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Strider

7/17/77: Reappraising the Seattle Kingdome Show

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Sometime around 1991 or so, I acquired a VHS tape of the July 17, 1977 Seattle Kingdome concert. It was the fourth Led Zeppelin bootleg videotape I had in my collection...the first three being a comp of 8mm footage of 1975 Chicago and the complete 1969 Danish TV performance; the 1/9/70 Royal Albert Hall; and 8/11/79 Knebworth, purchased in that order.

It was dark and murky visually, and the sound wasn't much better...very dry and brittle. It also suffered from the usual wow and flutter tracking problems many bootleg videos had. Later, at the dawn of the 2000s, I upgraded my Seattle Kingdome video when I got Cosmic Energy's "Seattle 1977" DVD. This was better visually and audio-wise, but the performance still left me cold...and it was shocking to hear how badly Plant's voice cracked. Christ, he had sounded so great at the Forum...what the hell happened?

I eventually came to the conclusion that the Seattle Kingdome wasn't an essential show, and not one that I would probably watch very often, and so I gave it to a lesbian friend for her birthday...she had a mad crush on Robert Plant.

Besides, in a way I still had the 1977 Seattle Kingdome show...in the form of Genuine Masters' "Watch and Listen to This, Eddie" DVD-A, which is DVD-Audio of the June 21, 1977 "Eddie" show with the video of the July 17, 1977 Seattle Kingdome playing on the DVD. The sound obviously doesn't sync up perfectly with the video, but it is one of the best sounding "Eddie" releases ever.

Years have gone by now without me giving the Seattle Kingdome another thought. I have seen Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome" at the record shows and swaps I haunt for ages, but was never inspired to get it...until recently when Sue Dounim posted how good it sounded.

So, at the beginning of this month, I decided to get "Conquering Kingdome" and give the Seattle '77 show another chance.

ledzep-conquering.jpg

The first thing I noticed was that the sound quality was vastly improved from what I remembered. The balance and presence of the instruments had a depth and warmth sorely lacking from my VHS and DVD versions. The biggest improvement, however, is in Robert's vocals. Yes, there are times when you can hear the strain and cracks, particularly in "Ten Years Gone". But it is fainter and not as jarring to the ear.

From what info I have been able to gather, Godfatherecords use the same video soundtrack that others have been using for years; it is not a true Soundboard. Still, it's the best I've ever heard this Seattle show.

The Seattle Kingdome show was the first concert of the third leg of the 1977 U.S. Tour...and four years to the day from Led Zeppelin's well-regarded Seattle concert in 1973. It was the second show of the tour to take place in one of those Enormo-domes now dotting the landscape like alien spaceships, the first being the Pontiac Silverdome concert. Like Pontiac, video screens were used to facilitate people in the nosebleed seats to actually see something other than microdots on the stage. The Superdome in New Orleans was to be the third dome venue of the tour, and had it actually transpired, most likely would have set a new attendance record. A record Led Zeppelin had just set with that April's Pontiac Silverdome show.

By contrast, Seattle's Kingdome only had 65,000 or so in attendance...not that you can tell by the recording. Like most boots sourced from video or soundboards, the crowd sounds distant and nonexistent for most of the show.

The setlist is the standard setlist of the second-half of the '77 tour: OTHAFA taking the place of IMTOD as the fourth song of the set. No "Trampled Under Foot" or "Heartbreaker" to extend the momentum of "Kashmir" or break up the self-indulgence of the drum and guitar solos. But, if the band isn't firing on the high it was during the LA Forum run, it isn't the disaster the old videotape sometimes made it seem.

The opening stretch from "The Song Remains the Same" thru "Since I've Been Loving You" ranges from average to above average...it's actually more enjoyable than many other '77 shows. Only Plant's occasional vocal weakness mars it...the band is actually playing heavy and energetically behind Plant, particularly Bonham. Even Jimmy getting lost during OTHAFA's solo isn't THAT bad; it's still a listenable performance...which is more than can be said for the IMTOD of May 26, 77.

The highlight of many '77 shows was the stretch from "No Quarter" to "Kashmir". It is here where the Seattle Kingdome show hits a groove; the band is relaxed and plays marvelously. Unlike some of the antic NQs of L.A., the Seattle Kingdome NQ is more in keeping with the mood of the song, and Jimmy gets in some nice phrasing in the solo, while Jones and Bonzo keep it jazzy. I think it is one of the better NQs of the tour. Having seen the video, I can even picture John Paul Jones encouraging the audience to applaud during his piano solo.

"Ten Years Gone" is another flawless performance musically...especially Jimmy's guitar solo; he nails it! Yes, Robert's voice isn't as strong as in L.A., but the combination of the band's great performance and Godfatherecords improvement of the tape makes Robert's vocal mishaps barely noticeable.

From TYG to "Kashmir", all of disc 2 is a treat to listen to...even the mishap with Jimmy's guitar during "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp", where the boys have to vamp while Jimmy waits for Raymond to give him a new acoustic guitar. Here is where you visualize Jimmy shaking his fist at poor Raymond from Scotland who tends to tune Jimmy's guitar in Scottish.

Meanwhile, Jones and Bonzo are improvising while Plant scats a bit and sings some song vaguely reminiscent of "When the Saints Go Marching In". Jimmy finally gets his guitar and they finish "Stomp" up nicely. Plant then jokes about being able to play the hotel bar afterwards. Actually, despite Plant's subpar voice, he seems to be in good spirits and has some nice Plantations during the show. Even the de riguer fireworks don't darken his mood noticeably and he reprimands the offenders gently.

The entire acoustic set is a good one, and the acoustic guitars and mandolins come in clear on Godfatherecords release. Jones' vocals on BOE aren't even that off-putting. Even "White Summer-Black Mountain Side" is impressive as Jimmy keeps the length managable. This leads to a very good "Kashmir". If only they could have kept the energy going with another song like "Trampled" or something.

But no...it's on to disc 3 and it is here where the show reverts to an average '77 performance. Unlike the short(15 minutes +/-) and energetic drum solos Bonham did in L.A., in Seattle, Bonzo unfortunately reverted to the boring Landover-type marathons of 25 minutes or more. I guess for historical purposes it is important to note that this would be the last "Moby Dick" Bonham would perform in concert. So there is that to think about while you're listening....and while it is long, it is not as slow and boring as the Landover, Maryland ones. Jimmy's guitar solo follows and it is actually one of the better ones. Like WS-BMS, he keeps it shorter than usual...partly because he has trouble with the effects at one point.

"Achilles Last Stand" and "Stairway to Heaven" conclude the main set in serviceable fashion...not bad, but not great, especially compared to the run of amazing "ALS" and "Stairway"s in L.A. Just merely okay.

The encore is the usual "WLL/Rock and Roll" combo...actually "Rock and Roll" is quite good for '77. I just wish that the band could have recognized the special uniqueness of the Dome shows and added a second encore of "Trampled" or "Communication Breakdown" or something.

Three and a half hours from the start of "The Song Remains the Same", the Seattle Kingdome show ends.

So where to rank the 7/17/77 Seattle Kingdome among the other 1977 shows? Obviously I rank the LA Forum shows up at the top. A couple of the New York shows and Pontiac and Birmingham, AL are in the upper echelon, too.

The Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome" has amazing sound quality, the best I've ever heard the Seattle Kingdome show sound, which may play a part in how I judge the performance quality. For comparisons sake, I listened to a couple '77 Soundboards that are popular: the 4/27/77 Cleveland "Maximum Destroyer" from EVSD; and 5/28/77 Landover "Powhatan Confederacy" from EVSD. Sound quality-wise, Seattle tops the other two. As for performance, Seattle is on par with, and at times surpasses the Cleveland and Landover ones.

So while 1977 Seattle can't be ranked up with Los Angeles, it is not as bad as I had consigned it in my memory. It is a slightly above-average 1977 show, with some moments of brilliance...somewhere between the Houston and Cleveland shows and definitely better than the 5/26 and 5/28 Landover dates.

Rating Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome": Performance - 3.75 out of 5/ Sound quality - 4 out of 5.

ledzep-conquering1.jpg

Edited by Strider

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Excellent review, Strider! I'm glad that I could've inspired you to do all this! The TYoLZ review for this show is very harsh, I'm happy that now there's a review that can set the record straight! Am I the only one who notices that Jimmy's solos are somewhat better than the pieces they lead into on this night? Also, maybe my ears are out of tune, but the OtHaFA solo doesn't sound as bad to me as everyone describes it to be. Then again, I can think of 5 versions that are better than this one right off the bat... ( they're all from the LA run though...). The Stairway solo really is an underrated gem IMHO. Also, think I remember seeing an old thread another member started a long while that was also making a statement about how underrated Seattle is.... and I agree!

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Enjoyed your review Strider! I also checked out this video, again, over last summer and thought it was a better performance than I had remembered. I need to get an upgraded copy, mine has pretty bad sound and visuals are grainy. I think TYG might be the best I have heard, overall. Usually I skip the drum solo during the '77 tour, but this one I listened to. Ironically it has parts of "Pat's Delight", "Moby Dick" and "Bonzo's Montreaux" in it. Almost like it was destined to be the last one. Anyway, great review buddy!

:thumbsup:

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Great review, Strider...and funny, because I just upgraded my old VHS copy too! What inspired me to do so was seeing some of the clips people had posted on this forum. I had always thought the show was kind of disappointing, but when I saw the clips, I thought "wow, that's better than I remember." I even watched the OTHFA clip, which I thought for sure would make me cringe (again). To my surprise, even that guitar solo sounded okay (when I first heard it, I thought WTF?!?!). To be honest, though, it was always the visuals more than the audio that disappointed me about the Seattle show anyway. On all the other clips I've seen of '77 (barring the Chicago sickness and the Oakland post-massacre restraint) Jimmy is dancing around like a maniac in ways that almost seem impossible (how can a skeleton dance like that AND play a big double-neck guitar?). Jimmy's cool moves have always been a small but important part of my '77 obsession. And at the beginning of Seattle especially, he's pretty lethargic. Oh well...I'm glad the show is getting reappraised, I think it deserves it, for sure.

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Excellent review, Strider...you take a lotta of the words outta my mouth when it comes to the Seattle show.

Seattle is what it is. I've often said that I prefer the AUD recording for this one because it gives more of an idea of the massive size and scope of this show (not unlike Pontiac, where a SBD recording would be an improvement on the sound quality, but totally lacking in the YOU ARE THERE!!!! aspect). Performance wise, Seattle is nowhere near as bad as some of its detractors make it to be...we all know that there are people out there who base their entire views on the '77 tour on this show, without ever hearing a truly classic performance like June 21 or 23rd. And basing the '77 tour simply on the Seattle show (or the Destroyer show, April 27, which seems to happen about as often) does the tour a major disservice IMO.

Is Seattle a 'classic' performance? Overall, probably not, but I reckon it's pretty much unanimous that at the very least "No Quarter" and -surprisingly- "Ten Years Gone" are definite highlights. Again, much like the next gig in Tempe (which I know we've discussed in depth more than once in this forum), Robert Plant's squeaky voice is the main culprit in Seattle. That will automatically bring the performance quality down a notch or two even more so than Jimmy Page in fumble fingers mode.

As I've said before, imagine if Zeppelin had played Seattle on June 17th...ho ho.

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the seattle show was my first ever look @ the 77 tour, and I was not a fan of it besides sick again and no quarter, but one of my favorite parts of Zeppelin is even at the most tired drunken strung out worst...they are still ass kicking and inspiring!

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the seattle show was my first ever look @ the 77 tour, and I was not a fan of it besides sick again and no quarter, but one of my favorite parts of Zeppelin is even at the most tired drunken strung out worst...they are still ass kicking and inspiring!

You need to hear the Tempe 20/7/77 show or the Oakland 23-24/7/77 gigs (if you haven't already)...drunken strung out galore!

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Several older gentlemen I know who where at the saturday show recall how great they where (non musician ears???) also late the band was, how long the lines at the bathroom where, how nice the Oakland Colosseum was before "Mt Davis" was put in among other things.

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Aw gee, thanks everybody...you've got me blushing. :blush: I'm just happy to contribute.

Addressing some of the points above:

Walter: You're right about that "Moby Dick"...it's almost as if Bonham was saying "goodbye" to it, as if subliminally he knew it would be his last. Which is eerie if you think about it.

Actually, Led Zeppelin's filled with eerie moments like that...like Robert Plant's emotional comments at Knebworth.

mielazul: My disappointment was the same when I first watched the Seattle video...where was dancing Jimmy?

The 1977 Tour was a visual delight and the Seattle Kingdome video represented the first chance to show my friends what I was talking about when I raved about those Forum shows. So it was a bit underwhelming to pop in the Seattle videotape and, along with the murky quality and close-ups making it hard to discern the light show, see the sedate manner of the band on stage.

Anyway, I now have a favourite way to watch the Seattle show. I pop in Genuine Masters' "Watch and Listen to This, Eddie" in the DVD player, turn down the sound and listen to "Conquering Kingdome" on the stereo. At least until someone comes out with a DVD with Godfatherecords' audio synced up with the video.

Sue was right: No DVD release of '77 Seattle Kingdome...not EVSD, not Cosmic Energy...has audio of the quality of Godfatherecords. Their "Conquering Kingdome" is by far the best version of the video soundtrack. That is the version that was the basis for my reappraisal. For the first time listening to the Seattle Kingdome show, Robert's voice didn't annoy me...whoever does the mixing and EQ'ing for Godfatherecords did a great job smoothing out some of the harshness and cracks of Plant's vocals.

I'd love to hear an audience tape, though!

Edited by Strider

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Actually, Led Zeppelin's filled with eerie moments like that...like Robert Plant's emotional comments at Knebworth.
don't even speak of it

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Addressing some of the points above:

Walter: You're right about that "Moby Dick"...it's almost as if Bonham was saying "goodbye" to it, as if subliminally he knew it would be his last. Which is eerie if you think about it.

Actually, Led Zeppelin's filled with eerie moments like that...like Robert Plant's emotional comments at Knebworth.

See also: the epic performances of "Trampled Under Foot", "Stairway" and "Whole Lotta Love" in Berlin in 1980...again, almost as if Page in particular knew it was going to be Zeppelin's final performance, and didn't want it to end, hence the elongated renditions of those songs...

mielazul: My disappointment was the same when I first watched the Seattle video...where was dancing Jimmy?

Indeed...compared to The Song Remains The Same, where Page is his usual hyperactive self, I knew something was not quite right with the man in Seattle the first time we watched the video. Eventually, my missus actually said, "Why are we watching this? Jimmy looks like a corpse!" :lol: Haven't watched the entire thing since...

I'd love to hear an audience tape, though!

Here, I can help remedy that for you, Strider...

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Excellent review Strider, I appreciate the amount of effort and thought you put into your posts! I can't tell you how many times I've been reminded of great shows by your comments and reviews, thanks!

The only thing that's really BAD about Seattle is having to see Jimmy and Bonzo. They both look awful! I saw it and was really put off, I didn't go back for months. Then I decided to give it one more try. It seemed as bad as I remembered and I went in to the kitchen to get a much needed beer. I got stuck in the kitchen talking to my wife. During a lull in our conversation she said "Wow, Jimmy's really tearing it up!" I listened, he was! I turned off the TV and simply listened to the audio. Suddenly this show seemed hot, hot, hot! Yeah I was near the middle, which I've realized is the best part of the show, but still I had dismissed this show because of how it looked not the quality of the playing.

If you've given up on this show try listening to it with out any visuals, it's much better that I thought!

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The best Moby Dick I ever heard from any show!

As pointed out earlier in the discussion, you need to hear some of the early 1969 "Pat's Delight" drum solos (pre-"Moby Dick") to hear Bonham apply a lot of the same rhythms that he did in Seattle. He basically seemed to bring his drum solo full circle.

If you want to hear an absolutely killer "Moby Dick", check out the one from 22/5/77 in Fort Worth...28 minutes long and not a beat out of place.

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As pointed out earlier in the discussion, you need to hear some of the early 1969 "Pat's Delight" drum solos (pre-"Moby Dick") to hear Bonham apply a lot of the same rhythms that he did in Seattle. He basically seemed to bring his drum solo full circle.

If you want to hear an absolutely killer "Moby Dick", check out the one from 22/5/77 in Fort Worth...28 minutes long and not a beat out of place.

the one from 1977/04/30 is great too, seeing as how it's mostly tympani stuff.

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the one from 1977/04/30 is great too, seeing as how it's mostly tympani stuff.

I think the drum solo from 30/4/77 is cut on the recording...I don't think there's any 'hands section' at all, there seems to be kind of an abrupt switch from the main drums bit to the tympani. The 27/6/77 solo is like that too, no hands there either.

Don't shoot me, anybody- as much as I love the drum solos, a lotta the time I do find myself 'fast forwarding' through most of the tympani stuff. Some nights it actually sounds pretty neat, others it just sounds like Bonham is hammering away and it's just this wall of noise/sound (the tympani sections doesn't really come across on bad audience recordings). That's just me mind ya, I can sit through the first fifteen or twenty minutes of "Moby Dick" pretty easily though :lol:

Just to sort of get back on topic, I've always loved the Seattle drum solo. Even on the video, watching John Bonham actually playing the thing, he makes it look so fucking easy:

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Have the DVD, one of my favorite Zep shows! :) Not the best due to Plant's messed up vocals, Jimmy being completley strung out on heroin and at some moments it feels as if though Plant doesn't feel like doing the show at all. However, it is the most special show I've heard them do... The No Quarter solo is fantastic, the best stuff I've heard from Jones, and Bonham's drumming is 10 times better than on any other show! :) Also it's a trippy gig because as messed up as Page is, it makes his playing feel so special and different (Since I've Been Loving You, NQ and Ten Years Gone) and that harmonizing effect on Plant's vocal is hillarious and even creepy at times. The whole show also has this sort of dark, creepy feel that was not present around '75 and not even that much during the '79 gigs... I read about gangsters getting involved with Zep's mannagement and security wich made it all dark alongside Page's addiction and you can really feel it all during the gig.

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The best Moby Dick I ever heard from any show!

It was the last ever Moby Dick played as Bonzo didn't perform it in Tempe or the last 2 Oakland shows.

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