Average: 4.8 (32 votes)

January 17, 1969

Detroit, MI US

The Grande Ballroom


Songs performed during this period include: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, As Long As I Have You, Killing Floor, White Summer / Black Mountainside, Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown, Pat's Delight (drum solo).

Submit your personal review of a particular show you attended, updates, corrections, etc., which will be considered for addition to the official online archive.

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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

Detroit 1969 - Grande Ballroom

The 1275-person capacity ballroom was only half-filled on the first night of the three-night stand because no one had yet heard of the band with the rather Germanic-sounding sobriquet of Led Zeppelin. In fact, local

Motor City denizens were more familiar with the opening bands (Linn County, Target and the Wind) alternating during Zep’s two-night stand. Of course, by the second night the crowds had swelled beyond the Grecian pillars that encircled the jewel box of the ballroom. Word quickly spread about how audacious and sonically tremendous this new band was, an unexpected hybrid of bluesy, soulful hard rock and unexpected musical delicacies, exhibiting technical wizardry. The sound was massive, psychedelic and vaguely frightening, taking up more psychic space than the new band had a right to.

All four were garbed in impossibly tight jeans and leather jackets, looking very little like the foppish dandies that they would later become. Bonham, with his neat trimmed mustache and grown-out Roger McGuinn bob looked more like a member of Moby Grape than the heavy-metal titan he would later become — the bad-boy Bonzo myth having not even gathered steam during these formative days. John Paul Jones was the picture of decorum, his shirt tucked in, and not a hair out of place, as he straddled a bass that seemed a little too large for him. Plant would perform onstage at the Fillmore East barefoot two weeks later, in the dead of winter; but on this night in mid-January, his corona of blonde frizzy hair seemed to have a life of his own, as he tossed his head back to reach those impossibly high notes of “You Shook Me.”

Only 15 years old, and not yet a journalist, I worked behind the bar at the Ballroom, dispensing soft drinks to the revelers. Though the more important part of my job was to make sure that no one dropped any nefarious psychedelics into the plastic soda cups that were assembled on the bar for easy consumption. A rabid Yardbirds fan during the Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page eras, I was willing to forego my sentry post at the bar, in order to watch Led Zeppelin’s set. Watch is only an operative term. Since I was a treasured employee, I had privileges that mere mortals didn’t share. I could actually get on stage and stand mere feet from my very idols. And make no mistake, Jimmy Page’s presence was larger than life to me.

At the time, all I was concerned with was making sure that I didn’t ruin my brocade satin trousers by slinking between the dusty unused amps and speaker boxes, while not angering my boss by taking a break for the entire set, and getting as close to Page as I possibly could. By some perversion of physics, I managed to squeeze in behind the guitarist’s Marshall stacks, moving centimeter-by-centimeter, until I was almost on the same latitude as John Bonham’s drum kit. So moved and transfixed by “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You” and “How Many More Times,” I rather forgot where I was, and found myself fully leaning my elbows on Page’s amps in order to take it all in. Even stranger, no one came to dislodge me from my perch. Later, pictures of the event show Page pulling notes off his guitar with a concentration that was otherworldly.

Led Zeppelin played a mere nine songs that night — hardly enough for me — or anyone else for that matter, because four months later the band would return to the Grande Ballroom for one final time.