Led Zeppelin concerts

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Robert Plant (left) and Jimmy Page (right) on stage, 1977

From September 1968 through the summer of 1980, English rock band Led Zeppelin were the world's most popular live music attraction, performing hundreds of sold-out concerts around the world.

History[edit]

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, Led Zeppelin made numerous concert tours of the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe in particular. They performed over 600 concerts,[1] initially playing small clubs and ballrooms and then, as their popularity increased, larger venues and arenas as well.

In the early years of their existence, Led Zeppelin made a concerted effort to establish themselves as a compelling live music act. As was recalled by bass player John Paul Jones:

[Led] Zeppelin was a live band and that's how we got our reputation. The press hated us in the early days. Our only way of promotion was to play a lot of live shows, especially in the UK. It used to spread by word-of-mouth.[2]

However, though the band made several early tours of the UK, by far the bulk of Led Zeppelin's live concerts were performed in the United States, which was settled on as the primary foundation for their fame and accomplishment.[3] In 1969, for example, all but thirty-three of the band's 139 shows were performed in the US, and between the years 1968 and 1971 they made no fewer than nine tours of North America. "It felt like a vacuum and we'd arrived to fill it," guitarist Jimmy Page once told journalist Cameron Crowe. "It was like a tornado, and it went rolling across the country."[3] After touring almost incessantly during its early years, Led Zeppelin later limited its tour appearances to alternating years - 1973, 1975, 1977 and 1979.[4]

From the early 1970s, the commercial and popular drawing power of Led Zeppelin was such that the band began to embark on major stadium tours which attracted vast crowds, far more than they had previously performed to. During their 1973 tour of the United States, they played to 56,800 fans at Tampa Stadium, Florida, breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Similar crowds were drawn on Led Zeppelin's subsequent US tours, and they continued to break attendance records (on April 30, 1977 they played to 76,229 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome, Michigan, a world record attendance for a solo indoor attraction).[5] It is for these reasons that Led Zeppelin, as much as any other band or artist in this era, is widely credited for helping to establish what has come to be known as stadium rock. Many critics attribute the band's rapid rise as much to their tremendous appeal as a live act as they do to the quality of their studio albums. One interesting note from their touring days, in 1977 the band reprised their previous sellout at Tampa Stadium, but were driven off the stage by one of the frequent thunderstorms prevalent in Florida during late spring and summer. Despite "Rain or Shine" being prominently displayed on the tickets to the show, the concert was cancelled after playing part of "The Song Remains The Same". This precipitated what was afterwards known as the Tampa Stadium Riot.

Led Zeppelin also performed at several music festivals over the years, including the Atlanta International and the Texas International Pop Festivals in 1969, the Bath Festival of Blues in 1969 and the next one in 1970, the "Days on the Green" in Oakland, California in 1977, and the Knebworth Music Festival in 1979.

Characteristics[edit]

Led Zeppelin's reputation as a compelling live act is often attributed to the tight understanding and musical chemistry achieved between all four group members, combined with a shared willingness to try new things on-stage, which resulted in dynamic, unpredictable performances. [6] As is noted by Led Zeppelin experts Dave Lewis and Simon Pallett:

Led Zeppelin live was an extraordinary animal. From the very beginning no two performances were alike. Such was the creative spark between the four that the basic structures of their songs were repeatedly reworked, extended and improvised on, making their studio counterparts almost unrecognisable.[7]

Led Zeppelin have been described as the kind of group that actually rehearsed on stage, experimenting with the reaction of the audiences to new material and letting the pieces mature through the live experience.[8] Several tracks from their albums were debuted on stage well before their official release on vinyl. Jimmy Page himself has said that most of the band's songs were designed for live performance.[9]

Every show we did was different. You never knew when you went onstage what you might do by the end of it ... Once a song was recorded, and it went into the set, it began to mutate. The whole improvisational aspect, the riffs coming out of the ether ... it was a magical vehicle collectively soaring into the stratosphere. And as more albums came out, the set got longer and longer.[10]

In an interview he gave to Uncut magazine in 2005, Page elaborated:

The beauty of playing in the band was that when we went onstage we never actually knew what was going to go on within the framework of the songs. They were constantly changing. New parts would come out on the night. The spontaneity was on the level of ESP, which meant it was always exciting.[11]

Led Zeppelin concerts typically included expanded, live versions of their song repertoire, often incorporating elements of James Brown, Stax and Motown-influenced soul music and funk (favourites of Jones and drummer John Bonham). The quartet also loved American rock and roll, being inspired by the exuberant styles of Fats Domino and Little Richard. Led Zeppelin would additionally perform rockabilly songs originally made famous by Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran. As described by Cameron Crowe, "[Led] Zeppelin live was a direct descendant from Elvis' early shows. Raw, direct, a reminder of when rock was young."[12]

With such shared enthusiasm for playing a diverse range of musical styles coupled with their emphasis on extended improvisation, Led Zeppelin's concerts frequently extended for several hours. Recalled Jones:

Things got extended a lot to keep ourselves from going mad. Every tour we tried to cut it down, especially in the later years. We'd say we're only going to play an-hour-and-a-half. After a week, it would creep back up to two hours. By the end of the tour it's three hours![2]

After their 1977 tour of the United States (which turned out to be their last major tour), the band chose to abandon much of the "mystical" image that surrounded them up to that point, the members would wear ordinary street clothes during their concerts and the setlist was toned down by excluding long, elaborate solo numbers like John Bonham's Moby Dick and Jimmy Page's trademark bowed guitar solo accompanied by a laser show. Note that the latter was included in their four 1979 concerts but omitted from the 1980 tour.

Recordings and live concert footage[edit]

Many of the band's shows have been preserved as Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings, which continue to be prized by collectors and fans. In addition, footage of Led Zeppelin concerts has been released officially on the band's 1973 concert film The Song Remains the Same, and on the Led Zeppelin DVD (2003). However, unlike other artists of the era such as The Who and The Rolling Stones, comparatively little official concert footage exists of Led Zeppelin. This is largely because of the successful efforts of manager Peter Grant to limit the exposure of the band to television appearances, in order to encourage fans who wanted to see the band to attend Led Zeppelin concerts. Of the few professionally shot concerts the band did, (excluding their July 1973 concert at Madison Square Garden on The Song Remains the Same) six are today available to fans through bootlegs. These concerts include the last two nights of their five-concert run at Earls Court Arena in London in May 1975, their show in Seattle's Kingdome in 1977 and their two shows at Knebworth in August 1979. In addition to these, their Royal Albert Hall performance from January 1970 is available.

Concert tour chronology[edit]

Reunion concerts[edit]

Since Led Zeppelin disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, the three surviving members of the band have reunited publicly on-stage on just a few occasions.

  • On December 10, 2007, at the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert at The O2 in London, with Jason Bonham again filling in on drums.[14] While Robert Plant made his position regarding a subsequent reunion tour known to the Sunday Times ("The whole idea of being on a cavalcade of merciless repetition is not what it's all about"), he also mentioned that he could be in favour of more one-off shows in the near future: "It wouldn't be such a bad idea to play together from time to time."

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Led Zeppelin > Tour Dates
  2. ^ a b Sam Rapallo, In Conversation with John Paul Jones, October 1997.
  3. ^ a b Gilmore, Mikal (August 10, 2006). "The Long Shadow of Led Zeppelin". Rolling Stone (1006). Retrieved 2007-12-09. 
  4. ^ "Led Zeppelin Biography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  5. ^ Dave Lewis (2003). Tight But Loose Files:Celebration II. p. 49. 
  6. ^ Biography of Led Zeppelin at Atlantic Records.
  7. ^ Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press, introduction.
  8. ^ Luis Rey (1997) Led Zeppelin Live: An Illustrated Exploration of Underground Tapes, Ontario: The Hot Wacks Press, p. 136.
  9. ^ Interview with Jimmy Page, Guitar World magazine, 1993
  10. ^ Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Song Remains the Same, reissued version, 2007.
  11. ^ Nigel Williamson, "Forget the Myths", Uncut, May 2005, p. 70.
  12. ^ Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Complete Studio Recordings
  13. ^ Greene, Andy (6 September 2012). "Flashback: Led Zeppelin Jams with Neil Young". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Led Zeppelin confirm reunion gig". BBC. 2007-09-12. Retrieved 2007-09-12.