Click on each image to see a bigger view.
Pictures were all taken by a cheap Kodak Instamatic 126 camera.
Since you can see the setlists on various Zep websites and in various books, and since you can all listen to the bootlegs that are out there, I’m not going to concentrate so much on the tunes themselves, but more about the experience and what I remember.
The year was 1977. Spring was in the air in Columbus, Ohio. I was 15 1/2 years old. I had been a Led Zeppelin fan since right before Presence was released. A friend of mine, Jeff, a guitar player, had introduced me to Zeppelin. I knew right away this band was IT. I can remember having dreams about seeing them in concert - I never thought I would ever be able to see them – they were too big to be true.
I remember the announcements of the 1977 tourdates on WCOL-FM. WCOL-FM was the typical, cool, laid-back "rock" station where the DJs all had these deep voices and sounded like they just had a bong hit. They were also very much into the music scene and knew their stuff. I have a cassette of the announcements somewhere in my basement. I need to find that! I remember thinking that I was going to try and get tickets for Cincinnati or Cleveland.
I don't remember the details, but another Zephead friend of mine, Mark, originally from Michigan, told us that his Uncle lived right down the street from the Pontiac Silverdome, near Detroit, and thought he could get tickets to the Zep show there. I was a little skeptical – but I told him, yeah, sure. The tickets were not on sale yet for the closer Cincinnati and Cleveland shows. I remember the phone call from Jeff, telling me that we (Jeff, Mark, Gary (Jeff's brother) and myself) had Led Zeppelin tickets! And to top it off, Mark's mother was going to visit her brother in Michigan and drive us to the concert! The only problem was - my parents. After a day or so, I told them about my opportunity, when Jeff was over at my house. My parents always liked Jeff. Well, the planets must have been in line, because they said yes! Part of the reason was that the concert was on a Saturday. We could leave late on Friday, and get home on Sunday. To this day, it was probably the nicest thing my parents ever did for me: saying yes, you can go to a Led Zeppelin concert!
It was cool, I didn’t even have to try and get Cincy or Cleveland tickets, I didn’t have to stand in any lines. Someone (whom I never did even meet) bought a ticket for me!
Within a week I had my ticket in hand. I remember keeping it on my dresser. I looked at it several times a day. I even remember kissing it! I don't remember how early the tickets were sold ahead of time, but I'm thinking it was months! It seemed like a lifetime. It took FOREVER for April 30, 1977 to come!
I remember being in school the week of the concert. I knew some Zepheads who went to the Cincinnati and the Cleveland concerts. I distinctly remember, I sat behind a guy in algebra class who went to the Cleveland concert - the first night. I remember his seat in class being empty that day. Even though I was to see Zep in a few days, I was jealous that he was going to see Zep in a few hours! I was so excited - Led Zeppelin was in the state of Ohio! Then that guy (can't remember his name, he was a year older than me) came back and told me about the concert on Friday - the day before I was to see them. He told me about the green pyramid laser that turned into a cone as Jimmy spanked his guitar with his bow. I had goose pimples!
That evening, we piled into Mark's mother's car - it was a big car, a Cadillac, I believe. We arrived that night and stayed in a hotel. We were so excited that night, I don't know how we ever got to sleep!
Our tickets had a section number on them, but were stamped "general admission" - so we thought we should get there very early and get some good seats.
|Outside the Silverdome, before the show, L to R: Bruce, Gary,
|Outside the Silverdome, before the show, L to R: Mark, Gary, Jeff|
We arrived probably 5 or 6 hours before showtime. We picked some good seats in the lowest balcony, on the side. We were far away, but closer than most seats, and a good angle.
When we arrived, the first thing that struck me besides the size of the stadium was the cleanliness of it. It was very new, and it showed. It even smelled clean, for a while, anyhow.... I do not think I had ever been in an indoor stadium that large. It was built pretty much like most large football stadiums, but it had an erector-set like curved structure that sat on top, with a nylon-like membrane that covered, as the roof. In the daytime, the sun shined through the covering and lit up the insides.
After a few hours, someone came and said we were sitting in their seats! It turned out that our seats were general admission, but only by section! The usher took us to our section. It was still on the same lower level, actually closer to the stage, but we now couldn't see as deep into the stage, as we were more on the side, we couldn't see the drum kit anymore! Damn!
Inside the Silverdome, many hours before the show Starting to fill up, slowly. The stage. Hey, they spelled Led Zeppelin right!.
We spent alot of time just watching people. I had brought some small binoculars, so that helped. The demographics were all over the place. There were kids younger than I was there, and there were grandparents there. I think the average person there was male, 21 years old, long shoulder-length hair, and bearded.
As we waited and waited, the atmospheric intensity started to slowly increase. Even though we were bored, you could look around, and like us, people were starting to realize that they will be witnessing Led Zeppelin very shortly. I had been to a few concerts before this one (Jethro Tull, Rush), but the atmosphere was nothing like this concert. This was Led Zeppelin, and this was an experience that will never be matched, except by maybe another Zep concert.
I remember the band being late. I do not know how late. We'd been there for hours on end, so a delay didn't matter, as long as they came out! Firecrackers were prevalent in the audience, even before the lights went down. They were loud and echoed throughout the facility. It hadn’t been a year since the American Bicentennial celebration, and I think everyone had those firecrackers left over from last summer. It was certainly another time to celebrate, when Led Zeppelin comes to America!
The crowd on the floor had pretty much filled the entire football field - width and depth! I could see the guys climbing the scaffolding of the light towers in front of us – I knew it was getting close! Then the lights went down! My heart dropped! I could hear Jimmy tuning up and Bonzo trying out his snare drum. O my God!
The crowd filled up the whole football field.
The Internet didn't exist yet, so I didn't know the setlist. But my buddy from school told me they opened with The Song Remains the Same, so I was expecting that familiar chord to ring out - and there it was! The band was so far away, but yet the energy was right in your face - it was in everybody's face. There were so many people there - all focused on 4 people (I could only see 3) - but the band was giving back to the crowd. It was an energy that could almost be measured. I felt it right from the start.
There was a monster-sized closed-circuit TV screen. This kind of stuff is standard nowadays, but in 1977, this was really awesome! It must have been at least 50 foot by 50 foot. It was almost as wide as the stage. It definitely helped us all to enjoy the experience better. I spent probably half the time watching the screen. There were 2 or 3 camera men that were all over the stage, getting some awesome shots. They were zooming in, too!
The sound - well it wasn't the best, that’s for sure. But I think it was better than I expected. You could hear everything; it was just a little muddy.
Once again, I need to mention the initiate feeling that we all felt. Most of the crowd was pretty far away, but we all felt the vibe. It was like Woosh - it was something that enveloped you. You could tell that the band felt it, as well.
I can remember the concert going on and on and on – never ending. It was amazing! I remember thinking "wow, I'm in the same room as Led Zeppelin" - "I will never ever forget this".
Firecrackers still plagued the place and Robert was pissed about it. He told them several times to cut it out. At another time Robert was concerned about the crowd surging forward and had to calm people down. Robert was in fine form and was quite jocular, in what we now refer to as “Plantations”. But I remembered having to strain to hear everything that he said.
When they did the acoustic set, they all sat out front on stools, and we finally could see Bonzo, without having to look at the screen. Then, for Over the Top/Moby Dick, his whole drum riser moved out to the front of the stage, all lit up with lights firing with the beat like sparkplugs on a car. He was awesome, as we expected. There were some electronic synthesized parts to the solo, that we’d never heard before.
Jonesy played SO many instruments! Electric bass, acoustic stand-up bass, keys, acoustic 12-string, mandolin, and his funky “three necked acoustic instrument”. I remember Jonesy singing Sandy Denny’s part in Battle of Evermore. It didn’t sound quite right!
Jimmy’s solo was very long and seemed to go on forever, but we could have listened to him do that all night. It included some parts of the national anthem. The thing with the laser light pyramid/cone was really something!
The crystal ball was reflecting light here - you can't tell by the picture.
More of the ball.
Here is the only shot that turned out of the band (well, sort of). Robert Plant is in front, and Jimmy Page, in his white dragon suite is on the other side of Robert. A camera man, doing the closed-circuit TV work, can be seen as a shadow, on the left.
I think it was during Stairway (last song before encore) where they used the large “disco” mirrored ball. It was truly awesome in that large place to see the lights revolve around the building. Then to top that off, everyone was holding up their lighters. It was like being *in* a night sky, with stars twinkling all around you.
ENCORE!! WE WANT MORE! In real life, this was awesome - there were about 45,000 bic lighters lit up at once!
I remember that there was a long time before the encore started. I’ve read where people wrote that the lights came on, and people started leaving. I honestly don’t remember that. I do remember that the band left the stage after the first encore, and came back for the second. (with one song in each encore, Rock & Roll & Trampled Underfoot).
Rock and Roll, for the first encore, brought everyone’s energy back up, if it had been down at all! Everybody was singing the “lonely, lonely, lonely time part”
Then the last encore (Trampled underfoot) isn’t necessarily my favorite Zep tune, but the band really gave it 110% on this one – I can’t believe that after 3 hours they still were able to give their all. We were as fired up as we’d been all day!
Then it was over. We were stunned at what we just witnessed. It lasted forever, and we couldn’t believe it was finally over.
So that’s it. I’ve been going to concerts for 32 years now, and this by far, was the best – no question about it. The funny thing is, back in 1977, I *knew* that this would be the best concert that I would ever go to – even before the show started! Everyone there knew what this was going to be, and the band did NOT disappoint. Even with the huge size of the venue, Led Zeppelin managed to channel the energy and made it intimate.
We learned later that the 76,229 people at this concert for one band (no warm up) set a record for “largest single artist attendance”. It was listed as such in the Guinness Book of Records for many years. It was a historic concert in my book, as well!
About a year after the show, I had been involved in bootleg trading (on cassettes, the CD hadn’t been invented yet). I got a list from a guy, (I think) his name was Matts in Switzerland. I was amazed to see the Silverdome show on his list! He said his copy was first generation. I quickly traded with him for it, and wow, it brought back the memories! (Given the hiss level, I believe he did indeed have first gen). You could get this show on CD boot out there called “Hot Rods in Pontiac” which was made from another source. Both sources are about the same sound quality as it was in person – somewhat clear, but distant sounding. If you crank it up, it sounds enough like being there. Matts – if you are out there, I thank you! Please contact me!
Over the years there have been rumors that because this show was on closed circuit TV, this show exists on video tape. I never thought much about this, until over the last 5 years or so, other Holy Grails such as the Earl’s Court video has shown up on the scene. I’m still holding out hope that I can *see* this show again! In the meantime, I’ll listen to the audio version, crank it up, and close my eyes………what a day in my life…it still lives in my memory….Thirty Years Gone.
The words and images on this page are © 2000 - 2007- Bruce Deerhake.
If you want to use these images, email me.
buckeye at oldbuckeye.com (remove the spaces).