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LED ZEPPELIN

Led Zeppelin

 

Prog Related

4.43 | 130 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The least we can say is that Led Zeppelin although one of the most praised rock band in the history (selling anything between two and three hundred MILLION albums) has not intended to relieve their fans of their money too much (unlike Yes or the Purple). Therefore, one can only be thankful to them. The problem being that in this case, it is really too much. One movie in 1976 (of some 1973 concerts) and that's it ! One can only applause to this effort which will browse almost their entire career at some crucial period of their development / establishment.

This review will be quite extended I'm afraid. So, I will summarize my feeling about it in a few lines. For those of you who are willing to know a bit more, the full review might be of interest.

From the hesitant Albert Hall concert of January 1970 to a 200,000 Knebworth crowd in 1979, one will travel to the live side of the band which will be highly controversial. We'll go through all the excesses of their long improvisations : "Moby Dick", "How Many More Times", "Dazed" and their medley one "Whole Lotta Love". Each clocking well over twenty minutes. A source of great emotion for die-hard fans and exasperation for others. If you belong to latter one, go straight to the second DVD of this wonderful set. You won't be able to digest the first one which features everything you will abhor. If, like myself, you are a Led Zep nuts; this double DVD will fill out the shortage of Led Zep images available.

It is the most selling musical DVD in the history so far. Selling 520,000 pieces in its year of release (just over eight months). I was in London in May 2003. In one of the biggest record store there (you know the airline one on Oxford Street). I could not find it so I asked an employee for it. He just told me : "We have sold them all out" !

The success was HUGE. Unprecedented. For a band who ceased to exist in 1980. So, yes : this DVD set is a masterpiece of hard-rock history (you'll see further on how much prog-related it is). Five stars.

DVD one starts with their legendary concert at the RAH. January 9, 1970. The camera follows the band from the catacomb of the Hall and we get a wild opening : "We're Gonna Grove". It is rather impressive to see how Plant, alone, is holding the packed Albert Hall by his so great vocal work. Remember, he is only 21 and has already such a power. INCREDIBLE HE IS. He will explode in blues rendition which will be their trademark in the early days. Even if a track like "I Can't Quit You Baby" was not at all my cup of tea in the studio version, it appears here truly PHENOMENAL. One also gets a first sign of Bonham's virtuosity on the drums. More to come.

Plant will introduce the next song as follows : "Here is another "thing" form our first album". And here we go for "Dazed". Not the copy of the studio version which they will already play as soon as September 12, 1968 in Stockholm. No : here, we'll get the extended one. Some will "appreciate" the long middle part (actually the longest part by far) during which Page will "violonize" his guitar, playing with a bow (he started doing so in 1966 already).

You really need to be in Led Zep to swallow such a track. I have to say that I can understand that people has problem with this approach. My answer is pretty simple : press next. I am quite fascinated by this track (even if they "borrowed" it). The furious jam after the bow solo is extremely wild. We'll get then an incredible "call & response" session between Page and Plant. You do not need to look further to know where Blackmore and Gillan got their inspiration while performing "Strange Kind Of Woman" in its "Made In Japan" format. Their complicity is enormous : not only musically but physically as well. As if the energy coming out of their body was leading the other to higher levels. A great piece of "music".

Half of the band will take a break during "White Summer" : Page will be seated while performing his guitar solo. Bonzo will join after a while, probably to do some warming up for "Moby Dick". Page demonstrates his skills brilliantly and the Jimi (Hendrix) influence is evident. Page is almost shy on stage although the most experienced of the band. The "presence" of Plant shadowing both Page and Jones.

Then starts "How Many More Times" : a blues medley with a psyche middle part from Led Zep I. Another classic of these early concerts (although Page/Plant will play it again during their reunion tour in 1998/1999 to which I was lucky to attend (in Ghent). Jones and Page having real fun while playing together. Plant will say in his intro "We'd like you to grove". And the audience will. During the middle part, there will be an attempt to "Whole Lotta Love". But it won't be included here. Another great call & response section during which Plant is almost bewitched is again a great moment of this DVD. This song was also a pretext to integrate a blues medley. They will also do this with "Whole ." but with a rock'n'roll medley instead.

Would you like to get some rest with the next song ? No way, we will be hammered by Bonham and his incredible drum solo. Yes, it is now time for "Moby Dick". This track will also be featured as soon as September 1968 in their show. Under its embryonic form called "Pat's Delight". This is a great drumming experience. I have mentioned it already in my review for "The Song Remains The Same" (the movie). IMO, Bonzo is one of the greatest drummer in the world. Amongst all the drummers I have seen on stage, he will leave his indelible mark on me. The way he uses his drum kit is hardly comparable. The moment he plays the drums with his hand is truly remarkable. One might argue the need for this like Hendrix playing guitar with his teeth but, hell ! Have a look and appreciate! This footage is a fantastic tribute to this extraordinary musician. RIP John.

No rest for the audience. Follow-up is . "Whole Lotta Love". Standard format : only six wild minutes. So wild that the images are rather shaky. During the "middle part" , Plant will simulate the love act and the orgasm shouts need to be put into perspective : it is a 1970 recording .

This extremely violent set (no prog relation my friend) goes on with the super-fast and LOUD "Communication Breakdown". Page who has been rather faded so far finally wakes up and participates actively in the show (marking more his presence I mean). Problems with live footage still remains since still images illustrate almost half of the song.

Then the the rock'n'roll classic "C'Mon Everybody" rocking like hell of course. After this, the crazy "Something Else". Finally, a great jam for "Bring It On Home" featuring Plant on harmonica. Since the last reel was missing, we'll get again some still pictures. The astounding finale is a knock out for the audience. At the end of the day, this was just a "normal" Led Zep concert.

For unknown reasons (to me) the track list of this concert has been completely shaken up on this DVD. I'm sure you can not wait longer for the original set list, so here we go : C'mon Everybody, Whole Lotta Love (short version), Communication Breakdown, Something Else, Bring It On Home, How Many More Times, We're Gonna Groove, I Can't Quit You Baby, White Summer/Black Mountain Side and finally Whole Lotta Love again as an encore (not featured on the DVD including Long Tall Sally, Great Balls Of Fire, Move On Down The Line, Whole Lotta Shackin').

This first DVD is absolutely not meant for the casual fan (but if you have gone so far in your reading, you're not). No way to bear all of these long jams if you are not a die- hard fan. These will be an inherent part of their live performances. In those ancient times there were not a single moment of even prog-related music in their concerts of course.

When you have achieved this piece of music, you can "relax" with the Clips section (or extras). The background music is "Heartbreaker" from the RAH concert.

The first one, is the promo version for "Communication Breakdown". Lots of close-up shots for this black and white play-back footage. It is very funny to see how Plant completely misses some portion of the song. It is in their favor to have it featured here with all these imperfections.

The Denmark show (incorrectly written Danmark on the inner side) will remind me of the same kind of audience than the one featured in the Deep Purple footage "Live In Scandinavia" (in Sweden). A bunch of very young teenagers whom we see entering the studio and being seated in front of the band. The set is very good. The audience very attentive.

In those early days, epic songs like "Dazed" and "How Many More Times" are being played in their original "short" format. Less "performance" oriented. These "short" versions are probably better and definitely more accessible even if the die-hard fan was always "living" these long improvisations with lots of enthusiasm. Jones's work is to be noticed here, while Plant is truly deeply living "Dazed" even during the instrumental part. Nothing like getting a rest backstage while his colleague are on-stage.

During "How Many More Times" Bonham is hitting his drum kit like a savage. After the intro, Jimmy enters into a great solo performance. During the "trip", he will use his bow of course. This section will lead to the great "call & response" part often used by Page / Plant during these improvisations. Jones said : "Other big names released singles, therefore they did a lot of television, but we didn't. In Denmark, the radio wasn't very good and that TV show was about the only outlet they had. It was probably the one TV show we ever did that we really enjoyed". The very quiet audience will even nod the head (gosh). The song will be somewhat cut at the end featuring some still of their first album cover (some original shooting problem I guess).

Next comes a colour rendition of "Dazed" (standard format). It was shot in 1969 for a British TV show. Led Zep will feel that the poor equipped studio was not good enough for them to perform on a TV show. So, from then on : no more TV show. Period. If one wants to see Led Zep, there was only one choice left : go to their legendary concerts.

The last performance featured on this first DVD comes from another TV show. This time coming out of France : "Tous Ensemble" (all together). When one sees how the shooting was done (poor backstage shots) one can only agree with the band's choice not to perform such "shows" any longer. Page will say : "people thought that we had a lot of different stuff to choose from to release this DVD, but we did not". I guess that if they showed this one, it is definitely because not a lot of different images were available.

This first CD will of course be appealing to the faithful Led Zep fan. It is also a unique moment of ROCK history. So, if you are ready to embark on DVD two, here we go !

It starts with a version of "Immigrant Song". Some editing for this one since the footage comes from a show performed in Sydney (February 1972) while the music was recorded in the Long Beach Arena show (1972 as well). The takes are really poor. Moving quickly from close up to slow motion and then to panoramic views. It is better to listen to it than to look at it. Really.

With no transition we'll go to the MSG (their mythical concert hall). The difference with their Albert Hall performance and this one is amazing : they are at the end of their NINTH US tour (in just over four years.). Having played in such place as the Whiskey (A Go Go) Bar (you know the "Doors" one) through the MSG (six times already before this 1973 tour) and lots of packed outdoors concerts with "oceans" of fans converging. Page will say :"Originally, we saw the whole essence of our live performance as something that the audience listened to very carefully, picking up on what was going on, on the spontaneity and musicianship. "By the time of this New York concert, though, we're so full of confidence now that the showmanship has started to come through and we're working together with almost a telepathy between us".

"Black Dog" is an extraordinary moment. The communion between the band and the audience is incredible. It's one of the all-time favorite for Led Zep fans and this live rendition is just superb. It is followed by "Misty Mountain Hop" featuring Jones on the keyboards. The sound is much rawer than the studio one, Page being wiiiiiiild. One get the real power of this band. Hard to heavy-rock : no subtlety here.

The band will switch with no transition to "Since I've Been Loving You". The legendary guitar solo is absolutely marvelous. I can listen to this song five times in a row without being bored and this lasts since I've been loving this song. To achieve this result, Page will again use the cut and paste extensively (six times) : taking bit and bites of the three MSG concerts like he did already for the "The Song Remains The Same" (soundtrack and movie). In October 1971. The last song taken form this set is "The Ocean" dedicated to the hordes of fans attending their concerts. It was one of the poorest numbers on HOTH, but while played live, it cached another dimension : waaaaaay better. It almost sounds as a good song.

No transition again to go to Earl's Court 1975. In eight days, they will play FIVE times there (total audience : 85,000). Only three concerts will be used for this DVD (well, actually only two can really be taken into account : ..). It starts right in the middle of the concert. Nine songs have already been performed while they start with their legendary acoustic set (not prog). They'll switch from the heavy "No Quarter" to the lightest songs of their repertoire. For an unknown reason, the first song will be skipped : no trace of "Tangerine". At this time of the concert, the trio (Jones, Page, Plant) sits very close to the edge (I've heard this one before) to "communicate" more with the audience. Even if these songs are not part of my preferred ones (except "Bron Y'r Our Stomp" which I have always appreciated very much, but it is a rocking acoustic one with some audience involvement like during "Gallows Pole" for instance. Plant's performance is truly majestic. Subtle, high- pitched, apparently so easy. The whole band is really enjoying these moments.

Since this was the supporting tour for "Physical Graffiti" (to which I attended in Brussels), next two songs come from there. "In My Time Of Dying" has never been my cup of tea. It is better while played live. Jimmy will perform a great guitar solo at the end which is not to be compared with the sloppy finale of the studio work. During this live set, it will become a Page's highlight. The track here is powerful and dynamic. The second one is "Trampled Underfoot" which was one of the very few very good songs of this album (IMO their weakest by far). It is extremely wild and accelerated. The beat is PHENOMENAL.

Filming is not great though. Jimi (Hendrix of course) is not far away. But it is not the first time it is to be noticed (one could already see this influence during the Albert Hall performance). But who can blame it ? I consider this as a tribute to one of the greatest guitar player of the music history.

And THE magical moment : "Stairway To Heaven". Led Zep will play it during each concert since at least August 1971 (with only a few exceptions in August/September of that year). Usually it will be performed in the middle of the set. In their 1975 tour, it will be the last one of the concert, leaving the audience in a state of ecstasy (I am so lucky to have been able to live this experience). I am always looking to live versions of Led Zep (official as well as non-official ones). Even the band has used some bootleg footage for the 1973 MSG as well as Knebworth concerts because they felt it was important not to limit themselves in official images.

So, I was thrilled when I saw that the recording (from the soundboard so the quality is perfect) of their 25th May concert featured a version of almost TWENTY-ONE minutes. I was extremely curious to hear what they would add to this masterpiece. So, listened to it religiously. The intro : identical, the acoustic part : identical. The hard-rock part with the fantastic guitar solo : identical, the closing section : identical. Then applauses. Then Plant saying : "Thanks very much. That's the last one, that's the last one. Good night. See you in Kashmir".

What happens then is CRAZYNESS : I have gooseflesh when I write this (I am listening to it as I write). Almost ELEVEN minutes of incredible shouts, yelling to get the band back on stage for an encore. I tell you, it is one of the most emotional moments I have heard. When the band comes back on stage Plant will say : "Good evening ! I said goooooooooood evening ! Well, it seems . is this our swan song, I wonder ? And there we go for "Whole Lotta Love" (which is not featured on the DVD).

As usual, you can not wait for the whole track list of these concerts, right ? So, here you are . Starting with the classic "Rock'n'Roll" we'll travel through their repertoire with Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir, No Quarter, Tangerine, Going To California, That's The Way, Bron-Yr-Stomp, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick, Dazed and Stairway.

As usual for their last concerts at their most beloved cities (New York and London), the encores of their last Earl's Court show will be the most extended with : Whole Lotta Love (including "The Crunge" then a replay of "Black Dog" (eight minutes, including the applause for the second encore), Heartbreaker (almost en minutes, including bits of "Bouree") and Communication Breakdown (almost seven minutes).

These Earl's Court concerts were lasting for about three hours and a half. A great, great moment. Plant will say at the end of the final concert : "It has been five glorious days". Then the crowd will keep on yelling and the band will come back on stage. Plant will say : "This is something we never do. This is something we never do". Any request ? And there we go for "Heartbreaker". After this, Plant says : "We'd like to do one more. We'll just have a little chat, if you want to excuse us. I'm just thinking if we had any "hits". We are not blowing our image if we're having a chat, aren't we ? There's a gentleman down here who suggests that we should do it. This is a problem that we won't get but maybe some people do. And there we go for "Communication Breakdown".

These last two paragraphs relate to an audio recording of the last Earl's Court concert, not the DVD.

It's a pity (IMO) that only six numbers of these concerts are featured here. They would have deserved a DVD edition on their own (maybe for the fortieth anniversary) ?

These London concerts will be the last ones on English soil for the next four years. Of course, at the time, no one can imagine Plant's dramatic car accident and trauma in his personal live with the death of his son in 1977.

The last part of this live DVD, comes from their two huge concerts at Knebworth (although mostly one will serve for these recordings). The show of the 4th of August will be significantly better and therefore most of (if not all) the filming comes out of this one. It was the band first England first experience since Earl's Court four years ago. The band is of course at its peak of maturity.

Bizarrely this part starts with "Rock'n'Roll" which will be one of the encores. The version of "Sick Again" is damned good. A lot wilder and harder than the studio one. The absolute highlight of these concerts will be "Achilles Last Stand". It is a fabulous HARD-ROCK piece of music.The gorgeous beat driven drumming by a sober (not talking about drinking) Bonham's play. It is a true Led Zep epic. Page / Plant really happy to be on stage again (there are almost no shots from Bonham unfortunately).

"In The Evening" will also sounds rockier, wilder and more appealing than in the studio. One can see Jimmy sweating like an ox in his blue shirt during this song. Then, back to "Physical Graffiti" with "Kashmir". This version won't change my mind dramatically. I will always expect the song to start, even when it's over ! I guess that I must be one of the very few Led Zep maniacs to have this feeling about "Kashmir". Can't help.

The live version I prefer is the one with the Egyptian ensemble on the Page/Plant live album "No Quarter". The backing Egyptian band will add an immense value to the song which has never been closer from its roots : Middle-East of course. The end of the song is pure glory though : frenetic rhythm with Bonham in top form.

As the liner notes will tell, when the band starts with "Whole Lotta Love", three hours of concert has been played. At the end of the song, Plant will say : "Thanks for eleven years". One does not know that it will be their last appearance in the UK.

Some extras on the DVD : interviews and promotional material.

A press conference in NYC : the band has to answer some stupid questions about the Beatles.

A short piece of their Australian tour (same one from which "Immigrant Song" had been taken from to start this second DVD. "Down Under" will feature "Rock'n'roll". It has been shot during the same concert during which "Immigrant Song" was recorded on the first part of this DVD.

One special moment for me is the third clip from these "extras" : a Plant interview from the catacombs of Forest National (Brussels) before their Belgian concert. He'll talk about "how great" the old and unreleased material sounds, and the possibility to come back in England to do something special. "Entertainment on a large scale".

Then two promotional videos. If you do not select one too fast, you will be able to see "The Song Remains The Same" in full. Kind of hidden track not mentioned. The extras will be "Over The Hill And Far Away" : with distorted and pshyche images and "Riverside Blues" with images from the bayoo and some paddle wheel boats so typical of the Mississippi region.

Not a lot of prog-related featured on these two great DVD's. Five star for this anthology.

ZowieZiggy | 5/5 |

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