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Southampton 73- Why it's the best Zep bootleg So many people criticize this show because; 1- Plant wasn't in top shape. 2. Neither Page or Bonham matched the intensity of the European dates of 73. Plant was barely above medium shape, which I think added a sense of vulnerability to his vocals. He sang the songs differently, with almost a melancholy approach. He doesn't squeak and strain much (like in other shows) because he knows his limits. By the time he warms up around Dazed And Confused, he sounds pretty decent. Bonham and Page not matching the showoff performance of Vienna or Hamburg isn't necessarily a negative. Those performances, although impressive, were a bit on the extreme side. Any musician can go all out during a live performance, but it's the professional who knows how to stay in the pocket and not stray. Bonham's playing on the Hamburg show is almost overkill. Adding a fill every measure turns a song into a circus act. With that said, this performance isn't far off from the European shows. Page doesn't nail every lead 100%, but that adds to the realism of a band simply playing a show without realizing they're being recorded. And when he plays good, he's as good as he's ever been. Now, with those critiques aside, you have to give credit to one thing- sound quality. Holy shit does this recording sound good. Not good, simply amazing for a bootleg soundboard recording from 1973. No soundboard or audience recording from any other Zep show sounds this good, I don't care how many people tout Royal Albert Hall 1970 or Listen To This Eddie. This was a small venue and it really comes through that way. It's exactly like you're sitting in the fourth or fifth row, fifteen feet away from the band. No cheesy effects like the 77 shows, no lethargic playing like the 75 shows, no overprocessed EQ like the How The West Was Won album, no crap editing like the The Song Remains The Same album. This is up close and personal with a full setlist. How many people would say "How awesome it would be to see Zeppelin in their prime in a small club"? Well, this is it. How could you complain? I think people refuse to appreciate the candidness of this show. I like to imagine this show was professionally recorded like the Madison Square Garden shows, showing the opposite side of their live performance- the biggest band in the world playing a small stage, which is what the band always wanted to do anyway. It's the perfect "Moment in time" performance for this band. Performance vs setlist vs sound quality, this is bar none the best in my opinion.
Southampton 1973/01/23 (folder says 23, but some cover artwork says 22, not sure) Soundboard called "The Great Lost Live Album" - Could be a live album for the absolutely outstanding quality of the recording. (And I only have MP3's!) SIBLY is simply incredible. It ranks among top 3 ever for me. Possibly their best. OTHAFA is not as adventurous as it will often get, but is incredibly beautiful as is The Rain Song. Slower than usual, but just stunning. TSRTS - I think it's one of their best for the quality of the soundboard and the delivery at this particular gig. As good as the official one in the movie of the same name IMHO. John Bonham is on fire throughout the entire show as they all are. Jimmy is a little reserved, but his playing is indicative of that period - excellent. A rarity on this, JPJ comes in early on intro on Stairway which made me smile. I thought JPJ never made mistakes! Overall, it does feel fairly stripped back in a way. Especially Jimmy. Like he was happy to play well within his usual exploratory self. The mad early skills and precision is there, but not so much the adventurous flair. Although SIBLY - wow - absolute pure emotion. In fact, i'd speculate this concert was approached and deliberately recorded in such good quality, with the guys all so "on" by design and was either a test run for what they could record live later that year, or was possibly going to be considered for release depending how they all felt about it. It really does seem like a great long lost live album. Great concert. As good to listen to as any official release. The quality! Did I mention that? Oh and one other thing that struck me as really cool. The crowd silence at softer parts, like the beginning and end of The Rain Song, intro to Stairway, other places where light turns to shade and you usually get a big response from the crowd. Like they were incredibly well behaved, or just in awe/really, really into it. When they do cheer it is loud and great, but the silence at certain moments contributes to the greatness of this particular boot. It's noticable and it's awesome. I'm assuming it was not removed or suppressed at times (doesn't feel like that). So, as I'm still discovering all these boots now residing on my drive, a question.... 1972/73/75 - How many concert boots are official release quality that are as good as, or better than this? Where the whole band is just on fire. a couple of songs at least that could be considered their best from that period (if not ever) - like this concert, or a concert that is just miles ahead of anything else. But where the quality of the board or matrix is at least on par with this one. AND - if Jimmy ever gets wrapped up in what past shows he can showcase (the live vaults!), THIS - surely would have to be among contenders for any possible future release.