Friday, September 26, 2014

Led Zeppelin - 1977 - Great Chicago Fire

Led Zeppelin
Great Chicago Fire
Empress Valley Supreme Disc

April 6, 1977
Chicago Stadium
Chicago, IL

101. The Song Remains The Same
102. Sick Again
103. Nobody's Fault But Mine
104. In My Time Of Dying
105. Since I've Been Loving You
106. No Quarter

201. Ten Years Gone
202. The Battle Of Evermore
203. Going To California
204. Black Country Woman
205. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
206. White Summer
207. Kashmir
208. Moby Dick

301. Guitar Solo
302. Achilles Last Stand
303. Stairway To Heaven
304. Rock And Roll
305. Trampled Underfoot

The third night of the 1977 US tour, and the second available recorded date we have. This is the first of the four nights that the band played in Chicago at the start of the tour. Of the four shows, this is the third best-sounding tape of the run, with the best being a toss-up between the next night, 4/7, and the disastrous third night from 4/9 (Jimmy's "food poisoning" night). Although to say that the tape from this night comes in third shouldn't place it in the company of the tape from the last night, 4/10, the sound of which is muddy and fair at best.

For the most part, this tape is good. The recorder is close to the stage, and the ambience that it picks up is actually its strongest quality. For what it's worth, even with the points against it for some roughness, and the occasional tape warbles ("In My Time Of Dying", most of the acoustic set), it is still a relatively clear and full listen. And, to go a step further, even though the next two nights are admittedly better tapes, I find that I enjoy this one the most. Again, having to do with that wonderful atmosphere that the tape picks up, as well as for how the band's sound is captured. Not to mention that I find this show to be the most enjoyable of the performances from the run. In fact, it's one of my favorite nights of the entire 77 tour.

This is the band before anything really went wrong on this tour. Before the sloppy performances, the sickness problems, the lacklustre efforts, or the general fatigue of the road had set in. This is the band fresh and optimistic that this tour could indeed be as good as any that they'd ever done. And it shows in the performance. Even by the next night a good deal of that energy will have gone, and the shows will seem to be just another run through of the set. But here, it still feels like it's the first night of the tour, and the band are excited.

As the tape starts, you hear a loud and excited crowd cheering. As well, you can hear several loud booms, courtesy of the firecrackers that are being let off near the stage. This causes Plant to jump in and give a cautionary "Whoa! Listen!" to the audience, before explaining "We're not gonna fire with fire crackers."

To which, the rowdy audience responds positively and the set goes well. One can hear that of the members, who all play well, Plant is the one who gives the most surprising performance on this night. Again, this is before his voice has had to endure night after night of 3 hours sets. He shines the entire night, and he makes use of this energy at every opportunity. Song after song he gives an extra scream or held note, with many of the songs ending with Plant giving out an energetic "Whoo!". And his comments all throughout the night range from humorous to warm. His intro to "Since" includes a dedication to Chicago as being the "Home of the Electric Blues", at which point he lists off the names of so many of the band's influences: "Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf...You've got so many!" he says to audience approval. Perhaps his funniest comment of the night, besides a hilarious tease at Page's guitar tech Raymond ("He speaks English") during the delay before "White Summer", is Plant's introduction to "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp":

"The early industrial revolution in England took place in the midlands. That’s where me and Bonzo come from. It’s called the Black Country. It’s the land where men are men, and sheep are nervous."

After which, Bonham (or perhaps Page?) can be heard agreeing:

"Better to live one day as a king, than a thousand years as a peasant."

After the Stomp, Plant can even be heard singing the "You need it!" line from "Whole Lotta Love", absolutely nailing the vocal delivery. Makes one wonder what he really still had of his original range.

And one can hear that Page is also playing very well. After a somewhat reserved start, his soloing in "Nobody's Fault But Mine" is great. "Since I've Been Loving You" is outstanding, and one of the best from the entire tour. The song features a coherency that they would rarely be up to giving the song, with Page and Plant playing off each other as in days of old. Page's intro and his solo are both surprisingly controlled and confident. His "No Quarter" and "Trampled Underfoot" solos are also both excellent, with both being reminiscent of the better solos he gave in 1975. If not for that painfully out of tune Danelectro during his "White Summer" solo and "Kashmir", and a slightly out-of-breath attempt at the complicated structure of "Achilles Last Stand" (which Plant and Bonham do a good job of keeping together) his performance here could be considered pretty faultless.

Bonham is dressed in a white tuxedo shirt on this night, and his playing reflects his excitement as well. His drumming in the opening numbers is great. During "No Quarter", the boogie portion actually consists of just he and Jones playing together as Page sits it out, with Bonham holding a steady beat with his ride cymbal. And he gets in some great drumming all throughout the rest of the set, with numerous instances of tight little fills all over the place. Just as the other solos of the night are of a shorter length, such as Jones' concise "No Quarter" solo, and Page's shorter "White Summer" and pre-Achilles "noise" solos, so also is Bonham's drum solo. Which actually works out to the performance's benefit. Since the band aren't yet attempting those long and (occasionally indulgent) presentations, the pace of the show keeps up well.

A sign of this pacing can be heard on "Stairway", which has a very driven and energetic tempo to it. Not rushed, just upbeat. Page's solo is again a good performance. The encore of "Rock and Roll" is great too, even with the timing slip up during the return from the solo. Plant even sings some of the lines from Elvis' "Burning Love" in the outro. And after the band return to the stage for the final encore, Plant gives the audience a few "Push! Push!" lines. A great version of "Trampled Underfoot" closes the show, which features Bonham throwing in some of the beats from "Gallows Pole".

The best current source of this tape can be found on the Gusto Productions title "The Home Of The Electric Blues", which also includes the audience source from the next night. Empress Valley recently released this tape on their box set "The Great Chicago Fire". It could be said to be an upgrade, but with tapes like these, which don't have the best sound to begin with, doing the "EV thing" by making them louder and boosting the frequencies isn't always a good thing, as it also brings up all of those unpleasant aspects of the tape with it. I prefer the Gusto version, where the tape is just a little quieter and more natural sounding.

This is just a satisfying and fun show. The end of the month would find the band giving more polished performances (4/23, 4/28, 4/30), but even those shows have a hard time matching the positive energy and optimism of this one.

Opening night for the four night stand in Chicago and beginning of the problems with firecrackers that disorganised the band. Plant said before any note was played: "Listen! Before we start, can we ask you one thing? Can you stop throwing those firecrackers? We want to give you a lot of music, but we're not going to fight with firecrackers? Ok?! Cool it with the explosives." After some scary firecracker blasts and shouts of protest from Robert, the show begins. It is quite good. Jimmy's solo in Since I've Been Loving You is excellent. He really tortures his guitar, making it scream and moan. Jimmy actually speaks during the acoustic section ("Better to live one day as a king, than a thousand years as a peasant."), and the ending of the show is kind of sloppy. Jimmy massacres Ten Years Gone, has problems with his instrument during White Summer/Black Mountain Side and the solo and Achilles Last Stand are rushed and violent. Fairly strong show for the 2nd or 3rd one of the tour, and a strong opening nonetheless for Chicago, although disaster is around the corner three nights late.

April 7, 1977
Chicago Stadium
Chicago, IL

01 The Song Remains The Same
02 Sick Again
03 Nobody's Fault But Mine
04 Since I've Been Loving You
05 No Quarter
06 Ten Years Gone
07 The Battle Of Evermore
08 White Summer
09 Kashmir
10 Achilles Last Stand
11 Stairway To Heaven
12 Rock And Roll

Bonzo thrashes wildly at anything within reach during a frantic The Song Remains the Same. Page's fingers become entangled in the strings during the first guitar solo in Sick Again. The tape is cut between songs. The beginning of Jones's piano solo during No Quarter is met with a loud cheer from the crowd. Page shreds erratically through a somewhat choppy guitar solo. Unfortunately, The song is cut during the final verse. We return during the first verse of Ten Years Gone.

Before The Battle of Evermore, Plant tells the crowd "it wasn't quite as hard as this five hundred years ago, wandering around with acoustic instruments... cause the oak tree probably didn't hold more than about two people" during a long pause while the band retunes. Going to California is introduced as "a song that reeks of California." White Summer features an eerily beautiful passage just before the Black Mountain Side section begins. The crowd erupts as Kashmir kicks in. Only the final two minutes of Achilles Last Stand survive on the tape. Plant dedicates Stairway to Heaven to the crowds the band played to on the 1975 North American tour "and the good times all along the way." The show-closing Rock and Roll is a cacophonous explosion of energy.

A very good show, sadly shortened due to some restrictions - In My Time Of Dying and Trampled Underfoot were dropped out from this show. The reason of this unexpetced move was caused of city-based hockey team, Chicago Black Hawks. They were in the playoffs at the time and had to use the arena on Friday night. The union that worked this facility demanded Zeppelin be finished by 11:00 P.M. as the Showco sound system had to be dismantled for the hockey game to be played on Friday. It was reassembled for Saturday's show.

April 9, 1977
Chicago Stadium
Chicago, IL

01. The Song Remains The Same
02. The Rover/Sick Again
03. Nobody's Fault But Mine
04. Since I've Been Loving You
05. No Quarter
06. Ten Years Gone

This is the show where Jimmy passes out due to food poisoning! The playing is very gutsy and inspired, although several times his timing is off and he confuses the rest of the band. This is most evident in the intro to Nobody's Fault But Mine and the fact that he plays the first minute of Since I've Been Loving You before the aforementioned song, making the set out of order and confusing the band, who do not enter. In My Time Of Dying was also dropped from tonight's set out. The show is cancelled after Jimmy passes out in Ten Years Gone due to food poisoning. Plant: "Jimmy has got a bout of gastro-enteritis, which isn't helped by firecrackers, so we've gonna take a neccessary five minute break." After a conversation backstage, Richard Cole announced to the quite a disappointed audience: "Jimmy does not want to a half-hearted show tonight. If you watch the press on Monday, this show will be rescheduled. The band feel very bad about this, but please hang onto your tickets. All tickets will be honoured." Too bad, as the show was very intense.

The band's third night in Chicago starts off like any other night. Page's fingers are a bit sticky during The Song Remains the Same. Plant greets the crowd following Sick Again, saying "welcome to what we hope is gonna be a very good time." Page plays a large portion of the intro to Since I've Been Loving You a cappella before realizing he's jumped ahead of the setlist. He shreds erratically though the guitar solo in Nobody's Fault But Mine. The tape is cut between songs. Jones's ominous piano solo during No Quarter is met with a series of loud whistles from the crowd. A barrage of firecracker blasts signals the beginning of the instrumental section. Page solos wildly during the song's outro.

After a long pause following a lackluster Ten Years Gone, Plant announces "whether you were aware of it or not, Jimmy has got a bout of gastroenteritis... so we're gonna take a necessary five minute break right now, so you must bear with us, cause Jimmy's very lucky to be even playin' tonight, okay?" After a cut in the tape, road manager Richard Cole announces "(Jimmy) has a bad attack of gastroenteritis, he does not want to do a half-assed show tonight... if you watch the press and the papers on monday and hang onto your ticket stubs, this show will be rescheduled and all your tickets will be re-honored!" adding "the band feel very bad about this, but please hang onto your tickets and they will all be rescheduled for the next performance, and they'll come back and replay this show again." Unfortunately, the makeup show would never take place.

April 10, 1977
Chicago Stadium
Chicago, IL

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 Battle Of Evermore
09 Going To California
10 Black Country Woman
11 Bron Yr Aur Stomp
12 Trampled Underfoot
13 White Summer/Black Mountainside
14 Kashmir
15 Moby Dick/Over The Top
16 Jimmy's Solo
17 Achilles Last Stand
18 Stairway To Heaven
19 Rock & Roll

Even though the artwork that came with this mentions Trampled Underfoot after Rock & Roll, it's not. It's where it should be!

Well, it sounds like the group is vindicating themselves after the disatrous third night at Chicago (theres even a brief reference to it). This is the last night, and there's no more "food poisoning" for Jimmy....indeed he delivers the fastest, most powerful solo in NBFM ever recorded. Plant avoids the usual "Oh Jimmy" intro and simply commands Page to " Shake It"!

Plant is becoming an expert at prolonging and sustaining his powerful howls that constantly shake the audience. The reference to "You Shook Me" during "In My Time of Dying" is slightly cut in this recording. "Since I've been Loving You" is dedicated to Willie Dixon and his freinds on the South side, with Page transforming it into a frenzied version of "Tea For One".

Plant is in a good mood, sarcastically demanding an apology from a local radio station who accused Jimmy of drinking the whole day of the cancelled concert ("Jimmy doesn't drink on tour")....John Paul Jones plays stand up bass during the Stomp. Page does some strange, different arrangements of the solos during Trampled and Whits Summer (with long tense pauses), until Black Mountain Side is hurried by the audience with "C'mon"! and impatient clapping.

Possibly the best night from four Chicago-based shows. The playing is hot here and seems that the band had leaved most of the problems that plagued them on all the previous night behind. Plant said near the beginning of the show about what happened to Pagey last night: "Jimmy was feeling ill last night, but it was only a false pregnancy, so that's alright ... Mr Page neither smokes, drinks, takes women or does anything like that so we want an apology tomorrow and a crate of alcohol!" said Robert according to the some local radio report last night. The beginning is blistering and In My Time Of Dying is very powerful and rather bombastic. No Quarter is another fine version but as always on this tour, Ten Years Gone is full om mistakes due to the fact that song was not too much rehearsed before the tour. Kashmir shines and is brutal and Achilles Last Stand forced the audience as well. This is the show where Page is captured wearing (in)famous storm tropper outfit.

The band's fourth and final night at Chicago Stadium begins with a brief soundcheck before The Song Remains the Same comes thundering out of the gate. Bonzo has become the band's main driving force, hammering at his drums with incredible intensity. Nobody's Fault But Mine is devastatingly heavy. Page shreds furiously through a blistering guitar solo. In My Time of Dying is a cacophonous sonic assault. There is a slight cut in the tape at the very end of the song. Since I've Been Loving You is dedicated to Willie Dixon "and his friends on the south side who write good music." Plant introduces Jones as "a man who once stayed at the Royal Orleans hotel" amidst shouts of "sit down!" before No Quarter. Following the upbeat honky tonk interlude, he switches back to the electric piano for the instrumental section. Page wanders aimlessly through an out of tune guitar solo.

Plant tells the crowd "in England, it's very important to take the one you love to the back seat of the school bus and promise that forever and ever, you will be together... it never works that way, but you can try it in every town" before introducing Ten Years Gone as "a song about the first one." The first few bars of Going to California are missing from the tape. Plant sings a couple lines of Surrender as the band prepares for Black Country Woman. Page shreds wildly through the guitar solo during Trampled Underfoot. Plant delivers a powerful performance during a thunderous Kashmir. He introduces Bonzo as "the man I call my brother" before Over the Top. Unfortunately, only the Moby Dick outro survives on the tape. Page's fingers become entangled in the strings during the guitar solo in Achilles Last Stand. The crowd erupts as the show-closing Rock and Roll crashes into motion. An explosive finale to the band's troubled stay in Chicago.

Bonus DVD:

8mm incomplete songs with audio:

01. The Song Remains The Same
02. The Rover Intro/Sick Again
03. Nobody's Fault But Mine
04. Since I've Been Loving You
05. No Quarter
06. Ten Years Gone
07. Robert Plant Stage Announcements


Zen Archer said...

OSCAR said...

thank you
but links are offline, could you please repost?

Anonymous said...

Any chance for a repost?