Led Zeppelin concerts

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Formed in 1968, English rock group Led Zeppelin quickly became one of the world's top live acts and remained so until their breakup in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham. From September 1968 inclusive to the summer of 1980, they were one of the world's quintessentially renown live music attractions, performing hundreds of concerts around the world.

Overview

Initially filling out the remaining dates previously booked for the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin went on to make countless concert tours of the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe in particular, during the late 1960s and 1970s. They performed over 700 concerts,[1] originally performing in diminutive nightclubs and ballrooms and then, as their reputation accrued, larger auditoriums and arenas as well. By far the greatest number of Led Zeppelin's live concerts were performed in the United States, which was organised as the prime goal for their acclaim and accomplishment.[2] In 1969, for instance, all but thirty-three of the band's 139 appearances were performed in the United States, and between the years 1968 and 1971 they effected no fewer than nine treks of North America. 'It felt like a vacuum and we'd arrived to fill it,' guitarist Jimmy Page once recounted to music journalist Cameron Crowe. 'It was like a tornado, and it went rolling across the country.'[3]

From the beginning of the 1970s, the popular and monetary drawing power of Led Zeppelin was such that the band began to undertake major stadium tours which attracted even larger audiences than they had previously. In the course of their 1973 tour of the United States, they performed to 56,800 devotees at Tampa Stadium, Florida, surpassing the previous record set at Shea Stadium in 1965. Comparative full houses were generated on Led Zeppelin's ensuing US tours, and they continued to exceed audience attendance records (on 30 April 1977 they performed to 76,229 ticket holders at the Pontiac Silverdome, Michigan, a world record attendance for a solo indoor attraction).[4] These exceptional statistics established Led Zeppelin, as much as any other band or artist in this decade, to be broadly acknowledged for initiating what has come be known as stadium rock. Observers attribute the band's swift ascent to popularity as much to their immense affinity as a live unit as they do to the quality of their studio material. Led Zeppelin also performed at numerous music festivals during their career, including the Atlanta International and the Texas International Pop Festivals in 1969, the Bath Festival in 1970, the 'Days on the Green' in Oakland, California in 1977, and the Knebworth Music Festival in 1979. Similarly, manager Peter Grant also selectively turned down many festival appearances including Woodstock, on the belief that the band's set would be too short and their identity diluted on large bills.[5]

Live environment

Led Zeppelin's pre-eminence as a daunting live act is often ascribed to the tight empathy and musical chemistry attained between all four group members, infused with a shared willingness to experiment on-stage, which resulted in dynamic, unpredictable performances.[6]

As explained by Led Zeppelin chroniclers Dave Lewis and Simon Pallett:

Led Zeppelin live was an extraordinary experience. From the very beginning no two performances were alike. Such was the creative spark between the four that the basic structures of their songs were repeatedly reworked, extended and improvised on, making their studio counterparts almost unrecognisable.[7]

Led Zeppelin have been described as the kind of group that actually rehearsed on stage, experimenting with the reaction of the audiences to new material and letting the pieces mature through the live experience.[8]

Many songs from their albums were debuted on stage well before their official release on vinyl. Page has stated himself that most of the band's songs were designed for live performance.[9]

Every show we did was different. You never knew when you went onstage what you might do by the end of it ... Once a song was recorded, and it went into the set, it began to mutate. The whole improvisational aspect, the riffs coming out of the ether ... it was a magical vehicle collectively soaring into the stratosphere. And as more albums came out, the set got longer and longer.[10]

In an interview conducted with Uncut magazine in 2005, Page recounted:

The beauty of playing in the band was that when we went onstage we never actually know what was going to go on within the framework of the songs. They were constantly changing. New parts would come out on the night. The spontaneity was on the level of ESP, which meant it was always exciting.[11]

Led Zeppelin concerts could exceed than four hours, with expanded, live versions and medleys of their song repertoire often incorporating elements of blues, Stax and Motown-influenced soul music and funk. The quartet also loved American rock and roll, being inspired by the exuberant styles of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Led Zeppelin would additionally perform rockabilly songs originally made famous by Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran. As noted by Cameron Crowe:

[Led] Zeppelin live was a direct descendant from Elvis' early shows. Raw, direct, a reminder of when rock was young.[12]

Documentation

Most of the band's shows have been preserved as unauthorised Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings, which continue to be prized by fans and collectors. In addition, footage of Led Zeppelin concerts has been released officially on the band's 1976 concert film The Song Remains the Same, and on the Led Zeppelin DVD (2003).

However, unlike other artists of the era, comparatively little official concert footage exists of Led Zeppelin. This is largely because of the successful efforts of manager Peter Grant to limit the exposure of the band to television appearances, because of the poor sound quality of the medium and in order to encourage fans who wanted to see the band to attend Led Zeppelin concerts.[13]

Concert tour chronology

Led Zeppelin tours
Tour Date span
First European 7 September 14 September 1968
UK dates 4 October 20 December 1968
First American 26 December 28 February 1968/69
UK dates 1 March 13 March 1969
Second European 14 March 17 March 1969
UK dates 19 March 17 April 1969
Second American 18 April 1 June 1969
First UK 13 June 29 June 1969
Third American 5 July 31 August 1969
Holland, Paris and London 3 October 12 October 1969
Fourth American 17 October 8 November 1969
Second UK 7 January 17 February 1970
Third European 23 February 12 March 1970
Fifth American 21 March 19 April 1970
Iceland and UK dates 21 June 29 June 1970
Germany dates 16 July 19 July 1970
Sixth American 5 August 19 September 1970
Third UK and Ireland 5 March 1 April 1971
European dates 3 May 8 August 1971
Seventh American 19 August 17 September 1971
First Japanese 23 September 29 September 1971
Fourth UK 11 November 21 December 1971
Australasian 16 February 29 February 1972
European dates 26 May 29 May 1972
Eighth American 6 June 28 June 1972
Second Japanese 2 October 10 October 1972
Montreux dates 28 October 29 October 1972
Fifth UK 30 November 30 January 1972/73
Fourth European 2 March 2 April 1973
Ninth American 4 May 29 July 1973
European dates 11 January 12 January 1975
Tenth American 18 January 27 March 1975
Earls Court dates 17 May 25 May 1975
Eleventh American 1 April 26 July 1977
Danish dates 23 July 24 July 1979
Knebworth Festival 4 August 11 August 1979
Fifth European 17 June 7 July 1980

Reunion appearances

Since Led Zeppelin's hiatus following the death of drummer John Bonham in September 1980, the three surviving members of the band have reunited on-stage on just a few occasions. On 13 July 1985, the three performed at the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, for a brief set featuring drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins. They reunited again in May 1988, for Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, with Bonham's son, Jason Bonham, on drums, and then on 12 January 1995, for Led Zeppelin's induction into the United States Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For this latter event, the members played a short set with Aerosmith's vocalist, Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry, along with Neil Young and Michael Bell.

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at The O2 in London on 10 December 2007, with Bonham again occupying the drum stool.[14] While Robert Plant made his position regarding a subsequent reunion tour known to the Daily Mail stating that he could be in favour of more one-off shows in the foreseeable future: 'It wouldn't be such a bad idea to play together from time to time'.[15]

Led Zeppelin appearances
Event Date
Live Aid 13 July 1985
Atlantic Records 40th 14 May 1988
Jason Bonham's wedding reception 28 April 1990
Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame 12 January 1995
Ahmet Ertegun tribute 10 December 2007

References

  1. Led Zeppelin Database: All Dates. ledzeppelin-database.com. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  2. Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin. London: Omnibus Press, 37. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2. 
  3. Fyfe, Andy (2003). When the Levee Breaks: The Making of Led Zeppelin IV‎. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 65. ISBN 1-556-52508-7. 
  4. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised Edition. London: Omnibus Press, 286. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  5. Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin. London: Omnibus Press, 232. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2. 
  6. Lewis, Dave (2003). Led Zeppelin: The 'Tight but Loose' Files: Celebration II. London: Omnibus Press, 42. ISBN 1-84449-056-4. 
  7. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 7. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  8. Rey, Luis (2007). Led Zeppelin Live: An Illustrated Exploration of Underground Tapes, Abridged. Toronto: Hot Wacks Press, 136. ISBN 0-9698-0807-0. 
  9. Tolinski, Brad; Greg DiBenedetto (May 1993). "Inside the studio with Jimmy Page". Guitar World 14 (5). ISSN 1063-4231.
  10. Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Song Remains the Same, reissued version, 2007.
  11. Williamson, Nigel. 'Forget the Myths', Uncut, May 2005, p. 70.
  12. Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Complete Studio Recordings, 1993
  13. Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin. London: Omnibus Press, 10. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2. 
  14. Led Zeppelin Dazzles at Joyous London Concert (December 2007). Retrieved on 1 February 2008.
  15. Reunited Led Zeppelin live up to expectations - now desperate fans call for world tour (December 2007). Retrieved on 8 June 2008.