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Strider

STRIDER'S 1977 TOUR THREAD

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Boy, there is a lot of nitpicking going on with 1977.

First of all, when craigled said 1977 was Led Zeppelin's best tour, I think he was not just talking about the show itself but the totality of the tour, the gigantity of it all.

When I think of a rock and roll tour, I think of a band on the road for months at a time hitting all the regions of the country. I think of endless days of speculation and anticipation and media reports coming in as the band marches across the country, the buzz building and building until you think you are going to burst with excitement when the band at last comes to your town.

By the mid-70s, after Led Zeppelin and the Stones and Elton John and others laid the groundwork for the modern rock tour, it was common-place for bands to tour for more than 30 or 40 shows in the U.S.

But for most of the early years, a Led Zeppelin tour barely lasted a month or more. Even in 1972, while the Stones were blazing around America, when Led Zeppelin toured the Led Zeppelin IV album, they played only 19 shows on that summer tour. No shows in San Francisco, Chicago, Texas, or anywhere in the Deep South.

1973 was their first real bona-fide multi-month cross-country tour of America. 36 shows and this time Led Zeppelin did hit the south and San Francisco and Chicago and many other places they had neglected. That was a great tour.

In 1975, they had another boffo tour...but even at 38 shows across three months, it seemed short. Again there were places ignored...no San Francisco/Oakland dates, for instance. Other issues hampered the tour...the band's health and the fact that the majority of the tour took place in the freezing winter, which exacerbated the band's health issues.

The 1977 U.S. Tour, on the other hand, felt different right from the beginning. For one thing, it was a spring-summer tour. Warm weather and warm vibes. Like 1973, they hit all the regions of the country, playing places they missed in 1975. 51 total dates scheduled from April to August...of which 44 were played before Karac's tragic passing forced the cancellation of the rest of the dates. The 1977 tour was not only covered by Creem, Circus, and the rock media and daily newspapers of the cities on the tour. It was also covered by the national mainstream press such as Time and Newsweek.

The sound system, the staging, the light show and special effects. Everything was a leap above what had come previously. 

And now let us talk about the concert itself. Everyone mentions Tempe. Ok, Tempe was bad...or that's what one hears from the available tape.

But how many "bad" shows were there really on the 1977 tour? I can vouch for the LA Forum run...not a bad show in the bunch. Even the one I missed, the 22nd of June, is top-notch. Best "Over the Hills" solo Jimmy ever played...and maybe the best "No Quarter" of the Forum week.

All the New York shows sound like they were good shows...some like the June 7th reach epic heights. So between LA and NY, that's 12 good to great shows right there.

Both Cleveland shows, Cincinnati, Pontiac Silverdome, Atlanta, Ft. Worth, Houston, and two of the Largo Center, MD shows (May 28 and 30) all sound like passable good shows to me...the worst of them is still above average.

So far we have two Largo shows and Tempe that one could objectively rank as below average. That makes 3 bad shows and 21 above average or better shows.

Chicago I have only heard in fragments, so I cannot really vouch for those dates. But let's go ahead and concede that the show where Jimmy collapsed was not a good night for the band. Nor can I make a judgement on all the early dates that have not surfaced in any form. I never received Freezer's Baton Rouge tape. But people that have heard it rave about the show.

Tampa was rained out but what they did play sounds like it would have been a killer show.

That leaves San Diego and the third leg of the tour. I haven't listened to San Diego or the Oakland shows in years. I recall Bonham being deathly ill during the San Diego show so I cut the band some slack for that night. The Oakland shows I recall not being impressed compared to the Forum shows, but I don't know that I would say they were bad shows...the quality or non-quality of the audience tape may hinder one's judgement of a show.

Last but not least, we have the Seattle Kingdome show, which I have previously reconsidered on this Forum and found it to be quite enjoyable, especially via the audience tape.

So, let us say the San Diego and one of the Oakland shows were bad.

That means that out of a 44 date tour, we only have evidence of 6 "bad" shows: Tempe, San Diego, Oakland, Chicago, and two Largos. 27 shows are good-to-great and we are still waiting on tapes for the rest.

That is a pretty good ratio and hardly the disaster people try to make the 1977 tour seem.

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9 hours ago, IpMan said:

Exactly my point, very inconsistent tour. The highs were stratospheric, however the lows were pretty dramatic. Though the supposed worst gig that year, Tempe, is so bad at times to be entertaining in a hilarious sort of way. Listening to ALS from that show, for me at least, is a real treat. It starts off as one of the best ALS ever with an improvised intro but after Jimmy almost gets blown up by a flash pot, what happens for the rest of the song is just comedic gold. 

The show I was at was almost a nightmare.   Some asshole shot a flare rocket a the stage and Plant's shirt caught fire.  I really thought they would walk off stage.  I mean it was a few chords into "The Song Remains the Same", the opening song, and if this had happened to the Stones they would have been gone.  I remember the Stones walking off the stage in Buffalo after an hour and a half and they took the stage around dinner time in upstate NY>  Maybe around 5pm and the sun was still out when they walked off.  To this day I do not know why they did that shit.  This was the Some Girls tour  Back to the Zeppelin concert I was at, my point was that I got to see and hear them  perform pretty much all of their best as the concerts before 77 did not have PG.  No Kashmir.  No In My Time of Dying, and Achilles Last Stand, etc.  

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7 hours ago, Strider said:

Boy, there is a lot of nitpicking going on with 1977.

First of all, when craigled said 1977 was Led Zeppelin's best tour, I think he was not just talking about the show itself but the totality of the tour, the gigantity of it all.

When I think of a rock and roll tour, I think of a band on the road for months at a time hitting all the regions of the country. I think of endless days of speculation and anticipation and media reports coming in as the band marches across the country, the buzz building and building until you think you are going to burst with excitement when the band at last comes to your town.

By the mid-70s, after Led Zeppelin and the Stones and Elton John and others laid the groundwork for the modern rock tour, it was common-place for bands to tour for more than 30 or 40 shows in the U.S.

But for most of the early years, a Led Zeppelin tour barely lasted a month or more. Even in 1972, while the Stones were blazing around America, when Led Zeppelin toured the Led Zeppelin IV album, they played only 19 shows on that summer tour. No shows in San Francisco, Chicago, Texas, or anywhere in the Deep South.

1973 was their first real bona-fide multi-month cross-country tour of America. 36 shows and this time Led Zeppelin did hit the south and San Francisco and Chicago and many other places they had neglected. That was a great tour.

In 1975, they had another boffo tour...but even at 38 shows across three months, it seemed short. Again there were places ignored...no San Francisco/Oakland dates, for instance. Other issues hampered the tour...the band's health and the fact that the majority of the tour took place in the freezing winter, which exacerbated the band's health issues.

The 1977 U.S. Tour, on the other hand, felt different right from the beginning. For one thing, it was a spring-summer tour. Warm weather and warm vibes. Like 1973, they hit all the regions of the country, playing places they missed in 1975. 51 total dates scheduled from April to August...of which 44 were played before Karac's tragic passing forced the cancellation of the rest of the dates. The 1977 tour was not only covered by Creem, Circus, and the rock media and daily newspapers of the cities on the tour. It was also covered by the national mainstream press such as Time and Newsweek.

The sound system, the staging, the light show and special effects. Everything was a leap above what had come previously. 

And now let us talk about the concert itself. Everyone mentions Tempe. Ok, Tempe was bad...or that's what one hears from the available tape.

But how many "bad" shows were there really on the 1977 tour? I can vouch for the LA Forum run...not a bad show in the bunch. Even the one I missed, the 22nd of June, is top-notch. Best "Over the Hills" solo Jimmy ever played...and maybe the best "No Quarter" of the Forum week.

All the New York shows sound like they were good shows...some like the June 7th reach epic heights. So between LA and NY, that's 12 good to great shows right there.

Both Cleveland shows, Cincinnati, Pontiac Silverdome, Atlanta, Ft. Worth, Houston, and two of the Largo Center, MD shows (May 28 and 30) all sound like passable good shows to me...the worst of them is still above average.

So far we have two Largo shows and Tempe that one could objectively rank as below average. That makes 3 bad shows and 21 above average or better shows.

Chicago I have only heard in fragments, so I cannot really vouch for those dates. But let's go ahead and concede that the show where Jimmy collapsed was not a good night for the band. Nor can I make a judgement on all the early dates that have not surfaced in any form. I never received Freezer's Baton Rouge tape. But people that have heard it rave about the show.

Tampa was rained out but what they did play sounds like it would have been a killer show.

That leaves San Diego and the third leg of the tour. I haven't listened to San Diego or the Oakland shows in years. I recall Bonham being deathly ill during the San Diego show so I cut the band some slack for that night. The Oakland shows I recall not being impressed compared to the Forum shows, but I don't know that I would say they were bad shows...the quality or non-quality of the audience tape may hinder one's judgement of a show.

Last but not least, we have the Seattle Kingdome show, which I have previously reconsidered on this Forum and found it to be quite enjoyable, especially via the audience tape.

So, let us say the San Diego and one of the Oakland shows were bad.

That means that out of a 44 date tour, we only have evidence of 6 "bad" shows: Tempe, San Diego, Oakland, Chicago, and two Largos. 27 shows are good-to-great and we are still waiting on tapes for the rest.

That is a pretty good ratio and hardly the disaster people try to make the 1977 tour seem.

Well...when you put it like THAT :blush:

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Make that 28 shows in the plus column. I forgot about jabe's Birmingham, Alabama show.

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First band EVER to even attempt that amount of shows in that amount of time to that amount of people. Denis Sheehan - who is now involved with U2 - has said that that tour was the way not to do it whilst simultaneously saying that the sheer scale of it and the ambition of it at the time was admirable.

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I'm just discovering this thread, and in celebration of the 5th anniversary of Strider's account, and the 40th anniversary of the tour, I have started from the beginning and will read it as intended.  I've gotten through the purchase of the tickets and look forward to reading the rest of the story as we move along through the coming months.

Very nicely written, Sean!  Your attention to detail, and your ability to recall those details, is quite remarkable!  By contrast, I can remember that I went to a concert 30+ years ago if I have the ticket stub to prove it, haha. It's fun to read your detailed account, especially of such special concerts that many of us never experienced.  It's fun to remember how concerts (and life in general) were different back in 'the day', and it's fun to get to know you a little better along the way! 

:gimmefive:

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On ‎1‎/‎31‎/‎2017 at 1:01 PM, Strider said:

Make that 28 shows in the plus column. I forgot about jabe's Birmingham, Alabama show.

Indeed!
I don't know who gets credit for the "breaks" between each leg of the tour, but that was prime forward thinking.
I'm rehashing, but Birmingham being the first stop on the second leg was perfect. Plant's vocals are rested, I believe Page had been (refocusing?) in parts unknown, and the rhythm section was on spot. Further, I believe the overwhelming reception Led Zeppelin received in Birmingham set the tone or energy for many of the legendary shows on the second leg. General admission tickets increased the energy level for sure. Birmingham can't match the sex appeal of a multi-million population city and all the accoutrements found within, but we have a good spirit.
Hope a soundboard of this show appears one day. Soon.

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Excellent summary Strider, I almost felt inclined to change my mind about the '77 tour after reading that, except a couple major issues with the tour have made me listen less and less to shows from that tour. Mainly, Page's struggling with his chops pretty much every show. Also, the waffle was super sized, No Quarter became overblown and boring, Moby Dick was indeed Over The Top, and Bonzos playing was somehow more predictable than on previous tours. I'm sure if I got to attend a show though, I'd still be awestruck . Time to revisit The Birmingham show. ?

Edited by porgie66

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Thanks for this awesome thread Strider. . .and bagdeholders recollection of 6/23 and that HOLY SHIT moment at the start of the show. .

Will you be finishing this thread???!?:D

 

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Such a great tour and very different from the others.  So much energy compared to 1975 (or even 1973 in spots).  Plant was back in full force, so much better than 1975.  Bonham was out of this world, there were two epics from Presence (if they had added a few more like For Your Life and Hots on that really would have been something!).  It was great to see Nobody's Fault and Achilles bring the house down as the new songs.  For once they debuted songs live after the album was released and I think that made a difference.

The acoustic set was so energetic and fun.  Plant nailed it on Black Country Woman.  

Could have perhaps done without the noise solo.  Ok, Jimmy was "experimenting" but not all that successfully.   The only other thing that was a miss was Jones singing on Battle of Evermore but at least he tried and it was a great version otherwise.  The fact that they added that song and Ten Years Gone - so great! 

And to top it all off, No Quarter was completely re-imagined for the second time.  1975 was completely different from 1973, and 1977 was another thing altogether.

And then we come to the crowds.  America was so hungry for Zeppelin.  They were at their pinnacle of popularity, including new generations of fans barely old enough to have seen them on any prior tour.

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.       

 

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Sean,

Have you checked out the boot from April 9th? I was very surprised at the quality as the sound is very good. The show, though truncated, was a good one actually and Jimmy played very well. Whatever was wrong with him seemed to focus him (except when he did SIBLY out of order from the setlist and played solo for a minute until the band joined in). Even Ten Years Gone is an excellent version except for the first solo of which there is none, only Jones playing acoustic. I believe this is the point where Jimmy almost collapsed. He then joins back in and finishes the song with a brilliant b-bender solo. What I find strange is the following show of the 10th was another very strong, excellent show, except he screwed up the first solo (TYG) yet the end solo again was beautiful. I wonder what it is about the first solo which Jimmy had such a problem with as this is the only part of the song he consistently messed up (about 50% of the time) whereas the more complicated outro solo he always nailed. I can play the first solo pretty much note for note off the album version however there is no way I can't even try the outro solo with any success. I can wing it but to be honest I have found it quite difficult to pull off a good, fluid, well articulated solo with a b-bender yet Jimmy always made it sound beautiful and fluid. Then again I never really studied and practiced with a b-bender very much but players who do have told me they are very difficult to play successfully in the manner Page and other players do. It takes much practice and patience.

I really like the 77' tour. Of course in retrospect its easy to say, oh they should have done this or not done that but it was what it was and it was still damn good. Anyway, I don't think I have ever been to any concert that I did not walk away and think the band should have played a different song or two. I remember seeing the Cure years ago and leaving pissed off because they did not play Disintegration. WTF??? The band should have KNOWN that was my FAVORITE song and played it because it is all about ME!!! 

Humans, we are a picky, selfish bunch.

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On 1/29/2012 at 2:47 AM, Strider said:

The other thing happening was the traveling Dunking Circus that was that year's Philadelphia 76ers team was coming to town and playing the Lakers at the Forum that night...see second photo below. This was Julius "Dr. J" Erving's first season in the NBA after many years as an ABA god, and he and the 76ers were tearing the league up. Dr. J, George McGinnis, World B. Free, Steve Mix, Doug Collins, Harvey Catchings, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins(who named his dunks), and Joe Bryant(Kobe's father). Gene Shue was the coach. At a time when most games didn't sell out, Philadelphia was drawing SRO crowds everywhere they played...and tonight's game at the Forum was no exception. Plus, just to show you how times have changed in the NBA, the top ticket price for Laker games that year was $8.75. That's right, $8.75 got you near Jack Nicholson.

After a couple of dismal seasons of missing the playoffs, the Lakers were also looking pretty good in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's second season with the Lakers. LA was in a dogfight with Bill Walton and the Portland Trailblazers that year, and they had recently tied the Laker team record for home victories in a row at 17. Tonight at the Forum against Philly, they would go for the record. Besides Kareem, there was Cazzie Russell, Don Ford, Don Chaney, Kermit Washington, and a spectacular talented rookie out of Marquette, Earl Tatum. And who was coaching our Lakers? None other than Mr. Laker and Mr. NBA himself, Jerry West.

Applause for your trip down the lost American highway and the Zep '77 experience. I'm really enjoying the reading. 1977 was the year I became a fan of that Ken Stabler Raiders team, but my NBA allegiances were to that team in the Midwest that traded Kareem to the Lakers. Which brings me to the point of this reply --  If you get some time, check out the Karol K channel on Youtube.  Karol posts full video of late 1970s and early 1980s playoff games, the perfect medicine for any old school basketball Jones. There are 1977 playoff games posted and available now, including a few of your '77 Lakers. Last week watched the game 6 where Kareem scores 43 vs. Clifford Ray and Golden State. There is no charge for any of this, and no media conglomerate is striking any of the games she posts.  It's too good. Sounds like you would dig it.

While those games are free to watch, top available ticket for Sunday's Clippers-Jazz game is over $3,000.   The sticker shock has frozen my laptop.

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I think it's great that there are so many champions of the 77' tour. I do heavily see that many were attendees of the shows,

which IMO changes the lens thru what you are seeing/ hearing. I do believe the tour has been demonized somewhat, but 

particularly Jimmy's playing even in some of the better shows is just too inconsistent from track to track, I can't take the

alteration from good to great playing and very near trainwreck, literally in the space of 10 seconds, or two excellent songs

followed by two really mediocre guitar performances. But I fully understand  the scope and scale of the shows, and how

obviously the band was aiming to produce a true sonic and visual spectacle. I know some musicians who saw some of

the "weak" shows, and they said the volume, Jimmy strutting around, and Bonzo often murdering his drum set, it

tended to mostly gloss over some of the musical infirmities.

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Wow. Being the sound quality snob that I am, I totally underestimated 6/22/77 and 6/26/77. They're not bad recordings at all. If you can hear the high hat, vocals, bass drum, guitar, bass... I mean you're good to go.

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On 3/5/2017 at 9:09 PM, Bozoso73 said:

Thanks for this awesome thread Strider. . .and bagdeholders recollection of 6/23 and that HOLY SHIT moment at the start of the show. .

Will you be finishing this thread???!?:D

 

Indeed I will. That's one reason I haven't been posting much lately...been busy fine-tuning the next chapters.

On 4/29/2017 at 9:23 AM, Mercurious said:

Applause for your trip down the lost American highway and the Zep '77 experience. I'm really enjoying the reading. 1977 was the year I became a fan of that Ken Stabler Raiders team, but my NBA allegiances were to that team in the Midwest that traded Kareem to the Lakers. Which brings me to the point of this reply --  If you get some time, check out the Karol K channel on Youtube.  Karol posts full video of late 1970s and early 1980s playoff games, the perfect medicine for any old school basketball Jones. There are 1977 playoff games posted and available now, including a few of your '77 Lakers. Last week watched the game 6 where Kareem scores 43 vs. Clifford Ray and Golden State. There is no charge for any of this, and no media conglomerate is striking any of the games she posts.  It's too good. Sounds like you would dig it.

While those games are free to watch, top available ticket for Sunday's Clippers-Jazz game is over $3,000.   The sticker shock has frozen my laptop.

Wow! I had no idea about this Karol K channel. Thanks a million for tipping me off to this Laker goldmine.

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Dry-ice-fills-the-stage-a-009.jpg.4e4110b9e4423577ac04fe8c9a328325.jpg

Post #19 Remastered: LED ZEPPELIN LANDS AT THE FORUM- THE FIRST NIGHT!

DATE: Tuesday, June 21, 1977

The First Day of Summer. The Summer Solstice dawned and it was a great day to go to a concert...especially a Led Zeppelin concert.

Especially when you just spent your freshman year at a shit high school in a shit town miles away from the beach and the coastal breezes and all of your old friends. I was miserable and these Led Zeppelin concerts were like an oasis appearing to a dying man in the desert.

As any kid who has had to wait a long time for a concert knows, the actual day of the concert is "the longest day". Chances are you couldn't sleep the night before because of your excitement. Then there is the worry all thru the day that something awful will happen to cause you to miss the concert. Murphy's Law and all that jazz. Kind of like Christmas, where you start being on your best behaviour because you don't want to screw yourself out of any presents.

With all the news reports of violence and riots on the 1977 tour, I did everything I could to keep my thoughts positive. Fortune, or karma, was with me, and Led Zeppelin arrived in Los Angeles as scheduled and the Fabulous Forum awaited the colourful hordes coming to the six sold out nights...the first rock band to accomplish that feat.

Ok, most of you already know the particulars, but for anyone who doesn't: Tonight is the 40th anniversary of the first of six concerts Led Zeppelin played at the Forum of Inglewood(in Los Angeles) on their 1977 tour. This is the famous "Listen to this, Eddie" show, taped by Mike Millard.

But I'm not reviewing the bootleg in this post, I am talking about the concert itself, which is a seperate thing entirely.

Ok, here we go.

We(my school buddy and his older brother and his friends) are in the Forum. Me and my friend are in the Loge section 27 or 28...at about the midway point between the stage and the rear of the floor and on the right side of the arena looking towards the stage: JIMMY'S SIDE!!!

Heading into the Forum that Tuesday evening was truly like entering a House of the Holy. Already being a veteran of multiple concerts at the Forum, the venue attained an aura that few other venues could match. Led Zeppelin's own aura was off the charts by 1977. Not mere superstars of rock...oh no, by now they were Rock Gods.

7:30pm was the advertised start time, but everyone knows that that is never the case with Led Zeppelin...and rock concerts in general. We arrived early enough to give us time to score a t-shirt and 1977 tour book at the merchandise stand. So after the usual waiting, listening to the music being played over the 'house PA' (I could swear they played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone" and Moody Blues "Tuesday Afternoon"), checking out the stage equipment, and various food fights and paper cup battles and frisbees and beach balls or whatever being tossed about through the thick cloud of marijuana (and who knows what else) smoke, the house lights finally go down sometime between 8:30 and 9pm and several things happen that confirm that you were at a Led Zeppelin concert.

1. An epic roar issued forth from the packed Forum in anticipation of the band taking the stage. One hundred and forty-one days...nay, SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SIX DAYS of pent-up waiting and anticipation and desire EXPLODED out of us and rained down upon the darkened stage, to hail our heroes return!

2. Something else exploded...cherry bombs and firecrackers were lit from various parts of the crowd. I was never a fan of this type of concert ritual, especially if one went off near your ear, affecting your ability to hear the concert. But it was a fact of life at concerts in the 70s, one you had to endure...particularly at Led Zeppelin shows.

3. As you begin to detect the band members making their way on stage, one figure announces his presence in an unmistakable way. With a rat-a-tat-tat of his snare and boom-boom-boom of his kick drum, John Bonham musically says "Hello L.A.!" It is at that moment you remember how LOUD a Led Zeppelin concert is and from just a few seconds of those loud whacks as Bonham tests his drums, you can tell Bonzo is going to pound us good tonight!

Jimmy Page then enters the conversation, giving a few test strums on the 12-string of his iconic double-neck guitar. Before you know it, Jimmy strikes the opening chord and they are off!!!

Even though I knew in advance what most of the setlist was going to be and that "The Song Remains the Same" was going to be the first song, the instant explosion of light and sound still took my breath away. With the lights(the lights for the 1977 tour were light years beyond when I first saw them in 1972, and even 1973) going off in a flash and the band attacking the song with such ferocity and power(oh my god Bonzo was slaying his drums!), the opening packed such a wallop that I literally was in a dazed trance for the first couple of songs. Just standing there with my mouth agape, trying to take it all in. The band, what they were wearing (Jimmy's white poppy suit in particular), and getting my ears and body adjusted to the LOUD SONIC ASSAULT Led Zeppelin was unleashing.

The first two songs(TSRTS/Rover intro/Sick Again) whooshed by in a blur. Seriously. I just remember Bonham sounding insane and the thrill of seeing Jimmy with the double-neck. Thank god for Mike Millard or I would have very little recollection of them. I didn't even noticed Jimmy's guitar problems at the start of Sick Again, as Jones and Bonzo were loud enough on their own(something the bootlegs don't adequately capture) to mask a few seconds of lost guitar.

Robert Plant says hello to us after the end of "Sick Again", and as the band has stopped playing as Jimmy gets his Les Paul Sunburst ready for the next song, I can finally catch my breath and take stock of the situation. I am already starting to get a contact high from all the blazing going on inside the arena. People are even tossing joints on stage as well as other talismans for the lads. 

The stage for the 1977 tour looks much cleaner and roomier than previous tours. More room to move around and better sightlines for the audience without the speakers in the way. Bonham doesn't have the Vistalite drum kit this time around. Now he has a stainless steel Ludwig kit.

It is during this lull that Plant mentions the Bad Company show at the Forum in May 1976 that he and Jimmy appeared at and those of us that were at that show scream our acknowledgment. You can sense Robert Plant is raring to go, itching to get going, but Jimmy and Raymond (from Scotland) seem to be having trouble with the guitar effect needed for the next song, "Nobody's Fault but Mine". So there's a brief moment of "dead air" so-to-speak until all systems are go. 

This will become a common theme during the week of shows at the Forum. Lots of broken strings, broken guitar straps, broken wires, broken drums...just a lot more technical issues than I remembered Led Zeppelin having in the past. Maybe their gear was getting too old, too road damaged, to be trustworthy day in and day out on the stage?

Now, before the tour started I had already made a mental wish list of what I wanted the setlist to entail. Mainly, I wanted as many new songs as possible...whether that meant new songs from Presence and Physical Graffiti or songs from the older albums that they hadn't ever played or rarely: When the Levee Breaks, The Rover, Four Sticks.

So while I obviously didn't get all of my wishes, I was very enthused to see two of my favourite Presence tracks on the setlist for Dallas in the LA Times review of the opening night of the tour.

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a powerful, rhythmic song and it has the kind of starts and stops that only a well-oiled band can pull off convincingly...EVERYBODY in the band has to hit their mark at the same time or the song loses its attack. I would be very curious to know how Led Zeppelin sounded on this song on the early shows of the tour, considering the word is they didn't rehearse at all for those four months while the gear was here in the U.S. while they waited for Plant to get better. The earliest 77 show I have is the Cleveland "Destroyer" show. Has anyone heard any of the first few shows from Dallas and Oklahoma? Do they hit the marks in "Nobody's Fault but Mine"?

Well, whatever...they sure NAIL the song at the Forum!!! Jimmy's playing the riff thru his wah-wah pedal and some other delay effect that seems to split the riff into a high and low register, making it seem like Jimmy's playing two guitars at once.

But then, one of the cosmic things about a Led Zeppelin concert was the way it frequently seemed as if Jimmy was playing two guitars simultaneously...or more. The man had a way with sonic architecture that few of his peers could conceive, let alone execute. And along with the bloozy thrust and pull of "Nobody's Fault but Mine", you got not only Percy blowing a harmonica solo(something I hadn't seen him do since 1972) but also the humorous bit with Robert referencing Steve Martin when he exclaims before the guitar solo, "Oh Jimmy? Oh Jimmy? Well, excuuuuse me!"

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" was the very embodiment of 'Sultans of Swagger', the term Neal Preston used for his book of Zeppelin photos.

It was probably during this song that I first noticed how much stronger Plant's voice was from the 1975 tour...and even the 1973 tour. Perhaps the top range wasn't all the way back to his 1970-72 range, the sandpaper rasp he struggled with before was gone and the power was back. The return to form of his voice seemed to lend him a renewed confidence and it showed in his stage manner. Plant really appeared loose and in good spirits during the Forum shows. Not that he wasn't in the past, but I've always thought some of his stage banter on the 75 tour betrayed a certain nervousness and his demeanor could be curt at times. But you probably would be too if you had the flu and was touring through snowstorms.

Now we get a surprise...a switch in the program. Instead of "In My Time of Dying" after NFBM, as Dallas and other early dates got, Jimmy straps on that tricked-up cherry red Les Paul and the Forum is treated to "Over the Hills and Far Away". If the band has been clicking on all cylinders from the beginning of the show, it is at this point they really start cooking. And while OTHAFA has been part of the setlist since 1972, it has never been played like THIS!!! For it is on the 1977 OTHAFAs that Jimmy at last has a clearly defined idea of how he wants the solo to progress and to sound. I always enjoyed hearing the song in concert, but on previous tours, sometimes the solo would be great and other times it would sound haphazard and the ending would be random and awkward. 

In 1977 there was no pussyfooting around. If the opening blast of "The Song Remains the Same" provided the night's first peel-your-face-back moment, the next occurred when Jimmy launched into the solo on OTHAFA. Holy fucking shit. Oh, I'm sorry...I mean HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!

Jimmy is on Mount Zeus hurling thunderbolts every which way while Bonzo is savagely firing off clusterbombs from his drumkit and Jones just coolly lopes along setting the groove. The tone and delay on Jimmy's guitar is outrageous...it's a perfect mindfuck of a solo. It's spacey and savage at the same time. Like someone married Steve Hillage or David Gilmore with Neil Young/Johnny Thunders.

It's so good, I want it to go on forever. It's so good, in fact, that after the song is over I turn to my friend and say "no matter what happens the rest of the show, it was worth the days waiting in line and the $9.75 just to hear that!!!"

Whether it was the lasting effect of that solo or the ever constant smell of marijuana and/or hash wafting by...or a combination of the two..."Since I've Been Loving You" was nearly half-over before I snapped out of this dazed trance I was in. Which happened often at Led Zeppelin concerts...you would find yourself dazed, as if you couldn't believe they were really on stage and this concert was really happening.  I couldn't quite remember if they had played SIBLY in 1975, and with the film "The Song Remains the Same" and its awesome SIBLY fresh in everybody's mind, it was a welcome return to the setlist. The song is always dramatic in concert.

Since I was spacing out for much of the song, it's only because of the bootleg that I was able to learn that Jimmy incorporated bits of "Tea for One" in the solo. Or the way Plant was "down on my knees...I'm begging you please". What I didn't need the bootleg to help me remember is what I always remember from all the SIBLYs I've seen: the way Jimmy caresses his guitar, particularly when it's one of his Les Pauls. A mother holding a baby couldn't be more loving. A man holding his lover couldn't be more sensual.

SIBLY is notable for another reason. Starting with this song, Jones would put down his Alembic bass and not pick it up again for more than 90-minutes. For all the hand-wringing over the Alembics, he did not play them for much of the concert...the first four songs and a few songs at the end.

SIBLY earned a rapturous response from the crowd, as it has always been a concert favourite with fans. Plant chats some more...yeah, he's cooking, or something. To tell you the truth, with the noise of everyone around you and the reverberation of the sound, not to mention Plant's accent, it could sometimes be difficult to understand what he was saying between songs. Did he just mention Jimmy?

Not difficult to understand was the dry ice/smoke machine flooding the stage in a bank of fog: it was time for "No Quarter". Hell yeah! This was one of my favourite moments of the 1975 tour and I was looking forward to hearing it performed in 1977. I knew from the '75 tour that it would most likely be a long journey...those '75 NQs were around 20 minutes or more. But I was willing to settle back and place myself in the band's hands and take the journey with them. In Jones, Bonham and Page I had pilots I could trust. The fun came with seeing who would be the leader.

Blue. An absolutely beautiful shade of blue. That's the colour I will always associate with "No Quarter", thanks to the blue light bathing the stage during the opening to "No Quarter". Blue lights. Massive banks of dry ice covering the stage. Oh, and the laser light show. Which I almost missed because my focus was so intent on what was happening on stage, I didn't even bother to look up at the laser lights oscillating until my buddy tapped me and pointed upward. After which, he left to get a coke or something as Jones played his piano solo.

Now, I know there is much debate about which No Quarters are the best: '73, '75, or '77. And from a position of hindsight, I now believe the '75 NQs to be the best versions. But hot damn if at the time I sat and watched this performance of NQ that evening of June 21, that I wasn't flabbergasted at what I witnessed and thought that I had just saw the greatest, weirdest No Quarter ever! Talk about your long and winding road! Bonham and Jimmy seemed to be engaged in a battle over who was leading the journey, while Jones did his best to keep them from going off the rails.. It was fascinating watching them prod and stalk each other...as if they were hunting. I think Bonham won the first night.

The band had certainly eaten their Wheaties before the show; all of them were fired up and ready to go off on any tangent they desired. This was the kind of kinetic, unpredictable, raw jam that separated Led Zeppelin from the bloodless prog types like ELP and Pink Floyd, or the groovy boogie-jam groups such as the Doobies and Grateful Dead, or Zeppelin's fading metal contemporaries Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. There simply wasn't another rock band out there in 1977, in my opinion, that could pull off something like "No Quarter" in concert. Frank Zappa? Maybe. Can or King Crimson? Sure...but neither Can or Zappa or Crimson were multimillion-dollar-top-of-the-charts commercial giants. Led Zeppelin was different from all the other Billboard chart-toppers in that they had no fear of venturing into avant-garde territory.

30 minutes later and it was over. Between the light show and watching Bonham and Jimmy push each other, I was held in rapture the entire time. This was also another time where you could appreciate the power of Plant's vocals...especially at the end when he and Page get into a duel between his "dogs of doom" howling and Pagey's wicked wah-wah. Jimmy painted the canvas with every colour of the rainbow with his Les Paul....Lordy, the things he could do with that guitar.

My buddy got back with drinks just in time for me to tell him he'd missed a hell of a jam. He said he heard it even if he didn't see it.

"No Quarter" was another one of those moments of the concert that alone was worth the cost of the ticket. By now, Led Zeppelin had me smiling and buzzed...I didn't need drugs to enjoy a Led Zeppelin show. Their music was a natural high.

My smile was about to get bigger with the next song...another fresh newbie to the set: "Ten Years Gone"!

Whoa...a triple-neck! (As some weisenheimer in the crowd shouts on the bootleg).I cannot adequately describe in words how beautiful "Ten Years Gone" sounded in concert. The marriage of Jones' acoustic triple-neck with Jimmy's brown Telecaster created a textural masterpiece. I am blown away again by the immense sound coming from basically just three musicians...it sounds like six. The outro solos by Jimmy cascade magnificently upon each other. When I hear people say Led Zeppelin couldn't play their songs properly, the way they were on the album, I tell them to shut it and play them a live "Ten Years Gone". "Worth the price of admission" moment #5.

We were now an hour-and-a-half into the set. Most bands would be ending their concert at this point, if not sooner. Led Zeppelin was just getting started and roadies busied themselves setting up chairs and mics along the front of the stage. At long last, Zeppelin was bringing back the "acoustic set"!

The acoustic set was one of the highlights I remembered from my first Led Zeppelin show, June 25, 1972 at the Forum. As great as the 1973 and 1975 tours were, a part of me missed the warm embrace of the acoustic set.

Judging by the roar of the crowd around me, so did everyone else at the Forum that night. "Battle of Evermore", "Going to California", "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp"...these are all great songs and it was a joy to hear them. Everywhere you looked, people were smiling and clapping and it was just like sitting around a campfire.

And poor Jones...people like to pick on his vocals on "Battle of Evermore". I suppose it would have been better if they had just hired Sandy Denny or some suitable female singer to come along on the tour. But Led Zeppelin was always a 4-man self-contained unit on stage. They didn't seem to want outsiders to join in on the road.

The tapes (especially the soundboards) make Jones sound worse than it actually did in the concert. On tape, Jonesey's voice is more exposed and isolated. At the concert, with the echo and reverb of the Forum acoustics, and the general wall of sound you get at a concert, his voice was better blended in amongst the instrumental background. And what a background, with Jimmy's shimmery mandolin ringing around the Forum.

As you should be able to tell by my avatar name, "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" is one of my favourite Zeppelin tunes. So this song brought big smiles...my friend and I clapping and foot-stomping along. There were vocal mics in front of all four of the fellows, and sure enough, Jimmy Page was singing the backing vocals on "Stomp"! Not Bonzo, as he had in 1972, but the usually quiet Jimmy himself. That was a pleasant surprise to see.

The little bit of "Black Country Woman" just before "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" was great, too, except that you wished Robert would have at least played some of the harmonica parts...I love the harmonica on "Black Country Woman". But it was nice to see Robert channeling his inner Elvis.

In fact, Robert seemed to really relish the acoustic set, cracking wise throughout...references to Rhinestone Cowgirl and Neil Young among them. I bet Robert was a prime instigator in bringing it back. This was the fun, goofy side of Led Zeppelin that critics too often missed or ignored. And just like that, the acoustic set was over....it really went by in a flash.

Before you knew it, Jimmy was seated on a chair or stool and holding that black and white Danelectro that I remembered from the 1975 tour. He used it to play "In My Time of Dying" in 1975, and IMTOD was listed as being played in Dallas on the opening night of the 1977 tour. Maybe now they were going to play it? But with Page sitting down...uh oh, was he feeling ill like he was in Chicago? Thoughts of the show being curtailed like that night in Chicago entered my brain and I voiced my concerns to my friend. The concert had been spectacular so far...don't let it end prematurely.

Of course, my worries were silly...Jimmy was fine and he was sitting down so he could play "White Summer". I was stoked because I was hearing a song I had never heard them play before...I didn't even have a bootleg with that song. "White Summer" is another song that sounded better in the hall than what you hear on tape. Jimmy's strange tuning and the way the guitar echoed had a way of insinuating itself into your mind. It induced a trance-like state of mind.

"White Summer" was also where you saw the benefit of Jimmy wearing the white suit. The deep purple, blue, and red lighting reflected off his suit giving him a mystical aura.

At the first notes of "Black Mountain Side", the crowd acknowledged its recognition. I was just vibing on watching Jimmy and how the lights made him glow. 

I knew "Kashmir" was scheduled to be the next song from the setlist I had from the L.A. Times. But I had no idea how it would follow...a stand alone start or a segue?

But at that moment, I wasn't thinking about that. I was just relaxing and nodding along to Jimmy and his Danelectro, comparing in my mind the sound of "Black Mountain Side" being played on an electric guitar to the acoustic version I knew from the first album.

I had no clue, no idea, what was about to happen. I, and about 18,000 other people were totally unprepared.

All of a sudden, I noticed Jimmy Page rise up..."oh, the song is ending and Jimmy wants to end it with a flourish" I thought to myself.

In short order, Jimmy kicks the chair backwards with his foot, the band crashes hard and loud into the opening riff of "Kashmir" and the light of a thousand suns blasts the stage. The Forum erupted into sheer delirium. Frankly, I can't remember if I joined in the screaming or if I just stood dumbly with my jaw on the floor. I think I might have uttered a "whoaaaa" as I high-fived my friend and the people around us.

Everyone around me was definitely going bananas...the cheering and whistling was practically non-stop.

I remembered "Kashmir" in 1975 being awesome. I was definitely excited about hearing the song again on the 1977 tour. But this was something beyond awesome. Jimmy was lurching around cranking out that riff, his body jerking to Bonham's drums. Jones was creating swirling colours and orchestral swells with his magic mellotron. Bonham was driving the engine, his right foot hammering that beat into your chest. And there stood Plant, majestically shepherding the song through its moods, singing his heart out about the distant, wasted lands of Kashmir. Which sounded like a better place to be than Riverside, California.

With the energy palpable in the Forum at that moment, we could have flown the Fabulous Forum to Kashmir right then and there. I have always said to see "Kashmir" in concert was a transformative experience. The power and precision and otherworldly aura the band projected on this song was unreal. Transfixed, I started feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. This was a feeling I never felt at a punk rock show, no matter how good.

The effect was shattering. I don't understand how any Led Zeppelin fan could say they didn't like "Kashmir" in concert. Even after the song ended, I was still mesmerized by what I had just witnessed. Bonham's drum solo started but I was still thinking about "Kashmir". "Worth the price of admission alone" moment #6.

So, now we are at the part of the show where many "anti-'77 tour" people complain...the drum solo/guitar noise solo segment.

As I've noted before, the drum and guitar solos gave Robert a chance to rest his voice and his surgically-repaired foot and gather strength for the final stretch run of the concert. And it gave fans a chance to go to the bathroom, relieve themselves, and hit the snack bar or beer line on the way back....maybe even visit the merch table and get a tour shirt or book.

By the end of "Kashmir", the band had been playing just over two hours and I'm sure a lot of bladders needed relief. I know I took a piss break during the drum solo.

But even though I was tired of drum solos at concerts, my memory of Bonham's solos at the 1977 shows are that they were livelier and shorter than the 1975 solos, which seem to drag on forever. The moving stage and flashpots and lights all helped make the 1977 drum solo more appealing, no doubt.

Next up after the drum solo on my L.A. Times article setlist was "Dazed and Confused".

Well...what we got was "Heartbreaker". I didn't know it at the time, of course, but the band threw a left curve at that point in the show. In fact, I think it is the only "Heartbreaker" played on the 1977 tour...or was there one played in New York City?

I guess "Heartbreaker" sounded okay...to be honest, I was still sort of under the spell of "Kashmir". Plus, the length and loudness of the show was starting to test my stamina and endurance.

After "Heartbreaker", which features Jimmy noodling solo for a few minutes, we got more solo noodling from Jimmy. Everything from the "Star-Spangled Banner" to Star Wars sound effects on the theremin to the violin bow (ok...technically a cello bow) freakout section from "Dazed and Confused". 

Aha...this is what the L.A. Times meant by "Dazed and Confused". We weren't getting the song, just the bowed guitar segment. Ahhhh, but what a segment. You cannot capture on tape how truly freakish and insane Jimmy's bowed guitar sounded in concert. It chilled your bones.

On top of the aural splendor, there was the visual delight of the greatest lazer show I've ever seen. The green pyramid rotating with each stroke of the bow and smoke billowing around Jimmy as more lazers strafed the Forum. You can call it noise but the Forum crowd ate it up. "Worth the price of admission" moment #7.

Followed immediately by moment #8: "Achilles Last Stand".

After the orgy of lazers and bowed guitar dies down, Jimmy plucks the opening arpeggio in the soft light before a blinding barrage of flashpots explodes and the band hurls helter-skelter into "Achilles Last Stand". The band takes the song at a breathless pace, which I find thrilling. Where "Kashmir" was powerfully precise with machine-like timing, "Achilles" is more chaotic and raw, it's power coming from the sheer energy and full-speed-ahead playing by the band. The album version on Presence clocks in at 10:43. The Achilles of June 21 comes in at a torrid 9:00...a whole minute and 23 seconds faster. Speed Prog? Prog Metal? Whatever you want to call it, it was blisteringly in your face. "Worth the price of adadmission" moment #8.

The song receives well-deserved applause...it's a song that requires everyone to work their ass off. This after already playing nearly three hours.

When Jimmy next straps on the red double-neck and Jones sits himself at his mellotron, it's obvious "Stairway to Heaven" is next. The roar in response is predictable and deserved. Whether you are tired of the song or not, in concert the song still possesses magic. Plant doesn't go thru the emotions and Jimmy, as always, comes up with a unique and different guitar solo. No two "Stairway" solos are ever the same.

In this show, especially, Jimmy and the band find a nice groove towards the end of the solo...reminiscent of Duane Allman in "Memory of Elizabeth Reed". With the final rocking verses and the lights reflecting off the mirror ball like a million diamonds, the main set comes to a close. 

It's been three hours since the band took the stage and you would think both the band and audience would be sapped. Not even close. We in the Forum are stomping our feet and screaming ourselves hoarse for more Zeppelin. After many minutes of crowd pandemonium, Led Zeppelin returns to the stage for the encore.

They start with "Whole Lotta Love", which has me anticipating a great theremin section a la 1975, but alas, it is just a tease. After a couple minutes, Bonham goes into drum intro to "Rock and Roll" and we are treated to a punk-like performance of "Rock and Roll" Speed and attitude to burn. Not since 1972 has the song sounded this fast and furious. Plant is really wailing along great, too. High-energy all the way!

No sooner than it starts, then it is over in a flash and rousing crescendo. The Forum is still going bonkers as the band says their goodbyes and leaves the stage...this time for good. There will be no second encore tonight.

As the house lights come up and the crowd still roaring, me and my pals gather ourselves and our stuff. I can already feel my ears ringing, and I feel that strange mixture of euphoria and fatigue.

Led Zeppelin had come back from two years gone with a vengeance. They showed why so many revere them and why they sell out their concerts at the drop of a hat, with minimal advertising.

Walking through the beer-stench of the Forum on the way to the car, in my mind I was already looking ahead to Thursday night June 23, when I would be able to relive the experience again!

I'll be back on June 23 with a post about that show...and some more ruminations and thoughts about the 1977 tour.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.

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^^^

Excellent recollection, Strider.

To answer a couple of yer questions:

The first few gigs of the tour are kinda shaky. Dunno about Dallas, 'cos there's no circulating recording, but Oklahoma City and the first night in Chicago have a bit of a "live rehearsal" vibe to them- clearly they were still working out some of the kinks. Truth be told, simply based on the mediocre audience tapes fourty years later it's hard to tell how much of a hash -if any- they made of "Nobody's Fault But Mine". We do know that on the April 9th Chicago show -the one where Jimmy goes down with 'gastroentritis'- he starts into "Since I've Been Loving You" after "Sick Again", forgetting all about "Nobody's Fault..." until Plant reminds him. Been a while since I've heard that show but I seem to recall they do fuck up the song here and there.

As for "Heartbreaker", it was played four times: June 10, 11 and 13th in New York and the June 21 L.A. show. You probably witnessed the best one, and I am still convinced that Page only busted it out to shut up the guy in the audience who kept yelling for it (they must have been able to hear that guy from the stage :lol: )

Another thing I'm convinced of about the June 21 show was that Neil Young was in attendance (makes sense considering Neil was a Zeppelin fan). I base that on the numerous Neil Young/CSNY references Plant makes during the acoustic set, even ad-libbing "Well, Neil?!" during "Black Country Woman". 

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1 hour ago, Strider said:

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Post #19 Remastered: LED ZEPPELIN LANDS AT THE FORUM- THE FIRST NIGHT!

DATE: Tuesday, June 21, 1977

The First Day of Summer. The Summer Solstice dawned and it was a great day to go to a concert...especially a Led Zeppelin concert.

Especially when you just spent your freshman year at a shit high school in a shit town miles away from the beach and the coastal breezes and all of your old friends. I was miserable and these Led Zeppelin concerts were like an oasis appearing to a dying man in the desert.

As any kid who has had to wait a long time for a concert knows, the actual day of the concert is "the longest day". Chances are you couldn't sleep the night before because of your excitement. Then there is the worry all thru the day that something awful will happen to cause you to miss the concert. Murphy's Law and all that jazz. Kind of like Christmas, where you start being on your best behaviour because you don't want to screw yourself out of any presents.

With all the news reports of violence and riots on the 1977 tour, I did everything I could to keep my thoughts positive. Fortune, or karma, was with me, and Led Zeppelin arrived in Los Angeles as scheduled and the Fabulous Forum awaited the colourful hordes coming to the six sold out nights...the first rock band to accomplish that feat.

Ok, most of you already know the particulars, but for anyone who doesn't: Tonight is the 40th anniversary of the first of six concerts Led Zeppelin played at the Forum of Inglewood(in Los Angeles) on their 1977 tour. This is the famous "Listen to this, Eddie" show, taped by Mike Millard.

But I'm not reviewing the bootleg in this post, I am talking about the concert itself, which is a seperate thing entirely.

Ok, here we go.

We(my school buddy and his older brother and his friends) are in the Forum. Me and my friend are in the Loge section 27 or 28...at about the midway point between the stage and the rear of the floor and on the right side of the arena looking towards the stage: JIMMY'S SIDE!!!

Heading into the Forum that Tuesday evening was truly like entering a House of the Holy. Already being a veteran of multiple concerts at the Forum, the venue attained an aura that few other venues could match. Led Zeppelin's own aura was off the charts by 1977. Not mere superstars of rock...oh no, by now they were Rock Gods.

7:30pm was the advertised start time, but everyone knows that that is never the case with Led Zeppelin...and rock concerts in general. We arrived early enough to give us time to score a t-shirt and 1977 tour book at the merchandise stand. So after the usual waiting, listening to the music being played over the 'house PA' (I could swear they played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone" and Moody Blues "Tuesday Afternoon"), checking out the stage equipment, and various food fights and paper cup battles and frisbees and beach balls or whatever being tossed about through the thick cloud of marijuana (and who knows what else) smoke, the house lights finally go down sometime between 8:30 and 9pm and several things happen that confirm that you were at a Led Zeppelin concert.

1. An epic roar issued forth from the packed Forum in anticipation of the band taking the stage. One hundred and forty-one days...nay, SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SIX DAYS of pent-up waiting and anticipation and desire EXPLODED out of us and rained down upon the darkened stage, to hail our heroes return!

2. Something else exploded...cherry bombs and firecrackers were lit from various parts of the crowd. I was never a fan of this type of concert ritual, especially if one went off near your ear, affecting your ability to hear the concert. But it was a fact of life at concerts in the 70s, one you had to endure...particularly at Led Zeppelin shows.

3. As you begin to detect the band members making their way on stage, one figure announces his presence in an unmistakable way. With a rat-a-tat-tat of his snare and boom-boom-boom of his kick drum, John Bonham musically says "Hello L.A.!" It is at that moment you remember how LOUD a Led Zeppelin concert is and from just a few seconds of those loud whacks as Bonham tests his drums, you can tell Bonzo is going to pound us good tonight!

Jimmy Page then enters the conversation, giving a few test strums on the 12-string of his iconic double-neck guitar. Before you know it, Jimmy strikes the opening chord and they are off!!!

Even though I knew in advance what most of the setlist was going to be and that "The Song Remains the Same" was going to be the first song, the instant explosion of light and sound still took my breath away. With the lights(the lights for the 1977 tour were light years beyond when I first saw them in 1972, and even 1973) going off in a flash and the band attacking the song with such ferocity and power(oh my god Bonzo was slaying his drums!), the opening packed such a wallop that I literally was in a dazed trance for the first couple of songs. Just standing there with my mouth agape, trying to take it all in. The band, what they were wearing (Jimmy's white poppy suit in particular), and getting my ears and body adjusted to the LOUD SONIC ASSAULT Led Zeppelin was unleashing.

The first two songs(TSRTS/Rover intro/Sick Again) whooshed by in a blur. Seriously. I just remember Bonham sounding insane and the thrill of seeing Jimmy with the double-neck. Thank god for Mike Millard or I would have very little recollection of them. I didn't even noticed Jimmy's guitar problems at the start of Sick Again, as Jones and Bonzo were loud enough on their own(something the bootlegs don't adequately capture) to mask a few seconds of lost guitar.

Robert Plant says hello to us after the end of "Sick Again", and as the band has stopped playing as Jimmy gets his Les Paul Sunburst ready for the next song, I can finally catch my breath and take stock of the situation. I am already starting to get a contact high from all the blazing going on inside the arena. People are even tossing joints on stage as well as other talismans for the lads. 

The stage for the 1977 tour looks much cleaner and roomier than previous tours. More room to move around and better sightlines for the audience without the speakers in the way. Bonham doesn't have the Vistalite drum kit this time around. Now he has a stainless steel Ludwig kit.

It is during this lull that Plant mentions the Bad Company show at the Forum in May 1976 that he and Jimmy appeared at and those of us that were at that show scream our acknowledgment. You can sense Robert Plant is raring to go, itching to get going, but Jimmy and Raymond (from Scotland) seem to be having trouble with the guitar effect needed for the next song, "Nobody's Fault but Mine". So there's a brief moment of "dead air" so-to-speak until all systems are go. 

This will become a common theme during the week of shows at the Forum. Lots of broken strings, broken guitar straps, broken wires, broken drums...just a lot more technical issues than I remembered Led Zeppelin having in the past. Maybe their gear was getting too old, too road damaged, to be trustworthy day in and day out on the stage?

Now, before the tour started I had already made a mental wish list of what I wanted the setlist to entail. Mainly, I wanted as many new songs as possible...whether that meant new songs from Presence and Physical Graffiti or songs from the older albums that they hadn't ever played or rarely: When the Levee Breaks, The Rover, Four Sticks.

So while I obviously didn't get all of my wishes, I was very enthused to see two of my favourite Presence tracks on the setlist for Dallas in the LA Times review of the opening night of the tour.

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a powerful, rhythmic song and it has the kind of starts and stops that only a well-oiled band can pull off convincingly...EVERYBODY in the band has to hit their mark at the same time or the song loses its attack. I would be very curious to know how Led Zeppelin sounded on this song on the early shows of the tour, considering the word is they didn't rehearse at all for those four months while the gear was here in the U.S. while they waited for Plant to get better. The earliest 77 show I have is the Cleveland "Destroyer" show. Has anyone heard any of the first few shows from Dallas and Oklahoma? Do they hit the marks in "Nobody's Fault but Mine"?

Well, whatever...they sure NAIL the song at the Forum!!! Jimmy's playing the riff thru his wah-wah pedal and some other delay effect that seems to split the riff into a high and low register, making it seem like Jimmy's playing two guitars at once.

But then, one of the cosmic things about a Led Zeppelin concert was the way it frequently seemed as if Jimmy was playing two guitars simultaneously...or more. The man had a way with sonic architecture that few of his peers could conceive, let alone execute. And along with the bloozy thrust and pull of "Nobody's Fault but Mine", you got not only Percy blowing a harmonica solo(something I hadn't seen him do since 1972) but also the humorous bit with Robert referencing Steve Martin when he exclaims before the guitar solo, "Oh Jimmy? Oh Jimmy? Well, excuuuuse me!"

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" was the very embodiment of 'Sultans of Swagger', the term Neal Preston used for his book of Zeppelin photos.

It was probably during this song that I first noticed how much stronger Plant's voice was from the 1975 tour...and even the 1973 tour. Perhaps the top range wasn't all the way back to his 1970-72 range, the sandpaper rasp he struggled with before was gone and the power was back. The return to form of his voice seemed to lend him a renewed confidence and it showed in his stage manner. Plant really appeared loose and in good spirits during the Forum shows. Not that he wasn't in the past, but I've always thought some of his stage banter on the 75 tour betrayed a certain nervousness and his demeanor could be curt at times. But you probably would be too if you had the flu and was touring through snowstorms.

Now we get a surprise...a switch in the program. Instead of "In My Time of Dying" after NFBM, as Dallas and other early dates got, Jimmy straps on that tricked-up cherry red Les Paul and the Forum is treated to "Over the Hills and Far Away". If the band has been clicking on all cylinders from the beginning of the show, it is at this point they really start cooking. And while OTHAFA has been part of the setlist since 1972, it has never been played like THIS!!! For it is on the 1977 OTHAFAs that Jimmy at last has a clearly defined idea of how he wants the solo to progress and to sound. I always enjoyed hearing the song in concert, but on previous tours, sometimes the solo would be great and other times it would sound haphazard and the ending would be random and awkward. 

In 1977 there was no pussyfooting around. If the opening blast of "The Song Remains the Same" provided the night's first peel-your-face-back moment, the next occurred when Jimmy launched into the solo on OTHAFA. Holy fucking shit. Oh, I'm sorry...I mean HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!

Jimmy is on Mount Zeus hurling thunderbolts every which way while Bonzo is savagely firing off clusterbombs from his drumkit and Jones just coolly lopes along setting the groove. The tone and delay on Jimmy's guitar is outrageous...it's a perfect mindfuck of a solo. It's spacey and savage at the same time. Like someone married Steve Hillage or David Gilmore with Neil Young/Johnny Thunders.

It's so good, I want it to go on forever. It's so good, in fact, that after the song is over I turn to my friend and say "no matter what happens the rest of the show, it was worth the days waiting in line and the $9.75 just to hear that!!!"

Whether it was the lasting effect of that solo or the ever constant smell of marijuana and/or hash wafting by...or a combination of the two..."Since I've Been Loving You" was nearly half-over before I snapped out of this dazed trance I was in. Which happened often at Led Zeppelin concerts...you would find yourself dazed, as if you couldn't believe they were really on stage and this concert was really happening.  I couldn't quite remember if they had played SIBLY in 1975, and with the film "The Song Remains the Same" and its awesome SIBLY fresh in everybody's mind, it was a welcome return to the setlist. The song is always dramatic in concert.

Since I was spacing out for much of the song, it's only because of the bootleg that I was able to learn that Jimmy incorporated bits of "Tea for One" in the solo. Or the way Plant was "down on my knees...I'm begging you please". What I didn't need the bootleg to help me remember is what I always remember from all the SIBLYs I've seen: the way Jimmy caresses his guitar, particularly when it's one of his Les Pauls. A mother holding a baby couldn't be more loving. A man holding his lover couldn't be more sensual.

SIBLY is notable for another reason. Starting with this song, Jones would put down his Alembic bass and not pick it up again for more than 90-minutes. For all the hand-wringing over the Alembics, he did not play them for much of the concert...the first four songs and a few songs at the end.

SIBLY earned a rapturous response from the crowd, as it has always been a concert favourite with fans. Plant chats some more...yeah, he's cooking, or something. To tell you the truth, with the noise of everyone around you and the reverberation of the sound, not to mention Plant's accent, it could sometimes be difficult to understand what he was saying between songs. Did he just mention Jimmy?

Not difficult to understand was the dry ice/smoke machine flooding the stage in a bank of fog: it was time for "No Quarter". Hell yeah! This was one of my favourite moments of the 1975 tour and I was looking forward to hearing it performed in 1977. I knew from the '75 tour that it would most likely be a long journey...those '75 NQs were around 20 minutes or more. But I was willing to settle back and place myself in the band's hands and take the journey with them. In Jones, Bonham and Page I had pilots I could trust. The fun came with seeing who would be the leader.

Blue. An absolutely beautiful shade of blue. That's the colour I will always associate with "No Quarter", thanks to the blue light bathing the stage during the opening to "No Quarter". Blue lights. Massive banks of dry ice covering the stage. Oh, and the laser light show. Which I almost missed because my focus was so intent on what was happening on stage, I didn't even bother to look up at the laser lights oscillating until my buddy tapped me and pointed upward. After which, he left to get a coke or something as Jones played his piano solo.

Now, I know there is much debate about which No Quarters are the best: '73, '75, or '77. And from a position of hindsight, I now believe the '75 NQs to be the best versions. But hot damn if at the time I sat and watched this performance of NQ that evening of June 21, that I wasn't flabbergasted at what I witnessed and thought that I had just saw the greatest, weirdest No Quarter ever! Talk about your long and winding road! Bonham and Jimmy seemed to be engaged in a battle over who was leading the journey, while Jones did his best to keep them from going off the rails.. It was fascinating watching them prod and stalk each other...as if they were hunting. I think Bonham won the first night.

The band had certainly eaten their Wheaties before the show; all of them were fired up and ready to go off on any tangent they desired. This was the kind of kinetic, unpredictable, raw jam that separated Led Zeppelin from the bloodless prog types like ELP and Pink Floyd, or the groovy boogie-jam groups such as the Doobies and Grateful Dead, or Zeppelin's fading metal contemporaries Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. There simply wasn't another rock band out there in 1977, in my opinion, that could pull off something like "No Quarter" in concert. Frank Zappa? Maybe. Can or King Crimson? Sure...but neither Can or Zappa or Crimson were multimillion-dollar-top-of-the-charts commercial giants. Led Zeppelin was different from all the other Billboard chart-toppers in that they had no fear of venturing into avant-garde territory.

30 minutes later and it was over. Between the light show and watching Bonham and Jimmy push each other, I was held in rapture the entire time. This was also another time where you could appreciate the power of Plant's vocals...especially at the end when he and Page get into a duel between his "dogs of doom" howling and Pagey's wicked wah-wah. Jimmy painted the canvas with every colour of the rainbow with his Les Paul....Lordy, the things he could do with that guitar.

My buddy got back with drinks just in time for me to tell him he'd missed a hell of a jam. He said he heard it even if he didn't see it.

"No Quarter" was another one of those moments of the concert that alone was worth the cost of the ticket. By now, Led Zeppelin had me smiling and buzzed...I didn't need drugs to enjoy a Led Zeppelin show. Their music was a natural high.

My smile was about to get bigger with the next song...another fresh newbie to the set: "Ten Years Gone"!

Whoa...a triple-neck! (As some weisenheimer in the crowd shouts on the bootleg).I cannot adequately describe in words how beautiful "Ten Years Gone" sounded in concert. The marriage of Jones' acoustic triple-neck with Jimmy's brown Telecaster created a textural masterpiece. I am blown away again by the immense sound coming from basically just three musicians...it sounds like six. The outro solos by Jimmy cascade magnificently upon each other. When I hear people say Led Zeppelin couldn't play their songs properly, the way they were on the album, I tell them to shut it and play them a live "Ten Years Gone". "Worth the price of admission" moment #5.

We were now an hour-and-a-half into the set. Most bands would be ending their concert at this point, if not sooner. Led Zeppelin was just getting started and roadies busied themselves setting up chairs and mics along the front of the stage. At long last, Zeppelin was bringing back the "acoustic set"!

The acoustic set was one of the highlights I remembered from my first Led Zeppelin show, June 25, 1972 at the Forum. As great as the 1973 and 1975 tours were, a part of me missed the warm embrace of the acoustic set.

Judging by the roar of the crowd around me, so did everyone else at the Forum that night. "Battle of Evermore", "Going to California", "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp"...these are all great songs and it was a joy to hear them. Everywhere you looked, people were smiling and clapping and it was just like sitting around a campfire.

And poor Jones...people like to pick on his vocals on "Battle of Evermore". I suppose it would have been better if they had just hired Sandy Denny or some suitable female singer to come along on the tour. But Led Zeppelin was always a 4-man self-contained unit on stage. They didn't seem to want outsiders to join in on the road.

The tapes (especially the soundboards) make Jones sound worse than it actually did in the concert. On tape, Jonesey's voice is more exposed and isolated. At the concert, with the echo and reverb of the Forum acoustics, and the general wall of sound you get at a concert, his voice was better blended in amongst the instrumental background. And what a background, with Jimmy's shimmery mandolin ringing around the Forum.

As you should be able to tell by my avatar name, "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" is one of my favourite Zeppelin tunes. So this song brought big smiles...my friend and I clapping and foot-stomping along. There were vocal mics in front of all four of the fellows, and sure enough, Jimmy Page was singing the backing vocals on "Stomp"! Not Bonzo, as he had in 1972, but the usually quiet Jimmy himself. That was a pleasant surprise to see.

The little bit of "Black Country Woman" just before "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" was great, too, except that you wished Robert would have at least played some of the harmonica parts...I love the harmonica on "Black Country Woman". But it was nice to see Robert channeling his inner Elvis.

In fact, Robert seemed to really relish the acoustic set, cracking wise throughout...references to Rhinestone Cowgirl and Neil Young among them. I bet Robert was a prime instigator in bringing it back. This was the fun, goofy side of Led Zeppelin that critics too often missed or ignored. And just like that, the acoustic set was over....it really went by in a flash.

Before you knew it, Jimmy was seated on a chair or stool and holding that black and white Danelectro that I remembered from the 1975 tour. He used it to play "In My Time of Dying" in 1975, and IMTOD was listed as being played in Dallas on the opening night of the 1977 tour. Maybe now they were going to play it? But with Page sitting down...uh oh, was he feeling ill like he was in Chicago? Thoughts of the show being curtailed like that night in Chicago entered my brain and I voiced my concerns to my friend. The concert had been spectacular so far...don't let it end prematurely.

Of course, my worries were silly...Jimmy was fine and he was sitting down so he could play "White Summer". I was stoked because I was hearing a song I had never heard them play before...I didn't even have a bootleg with that song. "White Summer" is another song that sounded better in the hall than what you hear on tape. Jimmy's strange tuning and the way the guitar echoed had a way of insinuating itself into your mind. It induced a trance-like state of mind.

"White Summer" was also where you saw the benefit of Jimmy wearing the white suit. The deep purple, blue, and red lighting reflected off his suit giving him a mystical aura.

At the first notes of "Black Mountain Side", the crowd acknowledged its recognition. I was just vibing on watching Jimmy and how the lights made him glow. 

I knew "Kashmir" was scheduled to be the next song from the setlist I had from the L.A. Times. But I had no idea how it would follow...a stand alone start or a segue?

But at that moment, I wasn't thinking about that. I was just relaxing and nodding along to Jimmy and his Danelectro, comparing in my mind the sound of "Black Mountain Side" being played on an electric guitar to the acoustic version I knew from the first album.

I had no clue, no idea, what was about to happen. I, and about 18,000 other people were totally unprepared.

All of a sudden, I noticed Jimmy Page rise up..."oh, the song is ending and Jimmy wants to end it with a flourish" I thought to myself.

In short order, Jimmy kicks the chair backwards with his foot, the band crashes hard and loud into the opening riff of "Kashmir" and the light of a thousand suns blasts the stage. The Forum erupted into sheer delirium. Frankly, I can't remember if I joined in the screaming or if I just stood dumbly with my jaw on the floor. I think I might have uttered a "whoaaaa" as I high-fived my friend and the people around us.

Everyone around me was definitely going bananas...the cheering and whistling was practically non-stop.

I remembered "Kashmir" in 1975 being awesome. I was definitely excited about hearing the song again on the 1977 tour. But this was something beyond awesome. Jimmy was lurching around cranking out that riff, his body jerking to Bonham's drums. Jones was creating swirling colours and orchestral swells with his magic mellotron. Bonham was driving the engine, his right foot hammering that beat into your chest. And there stood Plant, majestically shepherding the song through its moods, singing his heart out about the distant, wasted lands of Kashmir. Which sounded like a better place to be than Riverside, California.

With the energy palpable in the Forum at that moment, we could have flown the Fabulous Forum to Kashmir right then and there. I have always said to see "Kashmir" in concert was a transformative experience. The power and precision and otherworldly aura the band projected on this song was unreal. Transfixed, I started feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. This was a feeling I never felt at a punk rock show, no matter how good.

The effect was shattering. I don't understand how any Led Zeppelin fan could say they didn't like "Kashmir" in concert. Even after the song ended, I was still mesmerized by what I had just witnessed. Bonham's drum solo started but I was still thinking about "Kashmir". "Worth the price of admission alone" moment #6.

So, now we are at the part of the show where many "anti-'77 tour" people complain...the drum solo/guitar noise solo segment.

As I've noted before, the drum and guitar solos gave Robert a chance to rest his voice and his surgically-repaired foot and gather strength for the final stretch run of the concert. And it gave fans a chance to go to the bathroom, relieve themselves, and hit the snack bar or beer line on the way back....maybe even visit the merch table and get a tour shirt or book.

By the end of "Kashmir", the band had been playing just over two hours and I'm sure a lot of bladders needed relief. I know I took a piss break during the drum solo.

But even though I was tired of drum solos at concerts, my memory of Bonham's solos at the 1977 shows are that they were livelier and shorter than the 1975 solos, which seem to drag on forever. The moving stage and flashpots and lights all helped make the 1977 drum solo more appealing, no doubt.

Next up after the drum solo on my L.A. Times article setlist was "Dazed and Confused".

Well...what we got was "Heartbreaker". I didn't know it at the time, of course, but the band threw a left curve at that point in the show. In fact, I think it is the only "Heartbreaker" played on the 1977 tour...or was there one played in New York City?

I guess "Heartbreaker" sounded okay...to be honest, I was still sort of under the spell of "Kashmir". Plus, the length and loudness of the show was starting to test my stamina and endurance.

After "Heartbreaker", which features Jimmy noodling solo for a few minutes, we got more solo noodling from Jimmy. Everything from the "Star-Spangled Banner" to Star Wars sound effects on the theremin to the violin bow (ok...technically a cello bow) freakout section from "Dazed and Confused". 

Aha...this is what the L.A. Times meant by "Dazed and Confused". We weren't getting the song, just the bowed guitar segment. Ahhhh, but what a segment. You cannot capture on tape how truly freakish and insane Jimmy's bowed guitar sounded in concert. It chilled your bones.

On top of the aural splendor, there was the visual delight of the greatest lazer show I've ever seen. The green pyramid rotating with each stroke of the bow and smoke billowing around Jimmy as more lazers strafed the Forum. You can call it noise but the Forum crowd ate it up. "Worth the price of admission" moment #7.

Followed immediately by moment #8: "Achilles Last Stand".

After the orgy of lazers and bowed guitar dies down, Jimmy plucks the opening arpeggio in the soft light before a blinding barrage of flashpots explodes and the band hurls helter-skelter into "Achilles Last Stand". The band takes the song at a breathless pace, which I find thrilling. Where "Kashmir" was powerfully precise with machine-like timing, "Achilles" is more chaotic and raw, it's power coming from the sheer energy and full-speed-ahead playing by the band. The album version on Presence clocks in at 10:43. The Achilles of June 21 comes in at a torrid 9:00...a whole minute and 23 seconds faster. Speed Prog? Prog Metal? Whatever you want to call it, it was blisteringly in your face. "Worth the price of adadmission" moment #8.

The song receives well-deserved applause...it's a song that requires everyone to work their ass off. This after already playing nearly three hours.

When Jimmy next straps on the red double-neck and Jones sits himself at his mellotron, it's obvious "Stairway to Heaven" is next. The roar in response is predictable and deserved. Whether you are tired of the song or not, in concert the song still possesses magic. Plant doesn't go thru the emotions and Jimmy, as always, comes up with a unique and different guitar solo. No two "Stairway" solos are ever the same.

In this show, especially, Jimmy and the band find a nice groove towards the end of the solo...reminiscent of Duane Allman in "Memory of Elizabeth Reed". With the final rocking verses and the lights reflecting off the mirror ball like a million diamonds, the main set comes to a close. 

It's been three hours since the band took the stage and you would think both the band and audience would be sapped. Not even close. We in the Forum are stomping our feet and screaming ourselves hoarse for more Zeppelin. After many minutes of crowd pandemonium, Led Zeppelin returns to the stage for the encore.

They start with "Whole Lotta Love", which has me anticipating a great theremin section a la 1975, but alas, it is just a tease. After a couple minutes, Bonham goes into drum intro to "Rock and Roll" and we are treated to a punk-like performance of "Rock and Roll" Speed and attitude to burn. Not since 1972 has the song sounded this fast and furious. Plant is really wailing along great, too. High-energy all the way!

No sooner than it starts, then it is over in a flash and rousing crescendo. The Forum is still going bonkers as the band says their goodbyes and leaves the stage...this time for good. There will be no second encore tonight.

As the house lights come up and the crowd still roaring, me and my pals gather ourselves and our stuff. I can already feel my ears ringing, and I feel that strange mixture of euphoria and fatigue.

Led Zeppelin had come back from two years gone with a vengeance. They showed why so many revere them and why they sell out their concerts at the drop of a hat, with minimal advertising.

Walking through the beer-stench of the Forum on the way to the car, in my mind I was already looking ahead to Thursday night June 23, when I would be able to relive the experience again!

I'll be back on June 23 with a post about that show...and some more ruminations and thoughts about the 1977 tour.

Hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.

This is a golden memory post you've shared. Awesome! 

So, one thing I'm puzzled by is...if this show was after your freshman year of high school and you first saw Zep in '72, you must've been like 9 years old for that first concert?! 

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47 minutes ago, porgie66 said:

This is a golden memory post you've shared. Awesome! 

So, one thing I'm puzzled by is...if this show was after your freshman year of high school and you first saw Zep in '72, you must've been like 9 years old for that first concert?! 

I was a month shy of my 10th birthday. My folks were kind enough to bend a little on their "no concerts before I was 10" rule.

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1 hour ago, Nutrocker said:

^^^

Excellent recollection, Strider.

To answer a couple of yer questions:

The first few gigs of the tour are kinda shaky. Dunno about Dallas, 'cos there's no circulating recording, but Oklahoma City and the first night in Chicago have a bit of a "live rehearsal" vibe to them- clearly they were still working out some of the kinks. Truth be told, simply based on the mediocre audience tapes fourty years later it's hard to tell how much of a hash -if any- they made of "Nobody's Fault But Mine". We do know that on the April 9th Chicago show -the one where Jimmy goes down with 'gastroentritis'- he starts into "Since I've Been Loving You" after "Sick Again", forgetting all about "Nobody's Fault..." until Plant reminds him. Been a while since I've heard that show but I seem to recall they do fuck up the song here and there.

As for "Heartbreaker", it was played four times: June 10, 11 and 13th in New York and the June 21 L.A. show. You probably witnessed the best one, and I am still convinced that Page only busted it out to shut up the guy in the audience who kept yelling for it (they must have been able to hear that guy from the stage :lol: )

Another thing I'm convinced of about the June 21 show was that Neil Young was in attendance (makes sense considering Neil was a Zeppelin fan). I base that on the numerous Neil Young/CSNY references Plant makes during the acoustic set, even ad-libbing "Well, Neil?!" during "Black Country Woman". 

Thanks for the 411. I'm in agreement with you about Neil being at the show. Of course, I wasn't sitting anywhere near the celebrity seating section.

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30 minutes ago, Strider said:

I was a month shy of my 10th birthday. My folks were kind enough to bend a little on their "no concerts before I was 10" rule.

Unreal, so that was LA or Long Beach? Amazed you were there for HTWWW at 9 years old!!  Did you also attend Bonzos Bday or 6/3/73? 

Edited by porgie66

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Amazing story, thanks for the post Strider.
I wonder if there was a clean, nice soundboard, and with Millards tape, if really good sound engineers could craft a release that did contain at least some of that concert ambiance that you recall.... B)

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