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Led Zeppelin Time Machine


William Austin

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There have been plenty of “which concerts would you most like to attend” topics, but I thought I’d put a new spin on it. 

In coming up with which concerts I would most like to attend, it sort of evolved into a fanfiction type of scenario; and as time went on, this fantasy of mine was becoming quite enjoyable to conceive. 

This is probably a good time to point out that since this post is based completely on fantasy, it isn’t really meant to be taken seriously, it’s just something I drummed up for a little fun, nothing more. Led Zeppelin has always been a very mythical band, and they always appreciated mythical tales!

So basically in this fantasy of mine, I have a time machine. With it, I can take a small number of friends with me back in time to attend Led Zeppelin concerts. But since this sounds too good to be true, I had to stipulate some rules…

The first one being that when the time machine is used, I and anyone else that goes with me are gone in real time. So basically if we’re in the past for two days, we’re gone from the present for two days. 

With that in mind, I figured that the weekend would be the best time for me and most other people to use it. 

I also set a limit for the number of times it can be used: 26 times. Enough to use it every other weekend for a year. But that doesn’t mean I can only attend 26 shows; because since I have an entire weekend to work with, it works out in some cases that multiple shows can be attended in one trip. 

If multiple shows were performed in the same city on consecutive days, I can attend as many as shows for as long as I wanted to remain there. There were also some occasions in which the band performed two shows in one day.  

So in choosing these 26 trips, one thing I kept in mind was to try to milk them as best I could and attend as many shows as possible while at the same time, keeping every trip under three days (however on two occasions, I break this rule; more on that later).

Naturally while picking, one would want to choose the absolute best performances to attend; and while this is mostly true for my list, there were other elements I kept in mind as well. I’ll address those when they come up.

But one thing I will point out right now is that I’m from Houston. I was born and raised in Texas and as a matter of fact, in my 26 years of life, I have spent a total of less than two months time outside of the state. The point is… there is no shortage of shows performed in my hometown on my list, and thankfully, they never gave a bad performance in Houston, so it’s a win-win.

While all but currently three of these shows exist on audio recording, I wanted to leave out shows that were professionally recorded on film or video. But of the shows which fit that bill, the only one I would have considered for this list is the Ahmet Ertegun tribute concert at the O2. 

I also wanted to include as many years as possible, and in the end, the only one left out was 1980. There were some really good performances during the Tour Over Europe but I had to narrow the list down, and none of those shows made it.

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Here we go with the list.

Now, rather than attending these shows in chronological order, there is a certain order I have come up with and they will be listed by me in that order. It didn’t really want to attend a bunch of shows from the same time period all at once, so it jumps around a bit. These are also not ranked in any order of performance quality for the most part. But the last few are amongst the very best. 

 

Houston – May 21, 1977
Right out of the gate, I wanted a hometown show. This is a pretty darn good performance and the perfect start of the adventure. This time period is also during Houston’s heyday, which peaked around 1980 with the release of Urban Cowboy.

 

Seattle – March 21, 1975
The 1975 tour didn’t make the list too many times (not that I don’t enjoy these performances, it’s just how the list ended up), but this one could not be left off for obvious reasons.

 

Memphis – April 17, 1970
Completely night and day from the previous two shows, this one is the last full show before the third album was recorded. It represents the band at a creative peak when it came to the jamming and improvisation on stage during their first two years of touring. 

Not to mention it’s in Memphis, a city which is a favorite of mine. I have been there once before, and would love to visit it during this time period. As far as I know, Elvis was at Graceland during this time (as opposed to being on tour or at his home in Los Angeles) and the possibility of meeting him outside the gate adds to this date being a must for the list.

 

Tokyo – October 2-3, 1972
The first multi-show trip on the list. For most of my life, Japan has been at the top of my list of countries I would most like to see, so there isn’t a shortage of Japanese shows on this list. 

I’ve always enjoyed the charm of the performances on this tour, even though the band (particularly Plant) are not at their technical peak. I also think the stage setup at Budokan with the band’s name in giant neon letters behind the stage was really cool and unique. 

 

London’s Marquee Theater – March 23, 1971
This is the first of three shows on this list in which no recording is known to exist. Consequently, we have no clue the quality of this performance. The first two shows of this tour represent the band in explosive form, but the BBC show is pretty poor in comparison. What were the shows in between like? I’d wager that a gig at such a historic London venue would have brought out the best in all four band members; and knowing what they were capable of at the time makes that thought all the much better. Also, just think of cool it would be to see the band in such an intimate setting!

 

Hamburg, Essen, & Offenburg, West Germany – March 21-24, 1973
In this trip, I stretch the rules a bit. It spans over four days and takes place in three different cities. However, all of the cities are within reasonable driving distances of each other (at least reasonable for someone who lives in Texas and has to travel around the state because of his job). 

Anyway… I’ve only recently started listening to shows from this tour and I must say, they are not overrated. Fabulous performances, and also taking place in the country most of my heritage comes from. Germany is probably second or third on my list of countries I would most like to see. I believe most of my family on my mother’s side is from Frankfurt to be exact, so a stop there on the 23rd while traveling from Essen to Offenburg would be a must.

 

Los Angeles – September 4, 1970
For obvious reasons, a number of shows at the Forum will appear on this list, but not all of them. However, the ones that are included I want to attend in chronological order and this is the first one.

It’s also the first show on this list from arguably my favorite tour of America. Not much can be said about this gig that hasn’t already been. It is a world famous gig and rightfully so! Communication Breakdown alone is worth the price of admission!

 

Dallas-Fort Worth – May 18-19, 1973
The Dallas show is one of two gigs in which I personally know someone who attended it (the other one is Tampa 1977, but for obvious reasons that one is not included here). Of all people, the preacher at a church I attended for 7 years went to this show when he was 17. He and I were very close and he shared his memories of it with me several times. He described it as the greatest and most exciting concert he ever attended. In listening to this show, it seems a bit subpar for the era, but the only recording of it is one of the driest soundboard recordings (at least that I have heard). I believe a much better performance is buried in the mix. 

The Fort Worth show that took place the next day is one I have not listened to at this point, but it is marked as a “must hear” on the Year of Led Zeppelin blog, and he didn’t give those out lightly! 

Come to think of it… the Tampa 1977 show might be kind of exciting to attend! Well actually… I’d better leave that one alone… someone in my entourage could get hurt! 😁

 

Well, those are the first 8 trips out of 26. I'll pick this list up tomorrow.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's tomorrow...

 

San Francisco – April 25-27, 1969
These shows are the peak of what I consider the “post-psychedelia” phase of Led Zeppelin from 1968 to mid-1970. And what better city to experience it in than the Flower Child capital of the world.

Also, since the band wasn't very big at this point, I may get lucky and get to smoke with the band in between sets on the 27th at Fillmore... because it really sounds like they had some good stuff based on their laid-back second set that night!

 

Los Angeles – August 21-22, 1971
These were some interesting shows from an interesting time period for the band. It had been a year since they had previously toured and released an album, and I’ll bet they were nervous about whether they were still relevant in America and how their new material would be received. 

These particular shows are not necessarily my favorite ones from the tour, but they are in LA which is always a plus, and they are still very good shows despite Plant’s minor vocal troubles.

 

Houston – March 29, 1970
Another hometown show, and this one is interesting because a recording does exist, but it’s a limited one… only two songs. However, based on the performance of How Many More Times, I’ll bet this was one hell of a gig.

 

Pontiac Silverdome – April 30, 1977
I think this would be a cool 1977 gig to attend. One of the absolute biggest crowds the band ever performed to and at a state-of-the-art (for the time) venue too. Even though the existing recording isn’t that great, the performance is one of the best of the tour.

 

Osaka and Kyoto – October 9-10, 1972
By this point in the Japanese tour, Plant’s voice had time to heal and the band got into a groove with the new material. The result were some great performances and some of Plant’s last in all of his high-pitched glory. 

 

Copenhagen – July 23-24, 1979
The only post-1977 shows on the list, but what better ones for them to be. The absolute best from the bands last handful of shows and technically some of the best they ever did. 

 

Honolulu – September 6, 1970
I’ve only recently given a listen to the afternoon show from this date for the first time and what a performance! I can only imagine how good the evening performance might have sounded. Getting to experience Hawaii would be the icing on the cake of these two shows.

 

Texas International Pop Festival – August 31, 1969
This is probably my favorite 1969 gig, and not just because I’m from Texas! This show probably would have been the next best thing to the band performing at Woodstock. So you can kind of get a Woodstock experience with this one; and you can get one of the greatest of their early performances, and a bunch of other great bands too!
 

Most of these shows I thought about reconsidering in favor of other performances such as a Seattle show from 1972 or 1973 and the Alexandria Palace shows from 1972. In the end, nothing changed; I guess I wanted to get as many different tours and time periods in as possible. That's why it took me so long to post more. 

However, the remaining ten are all something special...
 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Houston – February 27, 1975
Here's another example of a show with no recording currently existing (although there have been a lot of talks about a soundboard being released soon). I'm willing to bet though that this was probably one of the best gigs of the tour. By all accounts, this was an explosive performance, and the very next show (Baton Rouge) was definitely one of the stronger performances of the tour. Jones' No Quarter grand piano solo during said show (the second time the piano was used) is really cool and unique from any other version, and hearing the first grand piano solo from Houston the day before would probably be the highlight.

Also, if Plant's comments are accurate, Since I've Been Loving You was performed four times during the 1975 tour, yet only three of them exist on tape. I'll bet the missing one is here. We may soon find out!

 

Los Angeles – June 25-27, 1972
These legendary shows absolutely could not be left off the list. Not much more can be said about these shows that hasn't been already. One regret I have for the list is that more shows from this tour were not included, because it is a really good tour performance wise and it's also significant as the end of an era in terms of live performances. In the next tour, the band would change their setlist, style, and overall sound, all of which would further develop throughout the next year. 

Getting to experience the last great string of encores would be worth the price of admission!

 

Copenhagen and Odense – May 3-4, 1971
I never really noticed just how much Led Zeppelin loved Denmark until I made this list. The Copenhagen show is another legendary performance; I mean, how cool is it to hear the band just freaking nail Four Sticks on their first attempt?!

Odense is another one that isn't known to exist on tape, but this is such a high point in the band's live career that there's no way it wouldn't be a smoking gig.

 

California – May 31-June 3, 1973
One thing that inspired me to come up with this thread was reading Strider's posts about his experiences of the 1973 and 1977 tours; and it's on the 46th anniversary of his favorite show he ever attended that I make this post. The LA and San Francisco gigs are amongst the best of the whole tour, and it almost feels like I've already been there because Strider's descriptions really do take you back in time.

Strider, if you're reading this, thanks for posting all of your memories and I hope one day we'll get to read your 1972 and 1975 memories as well!

 

Denmark – September 7-8, 1968
These are the most unique from anything else on the list... the band's first gigs. Five shows in two days and we have no idea what they sounded like! Just seeing the pictures of the first gig and the band getting off for the very first time is amazing!

 

The top five are getting down to the real nitty gritty...

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