February 10, 1975
Eelgrass – EGL20262/63/64
Stereo Soundboard Recording
102. Rock And Roll
103. Sick Again
104. Over The Hills And Far Away
105. In My Time Of Dying
106. The Song Remains The Same
107. Rain Song
201. No Quarter
202. Trampled Underfoot
203. Moby Dick
301. Dazed And Confused
302. Stairway To Heaven
303. Whole Lotta Love
304. Black Dog
Last Monday night, Led Zeppelin destroyed the Capital Centre.
Playing material both old and recent, and several cuts from their upcoming album, Physical Graffiti, the concert was close to rock heaven: with hard-driving guitar work, a powerful rhythm section, amazing vocal performance, flashy, sexual stage presence, solid keyboard and mystic Mellotron playing, and to top it off, a stunning array of stage gimmickry, the Led Zeppelin concert was certainly one of the most exciting and musically com¬plete in Washington in over a year.
But it was also a disappoint¬ment. The problem with Led Zeppelin is that they used to be a blues-rock band, carrying on the tradition they inherited from the Yardbirds. As a blues-rock band, Led Zeppelin made two out¬ standing albums, Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, both in 1969, which are classics in that genre.
After achieving commercial success with the second album (helped along with the AM success of "Whole Lotta Love," a grueling six American tours in two years, and an overgrowing FM following), the band almost completely abandoned their Chicago blues roots, and made three albums which attempted to establish their own musical identity.
For the most part, it has been a failure. Led Zeppelin III was acoustically oriented and a disap¬pointment, lacking for at least one stellar effort. Their fourth album had a heavy metal crunch to it, and wasn't a bad album, but just couldn't hold its own against Led Zep I or II. Their last album, Houses of the Holy, was a trendy vinyl (reggae, Mellotrone), and a piece of pretentious garbage.
In context to albums by other good bands, the last three Led Zeppelin discs would be con¬sidered solid works, but con¬sidering that the same band in a blues format had accomplished a good deal more musical creativity and virtuosity, then Led Zeppe¬lin's last three outings have indeed fallen short of fulfilling their potential.
But the magic of Led Zeppelin has been able to keep their blimp from running into the ground. Their five albums have sold more than 11 million copies on Atlantic Records, outselling the Rolling Stones 2 to 1.
But don't let anyone think it wasn't a good concert. On stage were four competent musicians, who used to be four fantastic musicians. For the most part, they played well, but the musical perfections they once were showed clear signs of erosion.
Robert Plant, a disciple of Alexis Korner, is perhaps one of the best blues singers to come out of England. However, his singing of the concert opener "Rock and Roll" was awful. He was weak as well on other songs, but he also sparkled on some, particularly his delivery of "The Song Remains the Same." The stallion-like Plant evoked a stage presence which gave his lyrics greater impact, constantly swaying and flowing with the movements of the songs.
Drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones held together a strong rhythm section. But Bonham's drum solo during "Moby Dick" was rather point-less, despite the eerie sounds created when he hooked up the drumskins to a synthesizer. Jones demonstrated his depth as a musician by handling the key-board chores, which included organ, synthesized piano, synthe¬sizer and Mellotrone (a keyboard apparatus which has all the instruments of the orchestra on tapes).
But certainly it is guitarist. Jimmy Page that is the howitzer shot that made Led Zeppelin heard 'round the world. Playing both the six string and eighteen string guitars, Page filled the Capital Centre with three hours of guitar thunder and lightening. Firing his axe from his crotch, Page sent out scortching solos and frenzied blitzes via a variety of phase shifters', echoplexes, wah¬whas and other gadgets, proving why Mr. Page is one of the most important rock guitarists of the past thirteen years.
But, like the other musicians, Page was inconsistent, often find¬ing progressions in solos leading to nowhere, and being out of step with the others. Typical was "Dazed and Confused," which was both electrifying but yet at times sloppy. It was quite a visual display, as the guitarist tossed aside his pick and played his Gibson with a violin bow.
"Stairway to Heaven," "Black Dog." and "Heartbreaker," were done well, and Page's ripping into the opening chords of "Whole Lotta Love" brought back memories of Led Zeppelin at their best.
For a concert, it was great. For a Led Zeppelin concert it was marginal, a far cry from their performance five years ago at the Meriweather Post Pavilion when they opened the concert for the Who.
But most of the 18,000 at the Capital Centre were seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time, and the sometimes faulty musicianship was so easily diverted by the very presence of the band. Over two dozen engineers bathed the Led Zeppelin in a variety of multi¬colored lights. Concert "toys" were added, including a huge flashing "Led Zeppelin" logo on a backdrop screen, dry ice machines, smoke bombs, flashing lights, mirrors, and, my God, even a laser!
Back in the days when Led Zeppelin remained true to their musical capabilities, one would not find an elaborate concert show. Instead, only the band, their instruments, amps, and a big empty stage.
But those were different time's. People listened to Led Zeppelin then because they played some really great music. Today, people listen to Led Zeppelin because they're, Led Zeppelin. (J.Ramsey|3-75)
Rock And Roll finds the band playing well early on, Plant’s voice is rough as expected and he does not push it but the worst for him is yet to come, the instrumental “machine” is thundering along with Page playing a great solo. Sick Again follows and Plant’s voice sounds very rough, almost makes you cringe when you first hear it, thankfully it starts improving by songs end. Showing no signs of an injured finger Page’s playing early on as they continue the “dream” during Over The Hills And Far Away, his solo starts out a bit slow but quickly evolves into a nice laid back journey and Robert’s voice is starting to recover. Robert talks of new material “falling out of us” and asks the crowd if they have heard any on FM radio and they play something from their roots. In My Time Of Dying is a complete band song, the interplay of the musicians is spot on, Page lays down some of his best leads during this song.
Robert is chatty during this show, The Song Remains The Same gets its usual introduction and Plant mentions Kuwait, something that made me reflect on the world today and how years ago, a couple of hippy musicians from England traveled in the Middle East enjoying the culture of these regions, and in speaking of Kashmir, having the indigenous music influence their creativity. I prefer the 75 versions of Kashmir, more focused and heavy, Plant does not force the high notes, yet some of his oohh’s sound a bit painful. The introduction for No Quarter is a bit screwed up, the majority of it is on the tail end of the first disc, it sounds like Page is having some technical problems, he seems tentative in getting into the middle section and it hampers his solo at the beginning and while he recovers some fluidity, he never manages to fully get it off the ground. This carries over into a somewhat lack luster version of Trampled Underfoot where Jimmy struggles to sync with the rhythm section and boarders on erratic during his solo with some really interesting results.
Robert’s introduction to Moby Dick finds him referring to him as “ultra precise” and making a reference to Karen Carpenter, who Bonzo came in second to in Playboy magazine’s music poll. While it sounds like Jimmy needs as break, Bonzo sounds like he is just getting warmed up and plays a very enjoyable drum solo, he plays a phased section that reminds me of space during a Grateful Dead concert. Dazed And Confused clocks in at over 30 minutes, Heavy Zeppelin at its best. Since making its return to the set a week earlier the song is still a work in process as Page recovers his finger strength, the oriental riffs section is slow and mysterious and works well with Plant’s vocal effects as he swirls through Page’s mists. The fast middle section is really good with Page being pretty loose and fluent and the music is recovering some of primitive fury. Stairway To Heaven is the culmination of the show, Page plays a great solo yet Plant does not push it during the hard rocking finale as his voice is rough and raspy for the ending.
The encores are typical for the tour, Whole Lotta Love sounds a bit under whelming and Page’s fingers struggle with the complexity of Black Dog yet he manages to lay down a great solo. As we know from the audience source, the intensity of the audience leaves the band empowered and they play a second encore of Heartbreaker, Page plays an almost stuttered riff at times making for an interesting version but thankfully John Bonham is behind him and gives the song a kick in the ass making for a strong ending.