March 10, 1971
includes: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I've Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, Going to California, That's the Way, What Is and What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (medley), Communication Breakdown.
Press review: Arguably the biggest musical event held to date at UKC, it was certainly the one that caused most fuss. The news of its occurrence broke in unique fashion with banner headlines in a national music paper announcing that Led Zeppelin, pursuing an idea of giving small concerts, were to appear here for a mere 60p, or 65% of the gate, whichever the larger.
Nine o’clock the day of the ticket sales saw a queue of people outside the Union office that stretched four wide, right round to the back of Eliot College. Some people had been there since 11 p.m. the previous evening. Led Zep had insisted on a completely open sale.
The most immediately striking thing to me about the group was the reasonable volume – excepting only the corners and balcony, it beat the designed sound-deadening properties of the hall without beating the audience – compare Led Zep’s 900 watt P.A. system plus 600 watts in the stacks with The Who: 1200 watt P.A. and 800 watt stacks in a hall half that size (tremble all ye ear-drums that remember that night :)
The audience was understandably and blatantly obvious, expecting virtual miracles although people who saw them at Bath Festival last year, myself included, were perhaps not so hopeful; the result was that when they started off with three well-known numbers: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker and Since I’ve Been Loving You, they got rather a luke-warm reception - despite some great guitar solo guitar from Jimmy Page in Heartbreaker and what I thought to be a sensitive rendition of Since I’ve Been Loving You, for me their best-ever number.
This obviously boggled them somewhat, and the vocalist, Robert Plant, attempted some humorous chit-chat with the audience at this point. Robert Plant gave up and they next did a new number which was quite promising, though somewhat derivative (Black Dog) and then went straight into Dazed and Confused. Starting off with some interesting, slow wah-wah from Jimmy Page and gentle gong from John Bonham, they were just starting to pull it out too far when Page starting playing around with a violin bow on his guitar and got some fascinating interplay with Robert Plant’s vocals.
A couple of new numbers follow, the first very quiet and pretty, mainly featuring Jimmy page on a 12-string/6-string double necked guitar and Robert Plant; the second, Going to California was mainly acoustic, with John Paul Jones leaving his steady dual role of organist/bass to play mandolin.
They were losing the audience more and more, aided by some inane remarks between tracks from Robert Plant and I had just remarked ‘this is absolutely dying the death’, when they crashed into one of the best numbers of the evening – What Is and What Should Never Be. This was very true to the LP version and seemed to be just what the audience wanted.
Unfortunately, this was immediately followed by Moby Dick, John Bonham’s drumming bonanza. A couple of yells from the audience got him going eventually and he was pattering around quite happily for a while using his hands direct, and by the time he finished he was getting favourable audience reaction. This wasn’t enough for Robert Plant however – after all, the drum solo is supposed to be one of the high points of any set and he was yelling at the audience “stand up, you lazy buggers”.
They at last got the expected reception when they really smashed into Whole Lotta Love. This was Led Zep at their dynamic best, with screaming Plant vocals and some really clever guitar work, including some almost trad. Rock and roll. This number went down tremendously well. It’s lucky the audience couldn’t see the second drummer smashing away at some bongos behind one of the stacks.
The enthusiasm this generated spilt over into their last number, a long thing which seemed to be something of a pot pourri, including snatches of various tracks. There was even a hint of an old Spencer Davis number. This ended up back into Whole Lotta Love and a good reaction from the audience.
They had now been playing for precisely two hours but came back fairly readily for an encore. First though, we had to submit to rather a self-pitying little speech from Robert Plant, excusing their slowness in getting things moving and saying how they’d done nothing but recording since October.
They then did quite a long version of Communication Breakdown with Jimmy Page excelling himself and the real searing Robert Plant vocals that everyone was longing for.
Robert Plant afterwards described the audience as “frigid”. I would suggest rather that they had high expectations which the group was impotent to satisfy.
A good concert, but one expects more than that from a group of such stature. [March 1971]