Average: 4.5 (550 votes)

December 26, 1968

Denver, CO US

Auditorium Arena

Setlist:

These early U.S. dates include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, As Long As I Have You, Dazed and Confused, White Summer / Black Mountainside, How Many More Times.

Notes:

Led Zeppelin make their American debut on this date, as they begin a short string of shows, the first few unbilled, opening for Vanilla Fudge.

Press Review excerpt: The concert was cranked off by another heavy, the Led Zeppelin, a British group making its first U.S. tour.

Blues oriented (although not a blues band), hyped electric, the full routine in mainstream rock – done powerfully, gutsily, unifiedly, inventively and swingingly by the end of their set.

Singer Robert Plant – a cut above average in style, but no special appeal in sound. Guitarist Jimmy Page of Yardbirds fame – exceptionally fine. Used a violin bow on the guitar strings in a couple of tunes with resultant interesting, well integrated effects.

Bassist John Paul Jones – solid, involved, contributing. John Bonham – a very effective drummer, but uninventive, unsubtle and unclimactic, just an uneventful solo. [Denver Post | 12/29/68]


News Report: Denver music man Barry Fey nearly became famous for being the guy who refused to book Led Zeppelin.

It was Dec. 26, 1968, and Fey had sold out a Vanilla Fudge and Spirit concert in the Denver Auditorium Arena - what's now part of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.

"About 10 days before the show, I got a call from the agent saying, 'Barry, I want to add an act to our show,' " Fey said. "I said, 'Ron (Terry), all the tickets are sold.'

"He said, 'You've got to do this for me, Barry, this is a big, big act. Their name is Led Zeppelin.' I thought it was a joke."

Fey turned Terry down, until the agent showed Fey the money.

"Ten minutes later Ron called back and said 'Vanilla Fudge is going to give you $750, and if you give $750 of your own money, we still can put Led Zeppelin on the show.' " Fey caved in. The concert crowd had no idea that this new heavy-metal band from Britain was added to the show. That night marked the band's American debut.

"I got up on the stage and said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm Denver welcome to Led Zeppelin,' " Fey said. "They started playing, and it was incredible. It was an unbelievable show; people were gasping. That was a big day in Denver history." (Rocky Mountain News)


Promoter Barry Fey recalls the show in his 2011 autobiography, "Backstage Past":  "The night of the concert, I get on stage to make the announcement to open the show. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, direct from England for their North America debut, Led Zeppelin!”

There was a smattering of polite applause. Then, Robert Plant let it rip and everybody in the audience was stunned. Frankly, I don’t know how Spirit went on after that. You didn’t have to be a genius to know Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!

The next morning, I get a call from Max Floyd, the program director at the Denver FM rock station, KLZ.  “Who did you have on last night? Our phone lines are jammed!”

The band had given me a white copy of their album, one that hadn’t been released yet. I took the album to the radio station and they played it continuously, all day."

 

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Comments

Submit your personal review of a particular show you attended, updates, corrections, etc., which will be considered for addition to the official online archive.You may also contact the webmaster at: webmaster@ledzeppelin.com

LZ'zs first concert

It was difficult to find new music and new bands in the late 60's, there was really no outlet to discover it other than live performances. Music that was being played on the radio was popularized through the label/radio payola business plan for bands at that time and was already a proven money maker. Even so most of the music was pretty good because the promoters (think Ahmet Ertegun, Berry Gordy, Bill Graham, Sam Phillips) had pretty good taste. There were a few "underground" and short distance broadcast radio stations at the time that played a lot of obscure, new and different tunes from their basement hideouts and dad's garages (one step away from the FCC pigs). One in particular was in Boulder I remember - a college station I think. 

Anyway, the best way I found to hear new music was to pick out an album based on how cool the album cover was and have my kleptomaniac friend Pat Grasser steal it from the drug store at the Northglenn Mall. That's how I discovered Led Zeppelin. When I spied that crashing and burning blimp on a cover I knew it had to contain some awesome tunes - plus Jimmy Page had been in the Yardbirds so it must be great! I took it straight home and lit up a joint and put it on the turntable. I was blown away. I immediately had a new favorite band. I told all my friends about this fantastic new group, better rock blues than Blue Cheer, like Robert Johnson on acid! 

Then, incredibly, a few days later I heard at the last minute they were going to open up for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge. I had to go no matter what. The Fudge was OK and I'd seen Spirit banging fists on the drums before, but I had to see Led Zeppelin! So a few penniless and ticket-less friends and I hitchhiked to downtown Denver the night of the concert and right after they opened the venue we started banging on emergency exit doors until someone opened one and we busted in. We ran straight into the auditorium and quickly blended in.

I distinctly remember Fey introducing the band and Robert Plant stepping up to the mic and humbly saying "Hello Denver, this is our first concert in the United States and we're kind of nervous, we sure hope you like us..." and then busting into their first song. The rest is history.