Average: 4.8 (29 votes)

August 18, 1969

Toronto, ON CA

The Rock Pile

Setlist:

First show: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, You Shook Me, How Many More Times (incl. "Lemon Song").

Second Show: Train Kept a Rollin', I Can't Quit You Baby, Dazed and Confused, White Summer / Black Mountainside, You Shook Me, How Many More Times (incl. Bottle Up 'n Go, "Lemon Song", drum solo), Communication Breakdown.

Notes:

Two Shows: 8pm & 11:30pm. After the gig, members of the group reportedly attended a show by Canadian band Milkwood, with John Bonham jamming on a couple of songs (at the Penny Farthing, 112 Yorkville Ave.)

Review: Led Zeppelin Soars to the Pop Stratosphere

With the exception of the Toronto Pop Festival, last night’s Led Zeppelin concert at the Rock Pile was the most significant pop event this year. Not only were the two shows completely sold out in advance, but at least 2,000 were turned away, the management reported.

They missed out on one of the finest shows ever to pour sweat onto the Rock Pile stage. Led Zeppelin proved itself not only to be one conceivable replacement for Cream, but at times I doubt if even Clapton, Bruce and baker could have topped what Zeppelin offered.

At its tightest, Cream was the most exciting band of musicians in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, yet the Zeppelin came close to equaling it.

Six months ago, this four-piece band was unknown, save for lead guitarist Jimmy Page, who had gained an impressive reputation with the Yardbirds.

Two concert tours later, the band has become the most popular English group on the scene, with the exception of Beatles and possibly Rolling Stones.

But it’s not surprising. When the Zeppelin plays blues, it plays them as few white men ever have. Judging by last night’s concert, I’d even go as far as to say that very few colored bands could touch it. Certainly there are better individual musicians then the members of Led Zeppelin but, together it’s difficult to imagine a more cohesive and colorful team.

Led Zeppelin was not a band for the chicken-hearted or the people who want subtlety and soft messages in their music. It lays it all out, hard and heavy, and it was the sort of thing that only a dyed-in-the-groove rock ‘n’ roller can take.

I don’t want to sound overawed, but I do believe it is the strongest, tightest band to emerge from the current vogue of white blues groups.

The most amazing thing was the improvement in the group since its first appearance here last February, when it was a fledgling blues band. It had the ideas and the dynamics, but the expertise was yet to develop.

Now it has, and as the band says in one of its best known songs, Led Zeppelin leave one feeling dazed and confused. (R. Yorke, G&M ‘Pop Scene’, Aug. '69)

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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

August '69

It was a very "hot August night" in the summer of 1969 and it we were not headed to a Neil Diamond concert. A sensational power rock band, Led Zeppelin, the latest version of "heavy bands" which started with Cream back in 66,were in Toronto to do two sold out shows.

My friends Donnie Ditchburn, David Strawbridge who worked for John Gibb, a local Toronto clothier (his store was later to become Longjohns, retailers of "rock n'roll clothing", and I had tickets to the 7:00 p.m. show. Gibb was an old school chum of Jimmy Page and he had had them over for dinner that evening. Pagey as he was called by his mates, was the former front man and lead guitarist for the now defunct Yardbirds, and since he had formed his new band Led Zeppelin, they had sailed to the top of the album charts and underground radio stations with their first record entitled Led Zepplin 1.

A previous gig at the same venue earlier in the year (February) had
brought quite a lot of good press, especially from Ritchie Yorke, the
Toronto Telegram's resident writer for rock concert reviews back then.
Since the release of the first album, Led Zeppelin's popularity had
created a large cult following thanks to the incredible guitar playing of
Jimmy Page and the wailing, siren like voice of the lead singer, Robert
Plant.

The groups'giant leap in record sales and popularity was for the
promoters, both a blessing and a curse. Led Zeppelin's fee had jumped from $2,000 in February to $8,000 for the two shows on this night, and Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin's notorious manager was not prepared to honour the agreement that was made with the promoters back in February. More about this later.

The venue for the concert was called the Rockpile, which in fact was
the old Masonic Temple located at Davenport and Yonge St. In the past year (68-69), The Rockpile had been converted to Toronto's version of The Fillmore East, and this was very much to the disgruntlement of the old Masons who still had some sway and influence in the running of the hall. What bothered them the most was all the Marijuana smoke enjoyed by the stoned out hippies who attended these shows. To the Masons, this temple was a sacred venue and they wanted to keep it that way, but in the end, concerts meant the hall was rented out regularly so money talked as they say.

The doors opened at 6:30 and the huge lineup piled in quickly so as to get the best possible viewpoint in the place as there were no seats, you
either got to sit cross legged on the main floor, or stand in the Balcony.

By the time my mates and I got inside, we headed straight up to the
balcony which by then, was jammed packed shoulder to shoulder and hot, hot, hot. David was a bit of a dandy and would not have considered for a minute sitting down in his finest Toronto version of Carnaby Street, garb. We would regret that decision a bit later.

By the time the opening act came on, Edward Bear, the inside of the
building must have gone well into the 90 degree Fahrenheit range with very high humidity and high smoke density. You surely didn't need to bring your own stuff that night because the air was filled with the sweet smell of pungent smoke. Edward Bear was a local pop trio and radio favourite who had had a hit, You Me and Mexico". I found them to be very commercial and in fact could not stand their veiled attempts to look the part with their long hair and bell bottomed jeans, while at the same time they really played forgettable commercial pop. We were here to see our heroes play with the Marshall amps stacked to the ceiling, wailing away to the songs from Led Zeppelin 1.

Once Edward Bear had finished their set, they were given a polite but
energetic hometown Toronto response and off they went.

Perhaps we only had a 20 minute wait for the main act, our heroes!!

I couldn't stand the excitement and anticipation, this was going to be my
first live experience to hear and see the most listened to band in my
repetoire of favourite albums, and it was all about to unfold in front of
my eyes, live and in the flesh.

And we waited, and we sweated some more, and we waited.

It suddenly dawned on us that there was a problem. Led Zeppelin was
backstage but Peter Grant would not let them go on. Seems the promoters insisted that he honour the contractual option they had exercised from the previous gig in February, and Peter Grant said no way. His attitude was that the promoters had two sold out houses and in the 6 months since they had been to Toronto, the band had climbed to the top of the charts. They wanted their full fee. Otherwise they were going back to the hotel an onto the next city.

A tug of war was going on while the 2000 or so of us sweated it out and
waited some more.

The promoters finally gave in and after about 1 1/2 hours of waiting,
which made it about 9:00 pm, we heard the roadies nailing down a drum kit behind the curtain followed by a drummer slashing away at his drums getting ready to play. Then we heard a guitar, and then a bass guitar. Ooh, I couldn't take the excitement at that stage, we were moments away!

Suddenly, there was the locomotive opening guitar intro to the song A
Train kept a Rollin, an old Yardbirds standby. A thundering drum sound
followed, and then the curtains exploded open. There they were. The place was bedlam. The band looked very little like the group photo on the back of the first album. Plant had hair down to the middle of his back in blond curls, and was dressed in bell bottom blue jeans and a bright red tee shirt. Page had hair down to his waist, dressed in pink pants and had a Les Paul Sunburst guitar draped over his body, and Jones and Bonham also had very, very long hair and wore the fashions of the day even in this ridiculous hot house.

All I could think at that moment was how cool they looked. It was like a
wave of gigantic sound had hit you and we were on a journey to places I
had never been to before in a concert.

Marshall amps were piled to the ceiling. It was loud and that was fine by
me, how else was one to listen to Led Zeppelin except at ear splitting
volume.

Plant sang stronger and harder than anything I'd ever heard before on
record. He raced around the stage shaking his shoulders, whipping his head around to shake all that hair, and periodically throwing back beer from the Heinekins he had stashed on Jonesy's amp at the back of the stage while the maestro Jimmy Page leaned over his guitar, brought his knees together in a weird sort of knock kneed pose, while rarely looking up from behind all of that jet black cascading mop.

The music spoke to us, we were a part of history as far as I was concerned because this group had more energy and spontaneity than any group I had ever seen. It was raw energy, uninhibited,creative, and free from any contrivances.

The segued to I Can't quit you Babe, You Shook Me, and then Dazed and Confused where somewhere in the middle of the song, the violin bow came out. It was a typical 18-20 minute version of the song from the early days of the band.

What really blew my mind was the vocal and guitar interplay between Page and Plant. Page would play some notes, Plant would sing them, Plant would sing some notes, Page would play them. This was not typical stuff that bands would do in concerts. This was taking improvisation out of the box and never to return, Amazing. Then, after Plant inroduced the band to us as Jimmy played the intro notes to another Yardbirds standby, Smokestack Lightning, they jumped into the finale, How Many More Times complete with the Lemon Song bit into the middle. This number number completely brought the house down with the tradition blues rendition of Squeeze My Lemon until the juice runs down my leg. Then as fast as they had arrived, Robert said to us" We have another house to play to tonight, sorry we took so long and see you soon". Then they were off, no encore .

When I left the venue and finally got onto the street and out of the hot house of the Rockpile, I really thought that this group, Led Zeppelin would be bigger than Beatles. I was close,and 34 years later I'm still a big fan.