Average: 4.5 (548 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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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

First US show!

Okay, here's what I remember:

I'd been going to concerts since September 1967 when the Family Dog opened on West Evans. I saw Big Brother, Blue Cheer, Canned Heat, the Doors, and the Allmen Joy (later the Allman Brothers) there, and more. Although I was 14 years old I could get in because the Dog was a ballroom with no alcohol served. My parents would actually drop my friend Doug and I off in this teeming crowd of longhairs, all considerably older than us. I still find it hard to believe! After 11 pm curfew, though, we'd have to hide from the bouncers, usually up in the light show balcony (thank you, Diogenes Lantern folks!). We used to also see in-the-round shows at the Arena, so by the time Zeppelin came to town on December 26, 1968, I was an old hand.

I was really into both Vanilla Fudge and Spirit, but for some unremembered reason I didn't have tickets to their Arena show. But a few days beforehand the local FM station (can't recall which) began playing "Good Times, Bad Times." If you weren't young then it would be hard to explain how insanely great and NEW that song sounded at the time. I was floored by it. I'd been into the Yardbirds, and the first Jeff Beck Group album, so I knew my way around that brand of British blues. But Led Zeppelin 1 was beyond that. It was like a bomb going off, especially in laid-back hippie Denver.

Then just before Christmas it was announced that Led Zeppelin were going to join the bill at the Fudge/Spirit show. I'm not sure if it had already sold out, or if I just didn't have the money (although tickets to shows then were only $4.00-$5.00) but I couldn't buy a ticket. No problem, I went anyway, just to hang outside!

Zeppelin were already playing (you could hear Robert Plant wailing through the walls) when a limo pulled into the backstage lane where I was standing with some other kids. The doors popped open and out stepped Carmine and Tim of the Fudge. Wow. I was starstruck. I must have said something to Tim because the next thing I remember is walking past the door guards with him, carrying his bass guitar case. All love and respect to Tim Bogart, I'll never forget that gesture to a 15-year-old kid!

Once inside he took his case and headed his way and I headed into the balconies. From there I watched Zeppelin perform the last couple songs of their set. Page was bowing his guitar and the crowd was going ga-ga. I remember that Plant had a funny hairdo, kind of halfway between the foppy one on the back of the album and the stallion mane of later years. Not quite there! Bonzo's drums weren't gigantic yet and John Paul Jones seemed hardly on the stage. But even with the crap sound of amps at that time, the music was thunderous. It really was like "Chapter Two of rock music will now begin!"

I saw them every time they came to Denver after that. And Plant would always mention that Denver is where "we got our start." I hope that wasn't just a "Hello, Cleveland!" kind of comment, but that their first US show proved to them that they COULD storm America for the next few months. And then storm the world.

I'm still a big Zep fan (to this day, Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You makes me tear up in just the first few notes), so it's an honor to tell my tale on their official site. Thanks very much!