroom or concession stands...or maybe just on a walkabout ?

But I stayed put. I knew the reward was soon coming...the explosive "Achilles Last Stand"! "Kashmir" and "Achilles Last Stand" together crushed all opposition and doubts about the 1977 tour. Everything after was gravy.

"Stairway to Heaven" was sad in a way, because it meant the concert was almost over. As long as the shows were, you still found yourself wanting more...maybe an extra song in the encore. 

The encore we got June 26 was instantly memorable to this Jerry Lee Lewis fan: a pounding, rollicking version of "It'll Be Me"! I was definitely up and dancing to this song.

One of the things I loved about Led Zeppelin concerts from the start was their obvious affection for the old blues and rock classics. I particularly was fond of the medley of oldies played in "Whole Lotta Love". So to get an Elvis song and a Jerry Lee Lewis song in one night was an unexpected delight now that the band had ditched the Whole Lotta Love medleys.

I can't remember the highlights being that much better than the other nights. But I don't remember any disasters, either. I missed "Trampled Under Foot" not being in the set...I found it gave extra juice to the show. But it was a nice solid show all-around. Ending well after midnight. If it wasn't the longest show of the week in total minutes, it ended later than previous nights.

We didn't get home until nearly 3am. And just like that...there was only one concert left!

Edited by Strider

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Thanks once again, Strider!  Looking forward to the last one!

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Led Zeppelin at the Forum, March 27, 1970. Photo by Chuck Boyd.

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What the seating was like for concerts at the Forum. Blue is Colonnade. Beige is Loge. Red is Floor.

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Post #23: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

Date: June 27, 1977

And so, the long week was at an end. Suddenly, all the long months of worries...from worrying about procuring tickets to worrying about the tour postponement to worrying about getting to and from the concerts to worrying about Robert's foot (and the band) surviving the tour to worrying about me surviving five concerts in seven days...all that vanished and now I was faced with the sudden realization that it all flew by much too fast and the very last Led Zeppelin concert in L.A. for the foreseeable future, certainly for 1977, was at hand. Although I was, by this time, a little punch-drunk in the head, I was not quite ready to let them go.

Led Zeppelin had owned the Forum that week, just as they owned the Forum throughout the 1970s as no other band did. At this time, I feel I should say a few words about the place. Built by Jack Kent Cooke as a place for his Los Angeles Lakers (NBA team) and Kings (NHL team) to play after his dissatisfaction with the L.A. Sports Arena and the L.A. Coliseum Commission proved too much to deal with, the "Fabulous Forum" (also later known as the Great Western Forum) became synonymous not just with sporting events but concerts. A band knew they had truly reached a rare level if they could sell out the Forum...and if they could sell out multiple nights, they reached Rock God status. What Madison Square Garden was to New York, the Forum was to L.A.

Many of you who are old enough to remember watching the NBA in the 1970s and 1980s will already have an idea of what the Forum looked like from watching those old Laker teams of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain in the early '70s and the Magic-Kareem Laker teams in the '80s. The distinctive white columns circling the outside of the arena...you knew immediately you were at the Forum in Inglewood when you saw those white columns against the circular Forum blue building. With the constant parade of airplanes flying directly over the Forum as they came into land at the LAX airport.

But what was even more distinctive was the inside. Unlike so many old arenas in cities on the East Coast used for sports and concerts, there were no pillars and tiers inside, blocking the sightlines or interrupting the sweep of the crowd. Unlike Boston Garden or Cleveland Arena, the seats in the Forum swept around and up the arena in one giant wave. There were no overhanging loge or upper decks, no poles and pillars, no luxury suites, no advertising billboard overkill, no giant tunnels letting in the concourse light and noise (when you watch "The Song Remains the Same" you can see people coming and going from the Madison Square Garden tunnels behind the stage).

More than any other concert arena I have been in, when you stood on stage at the Forum and looked out at the audience, it literally looked like a wave, nay, an ocean of people. I firmly believe Robert Plant got the inspiration for "The Ocean" from playing the Forum in 1970 and 1971. To help illustrate what I mean, I am posting some photos of Led Zeppelin at the Forum March 27, 1970, taken by Chuck Boyd from behind the stage. 

I'm also posting a Forum seating chart from the old days. Not so much to see where I was sitting, but so you can see where Mike Millard was for his shows that he taped. For instance, on June 21 Mike was in Floor Section C, Row 2, Seat 7. On June 23, he was in Floor Section B, Row 6, Seat 5.

My first Led Zeppelin concert was at the Forum, June 25, 1972...just weeks after the Lakers won their first championship in L.A. Naturally, I have a sentimentality about the place.

Back to Monday June 27, 1977. For the band's sixth (my fifth) and final night at the Forum, I was going solo. My friend didn't have a ticket and he didn't feel like chancing a scalper. The girl I had asked to the June 25 show was getting ready to leave for summer camp. Which was okay. In some ways, I preferred going to shows alone...less distractions, better able to focus solely on the band, and no one whining about being tired and wanting to leave early. That was always a deal-breaker for me...girls who wanted to leave concerts early never got a second date with me.

My dad was behind on a project at work in Long Beach, which meant he had to work nights. So once again he was able to drive me to the show and pick me up afterwards. We made plans for me to go to the International House of Pancakes across the street from the Forum after the show and he would join me there around 1am.

Once again, around 8pm that night I found myself back in the Fabulous Forum. My seats again were in the Floor Riser section in the back. Once again I had to suffer through the Eagles "Hotel California". As it was a Monday, the workday crowd was arriving later than usual, as the traffic jam was worse than it was on the weekend. Esconsed in my seat, I passed the time checking out the colourful crowd (although not quite as colourful as 1972 and 1973) as it straggled in. As more and more arrived, the noise level crept up and so did the haze of smoke hovering over the floor. I had brought my earplugs again. Wearing them the night before definitely helped...the ringing in my ears wasn't as bad as before.

A guy named Ted or Todd struck up a conversation with me. He was a multiple-nighter like myself...I think he said he had been to three of the shows so far and that he thought the 22nd was the best night so far. I wondered if maybe he wasn't saying that to make me jealous, as I had told him that was the one night I missed. 

When I wasn't enraptured by the array of beautiful girls arriving in the Forum (out of all the big hard-rock and metal bands of that era, Led Zeppelin drew the most and best-looking women/girls), I gazed at the gear on stage. Jonesey's keyboard arrangement on a platform to the left...black grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano, and his white Mellotron. Bonham's stainless steel Ludwig drums in the center. Jimmy's array of amps to the right in his usual sideways 'L' arrangement. By 1977, Jimmy Page was the only one with his rune symbol from Led Zeppelin IV represented on stage. A huge white screen backdrop hung behind the stage. Unlike 1975, no seats were sold behind the stage.

Again I was struck by comparable vastness and cleanliness of the stage setup compared to previous tours. Especially the relatively small and cluttered look of the 1972 and 1973 tours, when Bonham's drum kit was still on the floor instead of being on a riser as most bands had utilized by that time.

While Led Zeppelin started putting Bonzo on a riser in 1975, another thing was still missing that most other bands employed: stage monitors! Where were the stage monitors? You can hear Plant reference them on the bootlegs, but I'll be damned if I could spot them. Most bands would array the monitors at the lip of the stage, with the speakers pointed towards the band. Usually one or two dead center by the singer's microphone stand. Others would be in front of the guitar player(s) and bass player.

Robert wants to know where that confounded bridge is...I want to know where those confounded monitors were? Were they hanging above, aimed down at the band? At the side of the stage? It would make sense that Bonham would have one by his side. Were they somehow flush with the stage or the edge of the stage? It really was a mystery to me.

Time crept by slowly...every lull in the music drew a loud cheer in anticipation of the concert starting. This was the last night, and so far every night had been over three hours. If past history was any guide, Led Zeppelin would play a marathon show tonight. But I had given up any thought of major setlist changes. I figured the set would remain primarily the same, with maybe "In My Time of Dying" making a reappearance in place of "Over the Hills and Far Away" and possibly a different encore song. Maybe even a second encore for the final night of the tour's second leg. And just maybe Jimmy could wear something different...break out the black dragon suit.

You might think that after a week, the crowd's fervor would dissipate by the last show. That was far from the case. As was the case every night, the sustained noise as it looked like the show was finally about to get started to the time the house lights actually went down and Jones, Bonham, Page, and Plant took the stage was out of this world. 

I have seen many, many concerts over the years and to this day I have yet to hear a concert crowd louder than a Led Zeppelin crowd. I can count on one hand a few concerts where the crowd was almost as loud, but none louder.

While all Zeppelin crowds were loud, of the four Zeppelin tours I saw from 1972 to 1977, the most jacked-up, rabid crowds were in 1973 and 1977. Why that was is relatively simple. 

1972 was a very short tour conducted in the shadow of the Stones 1972 STP Tour. Led Zeppelin was popular and the hardcore Zepheads adored them but they were still ignored or slighted by many media outlets. Plus, they were still a young band while many in the press were pondering if the Stones were on their last tour. Hard to believe now, but it's true.

By 1973, Led Zeppelin were superstars on a par, if not above the Stones and Elton John. The 1973 tour was a record-breaking tour, breaking records held by the sacrosanct Beatles. No longer could the media ignore Led Zeppelin. They could still disniss them (Rolling Stone magazine) but they couldn't pretend they didn't exist or were just a passing fad like Grand Funk Railroad or Three Dog Night. The 1973 tour was also a real tour, going places they bypassed in 1972. There was a hyped-up demand to see Led Zeppelin in 1973 that was not quite there in 1972.

After a two year wait, there was a pent-up demand to see Led Zeppelin in 1975. They were unquestionably Rock Gods by 1975. But while the crowds were record-breaking again, the enthusiasm and excitement of the crowd waxed and waned throughout the show. There were several factors that led to this. 

1. The 1975 U.S. tour started long before "Physical Graffiti" was released. Many of the new songs were unfamiliar to the audience. Plus, the pacing of the 1975 concerts was often sluggish. 

2. The tour was conducted in the dead of winter, often in the midst of freezing blizzards. The crowds would often be worn down by the cold (and the booze they drank to ward off the cold). Plant caught the flu and his vocals were noticeably ravaged. Even by the time they hit L.A., though Plant's flu was gone, his voice was not the same. And his manner was more subdued than in previous years.

3. Quaaludes. On top of all the alcohol,  this tour was during the 'Ludes craze and, frankly, too many 'ludes puts a crowd in a stupor.

1977 was different. Although another two years had passed between tours, the difference was that the gap between 1973 and 1975 was planned. After many years of touring non-stop, the band needed a vacation. Then, there was their own label to create and a new album to record. 

The gap between 1975 and 1977 was ordained by Plant's near-death accident in Greece. All of a sudden, fans almost had their Zeppelin taken away from them. That thought had never occurred before. Sure, as with most bands of the '70s, the music press liked to float break-up rumours about Led Zeppelin. But no fan ever took them seriously. 

"Physical Graffiti" was still just as popular in 1977 as in 1975, and while "Presence" didn't sell as well, it was popular with the hardcore Zeppelin fans and rock radio still played it a lot. You couldn't go an hour without hearing "Achilles Last Stand", "Nobody's Fault But Mine", or "Hots On For Nowhere" on KMET 94.7 or KLOS 95.5.

In addition, the release of the movie "The Song Remains the Same" brought a whole new awareness of Led Zeppelin's concert magic to people who had never seen the band before. The scenes of "Since I've Been Loving You" and Jimmy's bow during "Dazed and Confused" blew the uninitiated's minds and whetted the appetite to see Led Zeppelin in concert. I talked to a few first-timers at the 1977 shows, and one of the common threads was that each one was looking forward to seeing Jimmy use the bow in "Dazed and Confused". The 1977 tour was much longer and covered more territory than the 1975 tour, allowing a whole new wave of kids, who had been too young to see Led Zeppelin before, to check them out

Lastly, the rise of punk rock had created a division in rock and roll in some people's minds...particularly the music press. The old guard and mainstream FM rock bands were called "dinosaur rock", irrelevant and passé...and worse. Many fans, especially in America, took offense to that. In some ways, our loyalty to Led Zeppelin became stronger the more the punks and the press attacked them. We circled the wagons. 

And I say that as someone who liked a lot of the new bands coming out then...the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Damned, Television, Patti Smith, Dead Boys. But I just never saw a reason to turn my back on Zeppelin, Stones, and others just because some punk said I should.

So, amidst all this pop-cultural upheaval, the band's return to the stage in 1977 was hailed by the audience as mystical mythical figures...larger-than-life conquering heroes. But there was also the realization that Led Zeppelin was probably closer to the end of their days than the beginning.

However, all those thoughts were not important and vanished as soon as the band took the stage in their, by now, customary low-key manner. John Bonham taking his place behind his gleaming Ludwig drum kit. John Paul Jones, in all-white and long blond hair, with his Alembic bass to the left of Bonham. Jimmy Page with guitar to the right of Bonham. Checking their instruments and amplifier settings. Robert Plant hovering about waiting for Jimmy to start the ball rolling. So different from the hyperbolic staged introductions becoming more and more common among bands. Christ, both ELO and Parliament-Funkadelic arrived in spaceships. ZZ Top had real live animals and cactuses.

No matter...while their initial appearance on stage may have been low-key, the roar that greeted them was not. Six nights later and the buzz of the crowd was still hot. Led Zeppelin answered that buzz with another blitzkrieg opening blast of "The Song Remains the Same". 

It was incredible that after a week of three-plus hour shows and who knows how many hours partying and indulging in the Hollywood party-scene, the band could even stand up, let alone still play so blisteringly hot. Bonham was still finding ways to crash the party in new ways and different places. How Page and Jones kept steady while Bonzo kept spontaneously combusting the beat in the song was a tribute to their musicianship...no matter how hammered they were.

Was it strange not hearing "Rain Song" follow "The Song Remains the Same" after they had been a pair for so long? Yes, I confess it was. But "TSRTS" was such an upgrade over the 1975 tour's "Rock and Roll" as an opening song, that I did not mind. The opening vision of Page, resplendent in sunglasses and white scarf along with his white dragon suit, dancing with his Gibson SG red double-neck, is an image no one who went to those concerts will ever forget. The opening instrumental part energetically set the scene and when Plant came in with the opening line "I had a dream", there was an emotional rush that surged through the Forum. For we, too, had a dream and that dream was now coming true...Led Zeppelin was back on stage. The emotiional bond between Led Zeppelin and its fans was never more evident.

The song in 1977 was very metal and in-your-face compared to the more intricate and filigreed versions in 1972-73. Jimmy wielded that double-neck like a flamethrower. I mentioned before how Led Zeppelin concerts were a series of tension and release...sometimes the band carrying the tension over several songs before giving the audience a release. They knew how to tighten that tourniquet better than just about every other band out there.

A case in point came early in the show...at about the 3:30 mark of "The Song Remains the Same" to be precise. You know that pretty series of arpeggios Jimmy does after Plant sings the end of the second verse...the one that goes "California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain...the song remains the saaaame"? In the studio version it occurs from 3:37-3:42...five seconds. But at the Forum concerts that week in 1977, every night that moment lasted 10 seconds or more. On the night of June 23, it was nearly 20 seconds. Jimmy would be on his knees and as the arpeggios kept going and going, your neck would tingle as you wondered how long they would go before releasing into the next part of the song. Bonham would even add a little flourish to the end on some nights.

It was moments like that that would make you smile in wonderment like that woman in "The Song Remains the Same" rendered awestruck by the band's dramatics during "Since I've Been Loving You". 

"Sick Again"...the band is crushing the riff and once again Plant mixes up the verses after the guitar solo. Instead of singing the "Lips like cherries" verse, he sings the "Hours hours" verse. He did this nearly every night at the Forum, I think. Just as he never sang the "Many times I've loved, many times been bitten" lyric in "Over the Hills and Far Away", and always transposed the second and fourth verses in "Kashmir". You know, instead of asking about mudsharks and groupies, I wish someone would ask Plant about his lyric peculiarities.

"Nobody's Fault But Mine"...another song that just crushed you in concert. Plant wailing on harmonica harkens back to the band's roots. I hadn't seen Plant play harmonica since the 1972 tour. While Plant is soloing on harmonica, Jones and Page are really chugging along working that riff. "Oh Jimmy...Oh Jimmy!" never gets old. I smile every time I hear it.

"Over the Hills and Far Away"...by this song, I said the hell with it and took out my earplugs. This was the last night and I wanted to hear Jimmy's solo in all its spacy glory one more time. If it's a choice between wanting to hear "In My Time of Dying" or "Over the Hills and Far Away" in the setlist of 1977, I choose "Over the Hills and Far Away". It's a more dynamic song, with light-and-shade. But more importantly, Jimmy's solo was a face-melting mind-fuck every night at the Forum in 1977.

It appeared Jimmy took Plant's comment about "playing until they fell down" to heart for OTHAFA...Jimmy played and played and played. Listening to the bootleg out of context, you might think the solo goes on too long and Jimmy isn't as focused as say, June 22nd. But listening that night at the Forum, I never wanted it to end. It even sounds at one point that he plays an inversion of the lick he added on the 22nd. It's one of my favourites of the week.

Besides the four band members themselves, the fifth element to a Led Zeppelin concert was the physical presence of the sound itself. Led Zeppelin's sound was an all-out force. First, Jones and Bonham would inhabit your body. Their bass and drums would form a huge throbbing ball in the center of your chest and vibrate your bones. Bonham's kick drum became your heartbeat. Then, Jimmy's guitar would swarm your head, alternatively strafing your psyche with a barrage of notes, then restoring calm with tender, caressing tones. At certain times Jimmy would hit notes and tones that raised the hair on your arms and sent shivers up and down your spine. Robert's voice would either ride over the maelstrom or be front-and-center. At times, with the help of Benji LeFevre, Plant's voice would bounce around the hall or mesh with Jimmy's guitar so that it became another instrument in the sonic spectrum. 

At any rate, there was magick at work...the band had a sound in concert that hit your pleasure centers, creating an addiction for more. Led Zeppelin also challenged you, forcing you to withstand moments of sheer abrasive noise and terror. They gave no quarter, indeed. 

The concert progresses from strength to strength, from peak to peak...every night is a dramatic "Since I've Been Loving You". You never know if Jimmy will take the song in an angry, sad, or melancholy direction.  Plant cuts a dramatic figure throughout the song. With the way the lights worked against the backdrop screen, there often would be dramatic shadows cast by the band. Bonzo pulls out a wicked drum solo at the end. It was also fun to watch the worker-bees, the road crew, work between each song. A different guitar or different bass, or a change in drum settings or microphones, meant there was constant activity going on. Mick Hinton (Bonham's tech) and Raymond Thomas (Page's tech) being the ones most in the spotlight.

"No Quarter"...Cue the blue smoke and get ready for a long journey. Jimmy probably lighted himself a smoke, too. The stage looks so eerily beautiful for this song, you want to cry. By now, a good portion of the Forum crowd was high and getting off on the light show. Jimmy's wah-wah guitar slices and dices its way into your head. Just an indelible sound to hear. As always, the three-way dialogue between Jones-Page-Bonham is wonderful to watch. It's just a pleasure to the eyes and ears witnessing these musicians practice their craft in the flesh. The laser show is just icing on the cake. Jimmy really works the wah-wah at the end...it sounds psychotic. Jimmy Page doesn't get nearly enough credit for his wah-wah work.

I recall in my notes on the concert I had written "great piano solo". Indeed, I think this is my favourite or second favourite piano solo of the 1977 Forum shows. I also am glad they dropped the "Nutrocker" bit they had done at some of the earlier 1977 shows. That was a little too "ELP"-ish for me.

Jones is putting on that huge acoustic triple-neck instrument (his poor back), and we know it's time for "Ten Years Gone". Surely, along with "That's the Way" and "Bron-Yr-Aur", one of the prettiest and graceful tunes in the Zeppelin canon. No matter that this was the fifth time for me, the song still took my breath away. For one thing, it was a marvel that just four guys were creating such a colourful palette of sound. I settled back and let the song embrace me. As I looked around, you could see the various looks of delight and pleaaure on the faces of the crowd. Some people were more physically demonstrative, raising their fist or banging their head in time with the riff. Some people sang along or silently mouthed the words to the song. Some gazed quietly, lost in the song, deep in thought...perhaps thinking of their own lost love. Others just sat transfixed, with a beautific smile fixed on their face. 

I saw Led Zeppelin perform "Ten Years Gone" five times. At around 10 minutes each night, that's 50 minutes of some of the loveliest music ever performed. I can also tell you that every night, I thought of the same girl when they performed "Ten Years Gone": Amber Nutter.

With the song over, the roadies scurry about and ready the stage for the acoustic set. Kind of the feel-good part of the concert. A real sense of brotherhood is apparent...amongst the band and the audience. Once again, the acoustic guitars and mandolins ring out and Robert is so charming, chatting with the band or the audience, you are drawn in so that no matter where you are sitting, you feel the band is singing directly to you in a small room or around a campfire. Led Zeppelin proved every night that you can bring warmth and intimacy to an arena rock concert.

It is at this point I would like to address something. As many of us now know, there was friction in the crew and entourage surrounding the band on the 1977 tour. Peter Grant was not in good health or spirits and some of his decisions...like hiring the notorious John Bindon...were ill-advised. Robert Plant and others have given interviews in recent times that paint a terrible portrait of the 1977 tour and the band's state of mind.

All I can say is that I saw no sign of that at any of the five concerts at the Forum. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, for the three hours plus that Led Zeppelin was on stage, the band looked like the merry band of brothers they always appeared to be in the past. They were constantly joking with each other and laughing and that good-natured vibe carried over to the audience. From the evidence of those shows, I would never have guessed at the turmoil that supposedly was going on. I guess you could say those hours on stage were the band's sanctuary.

The acoustic set hits all the high points. Maybe everything isn't letter-perfect but the spirit shines through every note. "Going to California" receives its usual adulation. The popularity of this song has grown by leaps and bounds since 1972. The band even throws in some surprises...necessity being the mother of invention. An old blues tease just before "Black Country Woman", similar to the Elvis Presley tease the night before. But the big delight of the acoustic set comes with the surprise "Dancing Days" after "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp". Of course, Jimmy has a guitar malfunction...another broken string, I assumed. I always wondered why they didn't have two Martin acoustics on hand as back-up, in case Jimmy broke a string...which he seemed to do regularly. Hell, the famous Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. was just down the street from the Riot House. It would have been no problem dispatching Raymond (Jimmy's guitar tech) to go fetch another Martin guitar for Jimmy's arsenal.

In any case, one wonders if the mishap with the guitar in "Bron Y-Aur Stomp" and the momentum coming to a dead stop as Jimmy tuned the guitar, led to Jimmy's decision to reward the audience's patience with "Dancing Days"? Whatever the reason, the crowd was delighted.

Now it is time for the black and white Danelectro and Jimmy sitting on his chair.

Given that this was the last night, Jimmy was clearly extending things when he could. Sometimes it worked...like his extended solo in OTAFA or the "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" experience. Other times, it was clearly self-indulgent and tried the audience's patience.

The "White Summer"/"Black Mountain Side" on the night of June 27 was a prime example. This piece was used as a sort of intro to "Kashmir". It is my belief that an introduction to a song should not be longer than the song it is leading into. "Kashmir" was around 9-10 minutes long. So as long as Jimmy kept WS/BMS under 10 it worked...which he usually did. But on June 27, it seemed to drag on and on forever...nearly 15 minutes. Not that there weren't some lovely passages, but there were also many moments where it sounded lost and was fumbling to find his place or his way back to the tune.

Fortunately, another Godzilla-sized "Kashmir" followed and immediately galvanized the crowd. And once again, no mistakes! Having now listened to many bootlegs from the 1975 and 1977 tours, I now realize the band often would get lost in the song...either in the breakdown in the middle or in the coda at the end. So I was fortunate that the band never had a mishap during "Kashmir" at the shows I saw in 1977 (note: I consider the June 23 a slight hiccup...it's only Jimmy and it only lasts a few bars but doesn't disrupt the song). Five "Kashmir" performances at about 10 minutes each equals 50 minutes of the most powerful hypnotic music ever performed.

Led Zeppelin's tourniquet tightens again during "Kashmir". That ascending riff set against the inexorable beat of Bonham's drums that just keeps ascending and ascending. Where are we going? Where will it lead? Why does it all of a sudden feel 100° in here and I have sand in my eyes? Led Zeppelin's ability to transport you out of reality, out of your ordinary surroundings, and into some distant, fantastic realm was a major reason for their live reputation.

The mid-song breakdown after the second verse is genius. Basically a Bonham breakbeat, with Page and Jones laying back in tandem on a stuttering riff, while Plant extemporizes about flying. Then, the magic begins as the band winds the tourniquet ever tighter...Jones whirls his mighty mellotron in action and those quirky "cheap orchestra" tones swirl around your head like a swarm of bees. Jimmy is adding flourishes on the guitar while Bonzo is going, well, bonzo. All the while Plant is droning hypnotically about the burning sun and the wasted land. It all reaches a fever pitch and just when you think you'll go mad from the tension, the band drops the bottom out from under you as everything stops at about the 4:20 mark and Plant screams that epic "Where I've beeeeeeen", and the band restarts the main ascending riff as Plant's wail careens around the Forum. And you feel like you are back on solid ground again. But you will never be the same.

Sorry folks. The tape doesn't convey it. Youtube clips can't convey it. Not even pro-shot video conveys it. The true power and majesty of "Kashmir" could only be experienced in person. If you were lucky enough to get into the 2007 O2 Arena show, you got a taste.

With the end of "Kashmir", the crowd is euphoric. Once in a lifetime greatness has been witnessed. But along with the euphoria, I begin to feel sadness. For I now realize we are coming ever closer to the end of the show...and I don't wan't it to end!

The question now is will the band go immediately into the solo spots or gift us with an extra song or two? Hurrah! We get another song..."Trampled Under Foot".

My notes afterward had this two-word description for "Trampled Under Foot": Crazed madness. So obviously I enjoyed it and listening to it now, I think it may indeed be my favourite "Trampled" of the LA run.

Next came the drum solo and guitar solo. Once more, the "Out on the Tiles" bit used to begin "Over the Top" had a strange chunky metallic flavour. Since it was the last night, I stayed put. No going to the snack bar and I had already bought a tour shirt and program at an earlier show. Plus, with all the contraband being passed around, I think I was too stoned to move. At least Bonham didn't pull a Landover and kept it energetic and relatively brief. Certainly shorter than the shows on the 25th and 26th. Before I realized it, the drum riser was moving and the flashpots were going off.

Complain all you want now about drum solos, but there was no doubt that a sizeable part of the audience still loved them...even in 1977. These people went wild watching Bonham thrash his drums with his bare hands. The manic energy with which Bonham performed brought some enthusiasm to even those who didn't care for drum solos. Plus, it allowed Plant give his foot a rest.

Jimmy Page followed Bonham. Tonight, Jimmy really pushed the envelope with his noise and bow solo...it seemed nearly double the length than usual. It severely tested the patience of the audience, which I think was Jimmy's intent. I believe Jimmy had an impish desire to see how far he could push the audience....how much they could take before they would break, give in or retaliate. I also think it was partly Jimmy getting lost in the moment and spontaneously pursuing a direction he hadn't planned on going. Sometimes he would find his way back. Sometimes he wouldn't.

Either way, it looked and sounded real horror-show in person. Since I was prone to liking some of the noisier avant-garde music of the time, I rather enjoyed Jimmy's noise solos. Eddie Van Halen's "Cathedral" would not exist without them. It helped that by now I knew the sonic explosion that was soon to come.

"Achilles Last Stand"! BAM! "White light white heat" is a good way to describe the effect "Achilles Last Stand" had in concert. A flash of light and Bonham driving the band full-speed ahead. Take that, punk rockers! I have run out of superlatives to convey the sheer wonder of Led Zeppelin in concert. My puny mortal vocabulary is insufficient. But, by God, Zeus, and all that is holy, "Achilles Last Stand" was just pulverizing.

First of all, it is three hours later...THREE FUCKING HOURS!!!...and the band is still playing like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Especially Bonham! Three hours of hammering the drums and listen to him blaze his way through "Achilles"...it's inhuman! And people thought the likes of Cozy Powell or Alan White would be able to replace Bonham?!? Hahahaha. No fucking way.

Will the Mighty Arms of Atlas hold the heavens from the Earth? I don't know about Atlas...but the mighty arms of Bonham sure could.

After the impact of "Achilles Last Stand", the rest of the concert went by mich too quickly. "Stairway to Heaven" was grand and elegaic, as usual, but I was still under the spell of "Achilles" and before I knew it, Jimmy was blazing through the guitar solo of "Stairway", dancing his pas de deux with his double-neck guitar. Those beautiful tones rippling from his guitar like stars shooting across the night sky.

"To be a rock and not to roll.....and she's buying a stairway to heaven".

Cue the mirrorball lights. Cue the Bic lighters flickering in the crowd. Cue the thunderous ovation. 

Many many minutes of stomping and screaming and cheering....and finally the band came back for the encore. It was the usual encore of "Whole Lotta Love"/"Rock and Roll", served up with a savage punkish verve. Again, I wished they had kept the funky theremin bit from 1975 in "Whole Lotta Love". I thought for sure we would get a second encore.

But it was not to be. Led Zeppelin had left the stage and probably already left the Forum by the time I started following the hordes out of the Forum. Shouts of "Led Zeppelin!" and "Zeppelin rules!" echoed throughout the Forum. Of course, we had no way of knowing it at the time but Led Zeppelin had just played their last concert in Los Angeles. Messrs. Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant would never appear together on that Forum stage again...not as a four-piece band.

Led Zeppelin played 16 concerts at the Forum. I saw 11 of them. No other band then came close to that amount. The Rolling Stones have played 10 concerts at the Forum in their entire history. The Who less than 10. Bruce Springsteen and Pink Floyd preferred to play the Sports Arena or often played massive stadium shows at the L.A. Coliseum or Rose Bowl.

Prince, Van Halen, Tom Petty, Black Sabbath, Kiss, all might have played the Forum 16 or more times, due to them touring for over 40 years. But only Prince ever came close to being able to sell out six nights in a single stand.

The Fabulous Forum still stands regally in the middle of its parking lot at the southeast corner of Manchester & Prairie in Inglewood, California. The Lakers and Kings left long ago to the new sterile corporate Staples Center in 1999. A church took over the Forum and concerts still happened periodically. Bands who appreciated rock history would ask their management to book them at the Forum rather than Staples Center. Prince played an amazing series of shows at the Forum in 2012.

The church left a few years ago and the Forum is now run by the Madison Square Garden people. They have kept the white columns outside but changed most everything else, especially the inside. The seats are different and sections numbered differently. The Laker championship banners and retired jerseys are all gone. There are concert photos of many artists that have played the Forum lining the concession stand concourse walls...including Led Zeppelin.

More meaningful to me is that whenever I go to the Forum, I can still hear the ghosts. The spirit and echoes of all those Forum concerts played by Led Zeppelin still resides deep within the Forum. And when it's quiet and you listen hard, you can still hear the wallop of John Bonham pounding the Forum.

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Absolutely and genuinely brilliant, Strider. Many, many thanks for these posts - I've really loved them. You conveyed everything so clearly and vividly, I could almost see it through your eyes! Brilliant stuff, mate.     

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On 26/04/2017 at 7:35 AM, John M said:

 

I was thinking the other day about the shows that had to be cancelled after Oakland.  The venues were enormous for the most part (except Chicago Stadium).  They would have played Rich Stadium for an outdoor EVENING show to 72,000.  That would have been incredible.  The Superdome with about 76,000.  And to top if all off August 13 would have been insane - a noon show in the heat and humidity of Philly outdoors at JFK stadium in front of nearly 100,000 fans - the same venue of Live Aid 8 years later.  Go back and look at the crowd and listen to the crowd at Live Aid and it gives you some sense of the scope of what might have been on August 13, 1977.       

 

And Jimmy was planning to record some of these shows!

 

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Indeed, thank you Strider.

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13 hours ago, Brigante said:

Absolutely and genuinely brilliant, Strider. Many, many thanks for these posts - I've really loved them. You conveyed everything so clearly and vividly, I could almost see it through your eyes! Brilliant stuff, mate.     

 

9 hours ago, Bonzo_fan said:

Thank you, Strider! 

 

8 hours ago, IpMan said:

Indeed, thank you Strider.

 

3 hours ago, Cosmic_Equilibrium said:

Wonderful series of posts, really enjoyed reading them. Thanks.

Thank you all. If I helped in any way to illustrate in words what it was like to see and hear and feel Led Zeppelin in concert, then my goal was accomplished. I'm only sorry I was so lazy in finishing the thread. Many of the people who asked me to do it are long gone...Evster, in_the_evening, Stargroves Tangie, Magic in the Air, Texas Melanie, Kipper, Led Zep Girl, Ledzepfvr, etc.

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24 minutes ago, Strider said:

 

 

 

Thank you all. If I helped in any way to illustrate in words what it was like to see and hear and feel Led Zeppelin in concert, then my goal was accomplished. I'm only sorry I was so lazy in finishing the thread. Many of the people who asked me to do it are long gone...Evster, in_the_evening, Stargroves Tangie, Magic in the Air, Texas Melanie, Kipper, Led Zep Girl, Ledzepfvr, etc.

Mission accomplished, as far as I'm concerned. These are the most vivid, moving, enthralling detailed accounts of being at a Zep concert that I've ever read.  Magnificent reading. 

Oh to ride the wind...You certainly did!

 

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2 hours ago, Strider said:

Thank you all. If I helped in any way to illustrate in words what it was like to see and hear and feel Led Zeppelin in concert, then my goal was accomplished.

you said "campfire hootenany"

was in LAX taking the red eye back to DFW Monday night and Down By the Seaside came on the overhead music.  Checked this forum to catch up on posts and read yours.  What was cool was about 30minutes earlier I stopped for gas on Man & 405...drove on down passed The Forum.

5th Element

 

jp-LA.jpg

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Bravo! Bravo! You have outdone yourself, Strider! It was all worth the wait, and I hope you had as much fun reliving that glorious week as I had reading about it. 

Let us know when the book is available! 

:cheer:

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Thank you Strider. Not since poring over Dave Lewis's books in my youth have I felt any piece of writing take me so far inside the experience of seeing Led Zeppelin live.

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14 hours ago, Strider said:

 

 

 

Thank you all. If I helped in any way to illustrate in words what it was like to see and hear and feel Led Zeppelin in concert, then my goal was accomplished.

:bravo: 

What a fantastic voyage you gave us there, Strider!  Thank you for all of the time you put forth giving us everything from then and now about The Forum and shows.  The Forum was always a mystical place for a kid growing up in upstate New York.  MSG - been there and done that.  But there was always something so glamorous about The Forum, even the nickname given to it - The Fabulous Forum.  I hated the Lakers in the 80's but knew they were a perfect pairing, in their style of play and aura, with that arena.  Much like the Celtics and the old Boston Garden.  Led Zeppelin were also a perfect pairing with The Forum and you could hear it every time they played there.  Thanks again, much like listening to those shows every June, reading your transcriptions of those shows is also going to be mandatory every June! 

✌🏻

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Strider,

Thank you so much for sharing your experience of being at this historic run of shows. I was born far too late to have seen the mighty Zep in concert. Your concert breakdowns, in conjunction with the Millard tapes, are possibly the closest a person in the 21st Century can come to really feeling the experience of a Zeppelin concert. To have an in-depth analysis of being at these shows is beyond cool, and to have them in such detail without being completely blurred by drug use. If you haven't already, you should consider writing a book, simply because you write quite well and, as far as I'm aware, there isn't yet a book discussing the 1977 North American tour. 

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Posted (edited)

I'm in awe! Strider, I can't thank you enough for sharing your memories with us. You are such a great writer and I concur with others that you should write a book sometime (not just of Zeppelin but of memories of seeing other artists as well). Your memories are truly a major highlight of this site. Thank you so very much!

 :goodpost:

Edited by ZepHead315

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As many others have said, Thanks Strider, and great job mate. Was enthralling and painted a very complete picture.

Cheers! :drinks:

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