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Did Led Zeppelin's performances improve as the years went by?


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I only have 1 or 2 bootlegs, [that too which i haven't bother to hear, yet that is] but from those alone i can realize that the duration of LZ shows of early shows and later shows were drastically different. The later year show have a length of 3+ hours [From 74'-75']. Why is this? Did LZ start improvising much more in their later shows than their earlier ones? Also, do this shows LZ at their best? They jammed quite a bit compared to their relatively young performances... So what's your preferences, old or new?

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Personally, I think they hit their artistic zenith when they completed Presence in November 1975. From then on, tragedy and excess was the order of the day and it negatively affected their live performances. Most of the three hour plus '77 shows are really a killer 90 minute concert trapped in the overindulgence of the era. The scaled down summer '80 shows aren't bad but true spontaneity is sorely lacking. Too many warhorses, not enough newer material. Good grief, White Summer should have been dropped by '70 but there it is ten years later, a tedious showpiece that often went nowhere.

Edited by SteveAJones
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Well up to 1975 I guess it did. Hell, my favorite tour is the 1977 North American tour so... I still think that the best Zeppelin show is the one captured in "Listen ToThis Eddie".

1980 has it's moments, but I agree with Steve, white summer ought to have stayed out of the sets, it's just so boring. I think the idea was pretty good. If Jimmy kept building up from White Summer to Kashmir, but the build up should have lasted 5 minutes or less instead of 15-20 minutes of pure boredom. I think heroin had a lot to do with Jimmy's playing by 1978-1980, because, even though there are some performances from 1977 that are sloppy, he had always been a sloppy live guitarist, just a little bit more this year than the other ones. Actually, come to think of it, what I love so much about Led Zeppelin live is how sloppy they all sound, like they could make a mistake at any moment. I guess it's just half of the fun. 1975 was terribly sloppy on the first two numbers. I swear to god there isn't a backstage picture from that year where Jimmy isn't holding a bottle of Mr. Daniels.

Edited by magerogue
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Early shows for me. 1969 - 1973. All the members were generally on fire, fit and healthy( although Plant seemed to have the flu for years). The rawness of the Filmore shows of 69 to the blistering European tour of 1973. Crikey some of the shows on the 72 summer US tour are just outstanding. I just love that period of the band. Come 75 and even worse in 77, the slogging of No Quarter to 45 mins and in the case of Dazed in 75 were in my opinion a bit dull. The 77 stuff, with the exception of the Achilles and Nobody's Fault which were the only 2 songs off Presence showcased, well what can one say? As SAJ has mentioned White summer/Black Mountain Side which was basically a lead in to Kashmir, should have been dropped and the guitar/noise solo was just embarrassing. Sure there were good bits in 77 and some people would say 3 hours is good value. But hands down I would take 3 hours at the LA Forum on the 25th June 1972 than 5 years later.

As an end piece how could they play White summer to a festival crowd was beyond me? If only to take a piss break in that field all those years ago

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Personally, I think they hit their artistic zenith when they completed Presence in November 1975. From then on, tragedy and excess was the order of the day and it negatively affected their live performances. Most of the three hour plus '77 shows are really a killer 90 minute concert trapped in the overindulgence of the era. The scaled down summer '80 shows aren't bad but true spontaneity is sorely lacking. Too many warhorses, not enough newer material. Good grief, White Summer should have been dropped by '70 but there it is ten years later, a tedious showpiece that often went nowhere.

I have to agree, maybe it was a case of giving fans the show they expect from Led Zeppelin.

I can imagine some fan sitting next to you shouting "play White Summer" all through the concert and moaning if it was not on the setlist and another fan wondering where is the musical interlude where we buy a beer :lol: As for 1980 well it was not old Led Zeppelin but not new Led Zeppelin

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As for 1980 well it was not old Led Zeppelin but not new Led Zeppelin

This. It was just another Led Zeppelin tour. People seem to forget that it was just another warm up tour. It wasn't meant to be the last Led Zeppelin tour ever.

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I have to agree, maybe it was a case of giving fans the show they expect from Led Zeppelin.

I can imagine some fan sitting next to you shouting "play White Summer" all through the concert and moaning if it was not on the setlist and another fan wondering where is the musical interlude where we buy a beer :lol: As for 1980 well it was not old Led Zeppelin but not new Led Zeppelin

Nobody except the most devoted bootleg collector or Yardbirds enthusiast even knew about "White Summer", let alone was clamoring for it. "White Summer" was never on any official Led Zeppelin album in their lifetime and only the relatively few people who owned a Yardbirds "Little Games" LP or one of the few Zeppelin bootlegs out that had "White Summer" recognized what Jimmy was playing at those concerts. It was only when he segued into "Black Mountainside" that a cheer of recognition went up.

As to the OP's question, the answer is relatively simple. The band's setlist grew and improved as the band had more material under their belts. It is hard to play a three or four hour show when you are 1) the opening band; and 2) only have one or two albums out, half of which are covers or near-covers. The Boston Tea Party 4 hour show is a misnomer or myth.

By the spring of 1970 though, when they had left the Fillmores behind and were consistently selling out arenas as a headliner with no opening act, their concerts were 2 hours plus, and with each succeeding album and tour, would grow accordingly.

While the performance level in the early days(1968-1972) was more consistently high level, there are still some great performances in the later years. This, coupled with setlists including some of their best and most mature songs, means that for pure Hammer of the Gods impact, a good 1973-1977 show can't be beat.

Edited by Strider
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First post! Hello!

I think the best way to answer this is to be simple:

1. Show quality is directly proportional to how the members of the band felt. Be that not getting along or being hurt or feeling great. The best way to find good shows is to find periods where the band is doing good and feels good. Read books. Find sites. Research and dig. It will pay off in time.

2. You really have to look at it from do you want a serious collection or a casual? Big difference obviously in terms of effort on your part. A serious collection takes a commitment and it can span years and most likely will. Is that for you?

In other words, the period is only part of a bigger pie. Because if your going after a period, wouldn't you like to have the best for that period? Of course. The only way is to hunt down information so you can make informed choices. Let others take some of the beatings for you. Others you may take on yourself. You'll have to check setlists. Verify you got the entire show. Listen to it. If it is better than what you have and complete delete the old. If not complete but better your stuck keeping both hoping for a better source to be released by somebody doing so with love.

This is more the downloading approach.

Then there is the purchasing side. Those of us who collect on LP and CD. The quality here varies painfully. You pay for garbage in many cases and in some you find beautiful treasure that sounds good. It's a multi-faceted thing I think. That is if your serious. If your not, your collection will be junk to be honest because you'll either have very few shows or have ones that are garbage mostly in terms of quality because odds are these people are not securing the information to make good choices. They just take what they find. Which is still fun but not as productive.

My favorite : any 60s :hippy: shows and up to 75. That is a pretty lame period though (to pick) because it is so broad. The math is that will be the majority of bootlegs is in that period. But that was not the driving factor. I think 73 was the peak. But 74 and 75 are still very good.

Edited by flower_on_the_mountain
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