Vol 5, No. 15, Oct '94
June 7, 1977
©1995 Proximity/HJR Productions
(From Proximity #16)
The day was June 7, 1977. The place was Madison Square Garden. Led Zeppelin was back in New York City after almost a two and a half year absence. It was to be their 29th show of the 1977 U.S. tour.
Unfortunately, they were coming off one of the most disappointing gigs of their career. Four days earlier, the band had stopped their show at Tampa Stadium after only twenty minutes due to an unrelenting rain storm. It is highly ironic that the same stadium which had been the setting for one of their greatest triumphs four years earlier (at the time a record-setting gate of 56,800 people) was the venue for one of their biggest letdowns.
I think the band used this disappointment as motivation for the next gig to follow, in New York City. To quote Jimmy Page from an interview with Scott Muni on WNEW radio two days later, the first concert (in New York) was absolutely electrifying and dynamic. I couldn't have said it better myself.
A month earlier, I had gotten my tickets for the show the same way the majority of the other 119,999 people who saw the six shows in the Garden had - through a mail order form in the New York Times (reproduced at right). Words cannot describe how psyched my brother Vin and I were when we received our tickets in the mail. We were thrilled enough just to see The Song Remains The Same movie - now we were actually going to see them perform live at The Gardena - dream come true!
Walking into Madison Square that night we received our free Led Zep Swan Song pins given out to all attendees courtesy of WPLJ radio. As I walked into the arena, one of the first things I noticed was that Bonzo no longer had his customary see-through amber kit, but a metallic finish kit without his trademark symbol on the bass drum head.
The anticipation and excitement in the air was absolutely unbelievable, heightened even more by the fact that the band had still not reached the stage by nine o'clock even though the show was slated to start at eight. By the time the house lights finally went down and they reached the stage, the audience was ready to explode.
The show kicked off right with a stellar version of The Song Remains The Same. Jimmy, donned in his white dragon suit and double neck guitar, was the master showman, sliding down to his knees and playing with the finesse and style which has always been his trademark. It was obvious from the outset that the band was in fine form, especially Robert, whose vocal range was particularly strong and powerful. The one week layoff from their last concert (excluding the Tampa debacle of twenty minutes) probably gave Roberts voice a much needed rest.
I have to admit, at the time I was kind of confused by The Rover beginning to Sick Again, but the second song of the night was really hard driving and an excellent concert interpretation of the rocker from Physical Graffiti.
Nobodys Fault But Mine was up next with classic solos from Jimmy and Plants shouts of Oh Jimmy in the middle section. A really energetic version of In My Time of Dying followed, dedicated to Liz (otherwise known as Queen Elizabeth II), in honor of the Queens Jubilee which was happening in England at the time. The band really showed its musicianship and muscle during this song with all four members displaying their unique talents. Once again, Plant's vocals were superb, reaching for and hitting many high notes.
Since I've Been Loving You was next, played with soulful, bluesy intensity from Mr. Page and Robert's passionate vocals. Then it was John Paul Jones turn in the spotlight, and a marathon No Quarter began. Jonesy did some nice keyboard work, however, the song was drawn out a little too long with too much self-indulgence. I sensed that No Quarter lessened some of the intensity of the show (and audience) with seemingly endless piano soloing. I prefer the shorter versions of No Quarter from earlier tours much more than the 77 versions.
The acoustic set followed with John Paul Jones pulling out the craziest guitar I had ever seen, a three neck instrument. Ten Years Gone was first with sweet vocals from Robert, using a harmonizer with effective results, and great interplay between Jimmy and John Paul. The superior guitar work and inspired vocals contributed to a really moving version of one of my personal favorites.
The Battle of Evermore saw John Bonham coming from behind his drum set to join the rest of the band on stools, where his job was to play a war-like tambourine. Although Plant's vocals throughout Evermore were really nice, particularly his use of echo, I couldn't help but think that this song just isn't a concert tune. I also felt that Jones' backup vocal performance, singing the part Sandy Denny had sung so beautifully on the fourth album, was particularly weak.
Robert Plant really poured a lot of emotion into Going to California, and hit some nice high notes. Unfortunately, much of the song was marred by fireworks, a recurring problem despite Roberts repeated pleadings to cool the firecrackers and no more of those exploding things.
Black Country Woman and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp were showcases for Jimmys acoustic ability, and he delivered with some clever soloing on a Martin acoustic guitar. White Summer/Black Mountain Side was played next. Jimmys performance was very tight with Bonzo's accompaniment, and he kept it relatively short and sweet compared to some of the past versions of this old Yardbirds piece. At the end of this feature the band reached the climax of the evenings performance with an incredible segue into Kashmir. After a half hour or so of the mellow set, the beginning of Kashmir hit the audience like the proverbial hammer of the gods, and the New York crowd went ballistic. The light and laser show was particularly effective during Kashmir, and I recall the use of several mirrored balls and lasers which produced a rain of laser specs over the audience. Robert's vocals were astounding, hitting all the high notes and mastering the harmonizer and echo unit with great results. The band was a little loose (i.e. lost) during the middle section of the song - not unusual - but overall it was still one of the highlights of the evening.
An Out On The Tiles intro brought us into John Bonham's solo piece, referred to in Robert's introduction as Over the Top. Bonzo displayed his versatility with an impressive performance of hand playing, timpani work and overall aggressiveness. The crowd got pretty pscyhed when Johns drum riser moved from the back of the stage to the forefront during the middle of the solo. Bonzo didn't diminish his status in my mind as rocks greatest-ever drummer, but once again, the intensity level created during Kashmir had been allowed to subside by an over-indulgent solo. I believe a law should be passed that puts a five minute time limit on concert drum solos!
The next part of the show was where Jimmy really shined. He pulled out all stops with the violin bow, theramin wizardry and eerie guitar work. The light and laser show during this section was incredible. A blue laser pyramid formed over Page and spun around and around with smoke pouring onto the stage to produce an unforgettable image. The ear-splitting sound of the violin bow on the guitar is something Ill never forget it was so loud it really went right to the spine.
Jimmy's solo slid nicely into one of the better versions of Achilles Last Stand that you'll ever hear. Bonzo's unrelenting pounding and creativity, Robert's superior vocal arrangements, Jimmy's exquisite guitar work and soloing, and John Paul's hard driving bass all reached its zenith here. The teamwork and talent worked in perfect unison to produce this masterpiece.
Stairway to Heaven calmed things down a bit (until the blazing guitar solo) with Robert putting in a fine performance, although he screwed up the order of the lyrics slightly. Surprisingly Plant asked Does anybody remember forests? to elicit laughter from the crowd (everyone, including myself, expected laughter). Bonzo & Jimmy worked together nicely during the guitar solo.
After Stairway the band returned to the stage for the encore, beginning with Whole Lotta Love. After The Song Remains the Same movie version of this song, I was shocked, and somewhat disappointed, that it ended abruptly after only a few bars and switched right into Rock and Roll. The song that had begun hundreds of Zep concerts over the years was about to close this successful start to their string of New York shows. They produced a manic, hard rocking version of this classic, and the audience more than eagerly filled in the lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time line on Robert's cue.
Three-plus hours after the beginning of my dream come true the concert came to an end. It was a fantastic evening and the realization of a goal I thought might never come to fruition. Led Zeppelin certainly put in a wonderful performance and didn't let this fan down.
Every time I play my audio tapes from the this show I get a special feeling that brings me back in time to that evening in 1977. I have heard many Zep shows on tape, but none mean more to me than this one. I don't think the audience tapes really do this performance the justice it deserves. If the quality of the recording was on par with those of the June 21st L.A. show from 77 (the Listen To This, Eddie bootlegs), I think it would be regarded as one of the classics from the final U.S. tour. Thanks to the people who braved the elements and captured my dream on tape!
In this day and age of pure, unadultured greed in rock music, it is noteworthy to mention Led Zeppelin's musical integrity. The band charged $8.50, $9.50 and $10.50 for their shows in New York in 1977. They could have charged five times that amount and easily sold out all six shows; however, being fair to their fans was a high priority for the group. The Eagles are shamelessly charging up to $100 for tickets for their concerts this tour and have not put out a single album in 14 years! Obviously, for them its all about making as much cash as they possibly can. Led Zeppelin displayed the antithesis of this attitude and I applaud them for that. It certainly was the best $8.50 I have ever spent in my life. An electrifying and dynamic performance indeed, Mr. Page!!
This review is dedicated to our friend Joe who attended the show with us that night. He was a great guy who passed on way too young.