Thursday, September 25, 2014

Led Zeppelin - 1977-05-21 - Houston

Led Zeppelin
May 21, 1977
The Summit
Houston, TX

01 The Song Remains The Same
02 Sick Again
03 Nobody's Fault But Mine
04 In My Time of Dying
05 Since I've Been Loving You
06 No Quarter
07 Ten Years Gone
08 The Battle of Evermore
09 Going to California
10 Black Country Women
11 Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
12 White Summer-Black Mountain Side
13 Kashmir
14 Out On The Tiles-Moby Dick
15 Guitar Solo
16 Achilles Last Stand
17 Stairway to Heaven
18 Rock and Roll
19 Trampled Under Foot

The performance of the band at this concert is not so bad as reported somewhere but still not tops. Aside from some minor flaws, the overall level of its performance is very satisfying. The brightest star of this concert is John Bonham who continued to deliver a high level of performance throughout the concert. At this concert, Bonzo also shines especially in his drum solos with marvelous stereo effects, as well as in the very powerful Achilles Last Stand. The recording so vividly and lively revives his amazing technique, power and "feel" that no other drummer in the world would probably ever be able to attain or surpass for good ... there also are some funny moments captured in this recording.

The third gig of the second leg of Zeppelin's 77 tour of the US.

A good show. Not the best of the tour, but also nowhere near the worst. Plant is in good voice (although still squeaking here and there), Jones is as consistent as usual, and Page gives his average performance for the tour/year.

The star here, though, is Bonham. For fans of his drumming, his playing here effectively lifts this show from the "average" category into the "essential". Safe to say that this is probably his best performance of the tour behind the first three LA shows. A pity that the rest of the band wasn't as up to task on this night as he was. Again, not to say that the rest of the group plays badly, but that with Bonham so full of such unusual energy, by not having the rest of the band right there with him, it makes for a bit of an uneven ensemble.

As a result, Bonham is often heard playing around the other's mistakes and missed cues, of which tonight has it's fair share. During the break between "The Rover" intro just before the kick-in to "Sick Again", Bonham can be heard yelling at his bandmates to "Pick it up!". As well, after "In My Time Of Dying" he can be heard saying "We're falling apart tonight ain't we?", to which Page can be heard responding "Yeah, right..." Can't tell if Bonham was giving Page a bit of a ribbing there as the rest of Page's words can't be heard. After "Since I've Been Loving You" he yells enthusiastically for "Over The Hills!" four times, but to no avail. Guess he'd have to wait until the 6/10 New York show for that one. The more bizarre of the comments he makes occurs after "No Quarter" where he yells "Jimmy! Jim! It's only rock and roll. It's only rock and roll." Hmmm. For easy highlights, Bonham's best work of the night can be heard on "In My Time Of Dying", "No Quarter" and "Achilles Last Stand", with the latter only let down by some minor slip ups by the rest of the band. A great version nonetheless.

On the funnier side of things, Plant makes a joke out of referring to Bonham as "Joan Baez" throughout the night. Plant's mood in general is nice and upbeat. He and Page get into a small tease of "Custard Pie" as they wait for Jones to get out his stand-up bass for the Stomp, with Page playing the riff to the song in-between Plant singing "Just wanna piece of your custard pie!" and "Drop down baby, let your daddy see". Would've been nice to hear them actually do it.

The soundboard for this show was first circulated via Empress Valley's "The Dragon Snake" release. It's rumored to have been sourced from the video that was shot and projected onto the screens of the venue. In any case, it's an excellent board. Doesn't have quite the low end that the 4/27 board does (not that that's a bad thing), but it is still of very nice quality. There is only one noticeable cut in the tape, at about a minute into "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", but it's extremely minor. So, here we have essentially the complete show. A rarity for Zeppelin soundboards.

Since the EV title has been out, there have been a few remasters done, by both fans and boot labels alike. On the bad end of them is Beelzebub's title "The Drum N Bass Show!". The usual treatment that label has given to most of it's releases also applies here. Although, to their credit, they did add on as a bonus track the Radio Earth interview with Plant and Bonham from 1976. A short and funny listen, as Plant can be heard making aloof comments to the interviewer about the potential meaning behind the object on the cover of Presence, with Bonham also giving a personal "scary story" about it. Between the two of them, the interview could've been right out of the movie "This Is Spinal Tap".

Personally, I like the remaster done by "Four-Eyed Freak". A very nice job. And, his remaster also has the Radio Earth interview as a bonus track. Of course, the original EV title wasn't so bad in the first place, but I think the 4EF remaster is a nice take on it.

If the video for this show ever does circulate, it'll be interesting to see if Page really does fall during the beginning of "Rock and Roll".

The tape begins with a brief soundcheck before the band launches into The Song Remains the Same. Things get off to a somewhat shaky start as Page's fingers become entangled in the strings during the guitar solos. Bonzo, however, is ready and raring to go, firing off a series of machine gun snare blasts and shouting "pick it up!" as they reach the opening chords of Sick Again. The band gets a bit lost following the third verse. As the song ends, Plant apologizes for the delay, saying "not much time to give you a brief history of the last two years, it's been mostly spent on our backs, so we're just gonna get on and play."

Page very briefly quotes the old Boogie Chillen' riff during the guitar solo in Nobody's Fault But Mine. Bonzo can be heard saying "oh, we're falling apart tonight, ain't we?... did you notice the bolt was comin' out the hi-hat as well there?" following a sluggish In My Time of Dying. Since I've Been Loving You is absolutely fantastic, resembling the versions from the 1973 North American tour. One of the best in recent memory. As the song ends, Bonzo can be heard repeatedly shouting "over the hills!" Plant tells the crowd "this next piece features the uncontrollable bursting talents of John Paul Jones" before No Quarter, adding "the mystery man comes alive!" Jones's piano solo develops into an excellent extended rock 'n roll shuffle cum hard rock jam as Page and Bonzo join in. Bonzo experiments with a vast array of rhythms during the lengthy guitar solo. Page shreds wildly during the outro. As the song ends, Bonzo can be heard shouting "Jimmy!... it's only rock and roll."

Plant introduces Bonzo as "the sort of Joan Baez of Led Zeppelin" before The Battle of Evermore. Going to California is beautiful. Page and Plant hint at Custard Pie while waiting for Jones to retrieve his standup bass prior to Black Country Woman. There is a brief cut in the tape during the initial verses of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. Bonzo is on fire during a frantic Achilles Last Stand, thrashing wildly at anything within reach. Plant introduces Stairway to Heaven as "a song of continued positivity," adding "we hope." As the band returns to the stage, he tells the crowd "it's been a great night... it's a new hall, we haven't played here before, right?... doesn't seem to matter when there's a lotta people smilin'." Page misses the first few notes of Rock and Roll, apparently due to a fall he took as the song began. The band plods through the show-closing Trampled Underfoot.

The tape is an excellent soundboard recording.


Zen Archer said...

Anonymous said...

Page does slip, I was there!!!