Average: 5 (40 votes)

May 31, 1973

Inglewood, CA US

The Forum

Setlist:

Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, (Bring It On Home intro) Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I've Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song, Dazed and Confused (incl. San Francisco), Stairway to Heaven, Moby Dick, Happy Birthday Bonzo, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Let That Boy Boogie), The Ocean, Communication Breakdown.

Notes:

News report: LED ZEPPELIN TEARS UP LOS ANGELES

It didn't get much attention, because the group paid for everything, but Led Zeppelin was in rare destructive form when they were here recently for some concerts.

Things got off to a bad start when lead guitarist Jimmy Page sprained a finger when he lurched against a fence at San Diego Airport. That apparently threw the boys into a grand funk.

Not too long after the group got settled in a ninth floor suite at the Continental Hyatt House, a table came sailing out their window. Explanation for the mis-Led table was, the boys were irritated at being told not to toss liquor glasses into an open Lincoln convertible parked on the street below.

Then it was off to a theater to attend a party for Jo Jo Gunne. There members of the group were accused of smashing up the rest rooms and defacing paintings in the lobby.

Back to their hotel they went to spread a four-foot cake around the swimming pool. It happened to be Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's 25th birthday. When George Harrison and wife Patti dropped by to help celebrate. Bonham threw both of them, fully clothed, into the swimming pool. (Newswire, June 1973)
 

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Bonzo's Birthday Party @ LA Forum 5-31-73

The time is May 1973; the place Costa Mesa, California; a beach city nestled between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach in Orange County.

My parents were divorced, and I was a little surf- and skateboard-rat, whose weekends were usually spent with my next-door neighbor pedalling our Schwinn's down the Santa Ana River trail to either Huntington or Newport, depending on the wave action. And if the Wedge was pumping, LOOK OUT! Many's the time I tweaked my shoulder being planted in the sand by a Wedge-monster.

With my parents being divorced, and my dad not being the best at remembering his visitation days, my stepmom signed me up for the Big Brother program in 1972. He was a cool, hippie-type dude, who loved rock n roll. And it was he who took me to my first concerts from 1972 to 1974.

By 1973, besides the 1972 Led Zeppelin shows, I had seen the Rolling Stones & Stevie Wonder, Black Sabbath & Yes, Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, ELP, Three Dog Night, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, Wattstax, Roberta Flack, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Elvis Presley, and more. So, while I was still a little green and naive about certain things, I was acquiring a bit of concert sophistication, learning to distinguish between good concerts and bad. That could mean the difference between effective and hackneyed staging, an engaged performance or one by rote, or "good" loud sound vs. "poor" loud sound.

So, as you can see, my parents divorce aside, I was quite the happy little grommet in May 1973. 5th grade was winding down, and I would start Junior High that fall. Having discovered girls liked me once I got past my awkward shyness, I had my first real girlfriend. She had amazing breasts for her age(11), and with her willingness to explore, coupled with our readings of Nancy Friday's "My Secret Garden" that she nicked from her older sister, 1973 proved to be quite a year of discovery for me.

But what did 1973 hold for Led Zeppelin? After a year of being overshadowed by the non-stop media blitz of the Rolling Stones 1972 American tour(the infamous STP tour), someone in the Zeppelin camp obviously decided enough was enough, and decided to pay attention to things like public relations and the media. Danny Goldberg and BP Fallon were brought into the fold and things began to pick up steam.

Now you have remember as 1973 began, glam-rock, or glitter-rock was still around, but just barely. The bloom was already off the rose for T. Rex, but Bowie, Sweet and Rodney's English Disco were going strong. There was a lot of interest in reggae, thanks to Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come and Bob Marley. Elton John was huge, as were the Stones, who in early 73 were touring Australia after playing one of their best gigs in January at the Forum for the Nicaraguan Earthquake Benefit.

Pink Floyd wasn't huge yet, but was about to be with the March release of Dark Side of the Moon. And while most of Zep's cohorts in the hard rock field...Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad...were either toast or showing signs of slippage, 1973 would bring a new crop of hard rockers to the fold: Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top. Others like Judas Priest, AC/DC, Rush, and Kiss were just around the corner.

That is the world that Houses of the Holy arrived in when it finally, at long last, was released in late March of 1973...17 long months after the release of LZ IV. This was the longest gap between releases in their history so far, and while the band stayed busy touring all through 1972-73, the fact that LZ IV never topped the chart in the US created some questions among some in the music press about whether Led Zeppelin's time had passed and were ripe to be overtaken by the new wave of bands.

Another historical aside: while LZ IV was their first album not to reach #1 in the US since LZ I, it still sold well and was no doubt popular. But at this point in the LZ timeline, it was LZ II, the Brown Bomber, that was universally acclaimed as LZ's most successful album, having knocked Abbey Road off the top and remaining on the charts for years.

Another note: there remains no greater proof that Soundscan should've been implemented decades before it finally was in 1991, than in LZ IV's failure to reach #1 in the US Billboard chart. Obviously at this point any evidence would be anecdotal, but having talked with people whose job it was to report the numbers to Billboard every week, I remain convinced that a concerted effort was made by industry people to keep Carole King #1 and block LZ IV from reaching the top. If you look at all the albums that are in LZ IV's class, saleswise...Thriller, Back in Black, Eagles Best of..., Dark Side of the Moon, etc...LZ IV is the only one that didn't hit #1. Something does not compute.

Anyway, back to Houses of the Holy. After such a long wait(thanks to the cover art delays), the album was like manna from heaven. First of all, those of us who saw the band in 1972, had already heard several of the new songs, all of which had killer riffs: Dancing Days, The Ocean and Over the Hills and Far Away. We didn't know the names of the songs when we heard them, but we knew they were hard and crunchy. What would the rest of the album sound like was on every Zeppelin fan's lips.

The first couple of things you noticed right off the bat buying the album: 1) This was the first LZ record with an actual title-Houses of the Holy; 2) This was the first, and only, LZ record where all the song lyrics were printed on the sleeve...Robert must have been particular pleased with his efforts; 3) This record is the debut of the familiar Led Zeppelin font we've come to know and love...how many of us kids practiced writing it on our PeeChee folders or carved it into our school desks?; and 4) HoTH has one of the greatest covers and gatefold sleeves in history!

More changes I noticed...a brighter, shimmier sound than usual...Robert's voice sounded sped up at times, like he was on helium. But the thing that I loved most about HotH was the ever-increasing sophistication of the arrangements and the eclecticism of the songs. Continuing their move beyond the standard blues-rock motifs, songs like No Quarter, TSRTS and the exquisite Rain Song are the resultant rewards for Stairway to Heaven's success. So whether you like Stairway or not, its acceptance gave the band confidence to further challenge their listeners with more eclectic and complex songs.

Side one of HotH was just about perfect...TSRTS flowed so perfectly into Rain Song, you secretly hoped that the band would couple them in concert. I even loved their James Brown-pastiche, The Crunge, LZ's innate funkiness being one of the stellar qualities that separated them from the hairy hoardes. The only quibble I had with side one was I thought Jimmy could've done something more interesting with the solo in OTHAFA.

A month with the album and I was already making
mental notes of what songs I wanted to hear in concert: basically everything except D'yer M'ker.

The album reached #1, and as the US tour started, right away you could sense the hysteria brewing. A huge crowd in Atlanta Braves Stadium, then the WHOPPER...breaking the Beatles record for largest audience for a single act in concert history. They had already knocked off the Beatles before when LZ dethroned them in the Melody Maker Poll after years of dominance. Now another Beatles record had fallen...and not to the Rolling Stones, not to the Who, not to the Kinks...but to Led Zeppelin. Which is partly the reason those other bands show such jealousy towards Zeppelin, I think.

It was already becoming harder for the media, especially music media, to ignore Led Zeppelin. After another #1 record AND the 56,000 plus at Tampa, it was impossible. Not that good old Rolling Stone didn't try, Danny Goldberg's and BP Fallon's efforts notwithstanding. It would be still another 2 years before Zeppelin made the cover of Rolling Stone. But Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, and other mags had plenty of room for Zep...on the cover and inside their mags. It was a flash flood of coverage. I even remember a Sunday Calendar story in the LA Times the week before the LA Forum shows that was written by a young Cameron Crowe.

Things were happening...buzz was building...all of a sudden, people wanted to check out this band who had broken the Beatles record. There's no way of telling, but I'm sure the 1973 tour had a high percentage of first-time fans, people new to the band and had never seen LZ in concert. My "Big Brother" had already taken care of things and gotten the tickets for both the LA Forum shows of May 30 and May 31. As the days approached, my stomach was doing loop-de-loops from excitement, nervousness, anticipation, dread. This was still in the crazy days of rock, when death and mishap and sudden band breakups were a regular occurance. Just let the band get to LA in one piece...and in peace, my 11-year old agnostic mind pleaded.

There was one hitch in my happiness...because the shows were on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and school still in session, my girlfriend was not allowed by her parents to come to the show with me. To say she was pissed is an understatement of gargantuan proprtions.

Ahhhh, but then came the fateful announcement on KMET, the best local FM rock station...94.7 FM on your radio dial. I can't be sure if I first heard the news on the 29th or 30th of May, but the impact was the same: Jimmy had had a mishap and the first LA Forum show was now moved to June 3. The May 31 show remained on, but some of us questioned if that wouldn't be rescheduled as well. If his hand was messed up enough to postpone the 30th, would he really be okay to play the 31st?

My paranoia increased ten-fold, not helped by all the rumours floating around school, none of which are worth repeating. One report that did make the papers, although I can't remember if it was published the week of the Forum shows or came out long after the fact...it might've been in one of Lisa Robinson's reports. Maybe SteveAJones can find it in his archives. But the gist of the article was that Jimmy was walking on the beach in LA shortly after he fucked up his finger in San Diego, and some drunken idiot was calling him out, saying he sucked. When Jimmy went to confront the guy, Peter Grant screamed "No Jimmy! Your hand!"

Now the one benefit to this injury postponement, was that now my GF could go to the rescheduled show on Sunday. YESSSS!

May 31 dawned, sunny as usual and I still was thinking it was 50/50 the show would go on. I couldn't concentrate all day at school...I was an emotional mess, half expecting at any moment to hear the news that the gig was cancelled. I could tell the few other kids in my school who were going were also on pins and needles. The day DRAGGED ON AND ON...much like this post. We had arranged that my Big Brother would pick me up from school and we would make the long, slow drive up the 405 freeway to LA, where we would get some dinner at Bob's Big Boy before heading to the Forum at the intersection of Manchester and Prairie. When at last the 3pm bell rang, I was a blur to the parking lot, where I immediately and joyfully spotted my Big Brother's blue Chevy Malibu. He assured me upon tumbling into the car, that all reports confirmed that the Zeppelin show was still on. Cool! A deep long breath of relief escaped my lips...for the first time in days, I allowed myself to relax. In the back of my mind, I still wondered how well Jimmy would be able to play with a bum fretting finger...but hell, to my young mind they were all superhuman anyway...Jimmy will just play through the pain like the god he is!

Then, my companion sprung the news that I should have realized before, and probably would've if I wasn't so distracted by Jimmy's injury: Today was John Bonham's birthday! I knew he was born in 1948, and after a quick calculation in my head, announced to my BB proudly, "Bonzo's 25!" Hokey Smokes, I'm going to see a Led Zeppelin concert on the day that one of the members is celebrating his birthday?!? Celebration Day INDEED! Tonight's show was going to be EPIC!!!

I can't remember the rest of the ride, whether we got stuck in traffic or not, because my mind was busy doing mental gymnastics hypothesizing the forthcoming concert. I just remember jamming to Led Zeppelin cassettes all the way...LZ III, Houses of the Holy, he even had a cassette copy of Live on Blueberry Hill bootleg!

I scarfed down my Bob's Big Boy double burger and root beer float, and the sun was shining on the right side of my face as we headed south on La Brea to Manchester. Make a left on Manchester, and it's only a few dipping-and-curving blocks past the scalpers lining Manchester until you come to Prairie...and THERE IT IS! The LA FORUM...or as it is more correctly called, the Forum of Inglewood. The Fabulous Forum of Laker and rock concert lore. It was nearly a year ago, June 1972, that we entered the Forum on the euphoric high of the LA Lakers finally winning their first NBA championship. Now in 1973, the Lakers defeat to the New York Knicks a few weeks earlier was still fresh in my mind...but not enough to worry about. Not with an evening with Led Zeppelin on tap.

Past the familiar corner Forum marquee announcing LED ZEPPELIN Tonite 8:00 pm SOLD
OUT, into the line of cars snaking their way into the parking lot, freaks and rockers of all kinds and colours, beautiful girls everywhere...and looming above it all, the familar Forum, coated in Forum blue with the white pillars circling around. Having not arrived early enough to check out the parking-lot scene at the 72 show, this time I was thrilled we got to roam around a bit. Incense, pot, grilled food, booze, the air was teeming with smells. Here and there you'd find someone surreptitiously selling bootleg shirts and posters. And the fans...I've always thought it a shame that photographers neglected shooting the fans when assigned to Led Zeppelin shows. You certainly don't have the wealth of crowd shots that you do with Stones and Beatles shows. Zeppelin concert crowds were just as colourful, especially in 1973, the peak of the freaky glitter scene. Right before everyone just wore concert t's and jeans to concerts. It's especially egregious that the film crew didn't get a lot of fan footage for The Song Remains the Same movie.

After checking out the scene...my BB was a responsible adult, so there was no partaking of drugs or drink...we headed for the queue into the Forum as the clock headed towards the 8 o'clock hour.

Okay, all those people who left paragraphs ago, bored beyond tears, you can come back now...the SHOW'S about to start!

Once inside the Forum, we got our cokes, checked out the limited merch on offer...I ended up getting a 1973 tour shirt, probably around $3...definitely no more than $5. Unfortunately I wasn't forward-thinking enough to get an adult sized shirt for when I got older. I just got one I could wear to school the next day, and barely lasted the summer before it became misshapen in the wash and I outgrew it.

Made our way to our seats in Loge 11, row 4 or 5, just off to the left of the stage. The house lights were still on and the PA was pumping out the tunes of the day. As people in all manner of dress, including some remarkable homemade costumes, filed into the Forum, I gazed at the Lakers championship banner from 1972 hanging on the wall high above the stage.

The ticket stated showtime was 8pm, but I'd been to enough concerts to know that they rarely started on time, especially when there was no opening act, like at a Zeppelin show. I lost track of time people-watching...didn't even have a watch then...but my guess is that it was sometime between 8:30 and 9 when the house lights went down and the arena erupted in a cacaphony of screams and firecrackers and the flashes of cameras and bic lighters heralded the band on stage.

Next thing I knew, the opening cymbal crashes signaled the beginning of Rock and Roll and as the band crashed into the song, the stage exploded in a blaze of lights and a huge wall of sound blasted forth from Showco's PA.

Before I go into the show in detail, I want to offer some general impressions of Led Zeppelin, circa 1973.

First, the visual: 1973 is the beginning of what I like to call the "classic" period of Led Zeppelin's concert look-1973-1977. Jimmy started wearing his black and white slip-on loafers and his clothes became more ornate. Robert began wearing his flowery blouse-type tops, baring his chest nightly, whereas from 1968-1972 he rarely bared his chest. Since I loved John Paul Jones's long hair look in 1972, I was sad to see he'd cut it in some awkward looking Prince Valiant hairdo. Even worse, he had a mustache, which didn't suit him at all. Bonzo looked cool, though...and his drum set looked even cooler. It was the Ludwig Vistalites, with his Rune symbol(or Ballantine's beer logo) on the face of his big bass drum. Still no drum riser, even though many bands by now had gone the drum riser route in concert. Jimmy had his amps arrayed in the usual L-shape, with the Orange amps at the end, and a Theremin off to the side. A big Zoso was mounted on the front of the corner amp. Tonight, Jimmy was wearing jeans and the black poppy jacket...basically, the same outfit he wore in 1972, except he changed the white sneakers for his black and white dress shoes.

Maybe he felt he could dance easier in the dress shoes, for 1973 Jimmy was a mover on stage. Jimmy was always charismatic on stage, but when he jerked and shimmied, lunged and crunged like he did in 1973, no guitarist could touch him when it came to on-stage charisma. You simply COULD NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF HIM!

Unless it was to ogle Robert Plant, with his amazing head of flowing, golden locks, and his unique way of moving on stage and his signature hand gestures. By this time, Jimmy and Robert had gotten their singular "dark, mercurial guitar wizard and golden god" personas down to a T. They were so in sync, that frequently their stage movements played off each other...meaning that viewed individually, each looked cool as fuck, but it was when you watched the stage in toto, and saw how their movements sparked off what the other was doing, that the full sexual chemistry of their visual appeal was made manifest.

And I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool heterosexual. Led Zeppelin was the only male rock band of the time that aroused me sexually...not just from the music, but their look. Be honest, Robert and Jimmy were pretty.

All the other bands, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Uriah Heep, et al, had guys that looked like your mechanic. Everybody knew a guy in wood shop class that looked like one of the hairy troglodytes populating rock bands of the early-70's. Even the Stones were looking long-in-the-tooth and less and less glamourous.

Zeppelin on the other hand was one sexy band. Especially Robert and Jimmy...they didn't look human. They were too beautiful to be mere mortal men. They had to be descended from gods of myth, or an alien race. NOBODY in your shop class looked like Robert or Jimmy. They existed on a rarefied plane of beauty unreachable by most men.

And boy, did the little girls understand! That's why Led Zeppelin concerts attracted more girls than all the other British hard rock bands combined.

Next, the audio: Showco was in charge of the sound and lighting for the 1973 tour, and it was here that you could see that Zeppelin decided to step up their game as far as presentation goes.

Up til now, Zeppelin concerts were always about the performance of the music first, with the staging and any special effects an afterthought...if it was a thought at all.

But with the Stones, Elton John, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, and David Bowie bringing ever-increasing theatricality and sophisticated staging to the rock concert, I'm sure Zeppelin felt the time was right to bring the technical side of their show up to snuff. Out went the hodge-podge of speakers that made up their PA stacks in 1972, and in came the Showco boys from Texas, with their sound and lighting expertise.

The difference was immediately apparent. The Forum could be a tough place to get good concert sound, especially compared to the other arenas used for concerts, the LA Sports Arena and the Long Beach Arena. But if a crew knew what they were doing, a band could still sound loud and good at the Forum.

Zeppelin in 1973 sounded loud and awesome from where we were sitting. And Jimmy's guitar was astounding in 1973...the panoply of tonal colour and texture emanating from his amps had to be heard to be believed. I thought his guitar sounded amazing in 1972. On the 1973 tour, it was staggering the variety of sounds he coaxed out of his guitars. And the warmth...whatever settings he used on his amps and whatever effects, they should've marked them down in stone, to be used again from 1975-1980.

Jimmy wasn't the only one who benefited from Showco...Robert's vocals were more consistent(I'm talking about how they sounded coming out of the PA, not whether he could reach the high notes of the past...we all know he couldn't), and he was getting expert at using the echoplex to great effect on his vocals.

The rhythm section of Jones and Bonham sounded equally incredible, the fat round tones of Jonesy's Fender bass rattling your bones, while Bonzo's drums as usual sounded like cannon fire. But at these 1973 shows at the Forum, he had one of the most amazing snare sounds I've ever heard in concert.

Throw in the dramatic lighting cues timed with the music, the smoke machine and dry-ice, the mirror ball and the gong of fire, it's tempting to say that the band was getting too showbiz at the expense of the music. But I never felt that was the case in 1973...it was the music you first noticed at a Zeppelin concert. The lighting and effects simply enhanced the drama and your enjoyment of the concert; provide a little eye-candy.

They were still far from being beholden to their stage effects the way Pink Floyd were. And it would've been silly for them to pretend it was still 1969...it was 1973, people EXPECTED some flash at a rock concert.

One note, I did not notice any mirrors behind the band, as seen at the MSG shows. Was this bit of staging only used on the second leg of the tour? Maybe it was a building code violation at the Forum?

Another note: stage monitors. By 73, most bands used them and you were used to seeing those wedge-shaped speakers lined up facing the band on the lip of the stage. But not Zeppelin...and not just in 73, but I never saw stage monitors in 75 and 77, either. What gives...why no monitors? How could they hear each other? Any old crew hands out there that could give us the lowdown?

Okay, on with the show...

1. Rock and Roll/Celebration Day...Frankly, the first two songs of any Zeppelin concert are a blur. I suppose if I had been older, more jaded, I might have noticed the tempo of Rock and Roll was sluggish and Robert was singing it in a lower tegister. But at age 11, my primary reaction to the concert starting was more along the lines of "OH SHIT! THERE THEY ARE! THEY'RE REALLY HERE...THAT'S "ROCK AND ROLL"! LOOKIT JIMMY! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING! SHIT, IT'S LOUD AS HELL! HI ROBERT! OOOH MY CHEST! OOOH MY EARS! WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

Before I know it, Celebration Day has started, and now I'm really jumping up-and-down. CD is one of my faves, and I also was trying to keep a mental track of how many different songs they played compared to the 72 setlist. Here we were on the second song of the night and we already had a different song...and a good one at that. CD smokes in concert...it's such a great riff. And it's over much too quickly. Just when I think CD is ending and I'm getting ready to clap, the riff from Bring it on Home starts...no wait, it's

3. Black Dog...the band means business on this tour. Everything has been streamlined for maximum frontal assault. Shorter breaks between songs, less tuning on stage, just bam-bam-bam! After misadventures with the lyrics in 1971-72, Robert seems to have finally gotten a handle on the lyrics in 1973. The crowd goes bonkers at the ah-ah ah-ah call-and-response part, and Jimmy's solo brings the song to a crashing end.

Finally, there's a break in the music and we get to cheer and welcome the band, as well as get our first Plantation of the night. Good evenings are said, and I believe the first reference to Bonzo's birthday is made by Plant...the first of many through the night.

4. Over the Hills and Far Away...I am finally able to calm myself down from my euphoria to take note of what is going on and pay attention to what is happening on stage and around me. I see that in my hysteric state during the opening numbers, my cup of coke has become totally mangled, most of the contents ending up spilled on the floor. As the plaintive opening chords to OTHAFA chime out, and the level of crowd noise finally dips during this serene moment, I start noticing that unique, pungent smell of the sweet leaf...Marijuana is in the house. The venue begins to fill with hazy drifts of smoke. You didn't have to smoke a joint yourself...stick around long enough and you'd get a contact-high. Robert begins singing the opening "Hey lady" lines, and he is really playing to the crowd, particularly the fairer sex. Random squeals of female desire erupt throughout the Forum, but whenever Robert locks eyes with a lass near the stage, the brief exchange of sexual heat, energy and desire is electric. It's a friggin pastoral love fest...until the rest of the boys KICK OFF THAT RIFF and the song becomes a locomotive! I do notice that Plant is singing the song lower, not only than the record, but lower than he sang it at the Forum last year. But it doesn't ruin the song for me; besides Jimmy more than makes up for it with his solo, which is way better than the one on record. While not yet at the spacey heights of the 75 and 77 OTHAFA, it sounds good nonetheless, and you can see why it almost instantly became a crowd favourite, never leaving the setlist until the 1980 tour. OTHAFA is also one of those songs that leave you shaking your head in wonder at how Jimmy is able to coax such a wide variety of sounds from his Les Paul(cherry red in this case), with such minimal effects. By 1973, lots of guitarists were beginning to amass an array of stomp boxes, foot switches, wahwah pedals, and other gizmos, so that there was a huge line of effects gadgets in front of their feet. I looked hard, very hard at what Jimmy was using, and I could only see 2 visible pieces of gear he was using: 1) a wahwah pedal; and 2) a button or switch that he would tap with his foot...it looked like the kind of buzzers or bells you see at hotel/motel desks. That's it...any other effect must have been triggered offstage, maybe by someone at the Soundboard, or came from his amp.

After the song, a switch of gear as Jimmy gets his usual Les Paul and Jonesy takes a seat at his Fender Rhodes. Already a veteran of two Zep concerts, I think I'm pretty smart and start shouting to my companion that they're gonna do Since I've Been Loving You! But Plant is doing a speil while everyone changes gear, and he's talking about walking in the park and getting hassled by the cops...hmmm, that doesn't sound like SIBLY. It sounds more like....

5. Misty Mountain Hop...WOW! Wasn't expecting this but I LOVE IT! And it's another song different from 72! As Jimmy's guitar fuses with Jonesy's funky Fender Rhodes, while Bonzo propells the song with his gargantuan beat, the crowd cannot help but get swept up into its MASSIVE GROOVE! I look around and the vibe in the place is skyhigh. People are bopping along with eyes alight and smiles creasing their faces. This is a great concert song! I don't understand why some people hate it. It's even got some of Plant's most amusing, descriptive, and clever lyrics. And tonight, on May 31, 1973, the birthday boy is driving the song like mad, coming up with fill after fill. Then, after the final verse, Jimmy hits a switch and his guitar, already loud, sounds ten times more massive as he slashes and burns those chords through the end of the song...hey, just how is this song gonna end? Just as I begin to ponder, the rest of the band STOPS...leaving Jimmy to furiously burn up the fretboard in a seismic avalanche of notes leading to his 3-note cue to Bonzo and Jones to begin...

6. Since I've Been Loving You...Oh YEAH, now we're talking! And see, I was right...they WERE going to play SIBLY...eventually. SIBLY had long established itself as a concert favourite, joining the ranks of Dazed and Confused and the Whole Lotta Love medley, and the more recent Stairway to Heaven. It is during SIBLY that you notice two things...1) Jimmy can not only make his guitar talk, but make it cry its soul out; and 2) How Jimmy and Robert parry and thrust together...each egging the other on either musically or physically. It's like watching a pas de deux. The whole song is a slow burn of intense sexiness...until it explodes into hypnotic madness right after the guitar solo, when Jimmy launches into those repeating arpeggios, until the room starts to swirl as Jimmy tightens the noose ever tighter as those arpeggios wrap around your head and Plant is wailing about some back-door man...oh man, I don't think I can take it much longer. Finally, just as the craziness reaches its peak, the band swings into the chorus and Plant releases the pressure with one more scream. By the end of the song, you are wrung out. SIBLY is 8 minutes of intense musical drama. It earns a well-deserved ovation from "the ocean". But I'm so exhausted I'm hoping they do their acoustic set now. The two times I saw them in 72, they did an acoustic set. And the only Led Zeppelin bootleg albums I owned at that time, Blueberry Hill and Going to California, had acoustic songs. So coming into the 1973 shows, I expected an acoustic set at some point, and right about now would be perfect as after SIBLY I was exhausted and just wanted to sit and chill for a bit.

Well, I didn't see any acoustic guitars being set up...and Jones was still at his keyboard perch. Jimmy had his Les Paul...hmmm, what could be next?

7. No Quarter...as the lights dimmed, with just a light on Jones as he struck the opening notes to No Quarter, I practically swallowed my tongue in anticipation. THIS was one of the Holy songs that I wanted to hear and they were playing it right now! Plus, it allowed me to sit down and regroup. Eerie fog was pouring off the stage, much to the delight of the audience. Maybe it's a cliche now, but it was effective back then. I found myself wondering what it was like to be in the first few rows with that dry-ice coming in your face. Then Jimmy stomped on his Cry-baby Wah-wah, and those massive riffs filled the room as the lights gave the waist-high fog shrouding the stage a colourful glow. Right away, you noticed that No Quarter in concert was a different beast than the studio version...heavier, darker. EPIC.

When the band got to the jam, and Bonham and Jones layed down that groove, whilst Jimmy solod spectacularly over it, you found yourself just carried away, lost in the music...just grooving. A feeling I never experienced with the plebeian likes of Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, Black Oak Arkansas, Ten Years After.

Another rousing cheer from the crowd greets the band after the song as I'm momentarily distracted by some fight going on between two girls...I don't know what they're beefing about. But security comes and things are sorted out. By the time my attention is back on stage, Jimmy has strapped on his red double-neck. NO WAY...STAIRWAY already?

Nope, it can't be as Robert is talking about the new album. YES! I think it's going to be...

8. The Song Remains the Same...HELL YEAH!!! Time to get up and boogie as the Forum EXPLODES in a kaleidoscope of sound, as Jimmy trips the light fantastic with his double-neck. The sight of skinny Jimmy, bopping along the stage with that huge guitar, 12-strings chiming every which way, is a sight and sound to behold. At times, it literally sounds like he's playing 3 guitars.

TSRTS is a rampaging gallop of a song...I find it incredible the band never gets lost in the song. You could tell that the crowd took an instant liking to the song. Joints and beers were raised in tribute, a man threw his hat in the air...I think I even saw a bota bag go whizzing by. Oh yeah, this song would definitely be in the setlist for good.

As the song rushed pell-mell to its conclusion, I thought back to when I listened to the HOTH record, and hoped the band would play both TSRTS and Rain Song in sequence, as I thought
they paired together nicely. Hmmm, would they? Jimmy had his doubleneck...he could surely use that for Rain Song. But Jones was playing bass. He would need to switch to the Mellotron.

I began to doubt it would happen. And as Robert's final fading scream signaled the end of TSRTS and I readied to clap and cheer, the lights turned to blue and Jimmy plucked out the opening notes to...

9. Rain Song...YES!!! The night just keeps getting better and better. And it's like the band is reading my mind, playing TSRTS and Rain Song back-to-back. Rain Song is just...BEAUTIFUL! Gorge-osity! Pastoral Splendor. When Jones comes in on mellotron, it is otherworldly. I know mellotrons were a pain to take on the road and keep in tune, but to me, no modern synthesizer or sampling keyboard can replace the mellotron.

Rain Song is so beautiful, so calm and peaceful, I can really sit down and rest for the first time tonight. I know from 72, that Zeppelin shows last up to 3 hour, and we're only up to one hour so far...I've gotta pace myself so I don't crash and burn before the end. The contact high I'm getting isn't helping. The blue lights give the wisps of pot and hash smoke in the air a horror-movie feel. And I'm starting to get the munchies. But I'm not missing a minute of this enchanting song...for that is what Rain Song is: ENCHANTMENT!

Hey, after Rain Song is over would be a good time for the acoustic set...and it takes several minutes to set up the stage and guitars...me and my BB could use that time to take a quick pit-stop. A restroom break and then grab a hotdog or some candy and a coke, then back to our seats, hopefully not missing any songs.

Well, Rain Song comes to its rousing conclusion and a thunderous roar fills the Forum. The total effect of hearing 3 new HotH songs back-to-back-to-back overwhelms us, and we are moved to a standing ovation complete with flicked Bics in tribute.

But still no sign of any acoustic guitars.

10. Dazed and Confused...Well, I'm definitely NOT missing a moment of THIS! Our pit stop wil have to wait. For as the descending notes of doom sound from Jonesy's skull-rattling bass, an expectant roar comes from the crowd. The Zep veterans KNOW what this song means...and the newbies have HEARD about the craziness...about the BOW!

There's that moment on the Bonzo's Birthday Party bootleg, when during the opening moments of D & C, you hear a guy say "It's enough to blow anybody's mind!"

Well, that is what Dazed and Confused is in 1973...30 minutes of BLOWING YOUR FUCKING MIND!!!

Everything from the sound to the sheer dramatic lighting to the performance of the boys themselves is geared towards one thing: Blowing your mind!

Yeah, I'm not moving from my seat. By 73, the leadup to the bow segment has been finally set, with the addition of the "San Francisco" interlude very effective with Plant spraying his echoplexed moans eerily around the room.

Of course, the bow segment is spectacular and Jimmy drives the crowd nuts with his taunting with his bow. As he whips his guitar in orgasmic frenzy, you could sense the sexual energy surge in the place...you wonder if some members were wishing they could be the recipient of such a thrashing.

The bow segment is equal parts music and conjuring the howls of demon-dogs from hell. With the new improved lighting and smoke effects(no lasers yet), its total effect is one of complete mesmerization. By turns haunting, spookily beautiful, creepy, frenzied...it truly leaves you DAZED. And it cemented Jimmy's rep as a guitar wizard in stone.

Looking around the faces of the crowd, you saw people stunned in disbelief at what they were seeing and hearing. And there was still the fast jam part to come. The initial flurry and call-and-response with Plant, the funky interlude, the stop and starts, the Mars-Bringer of War bit. All of it delivered at breathtaking speed and with blood, sweat and fury. Lots and lots of sweat. As Jimmy and Robert whirled about the stage, every time Jimmy whipped his head, you could see sweat flying off his hair.

I was trying to think what other bands could do this...play at such white-heat intensity for 30 minutes? The Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead certainly had jams that lasted 30 minutes or more, but they usually weren't at the pace of D & C. And those bands stood stock still...they didn't careen about the stage like Page and Plant. More crucially, those bands had 2 guitarists, meaning one could take a break every now and then, and let the other guy take a few bars. Jimmy was alone...he had to carry the entire song.

And especially tonight, when he was wounded. I kept looking to see if he had a special wrap or bandaid on his left hand, but I didn't see anything. He did go off to the side near his amps a few times between songs. More important and impressive was the fact that his playing showed no effects of the injury...it remained spectacular!

It was a sight to see and one I will never forget.

After D & C, and Jimmy took a few well-deserved bows from the ecstatic audience, I began to think we weren't going to get an acoustic set after all. And when Jimmy again put on his double neck, I felt for sure we were getting Stairway, which had to mean the concert was getting closer to the end.

11. Stairway to Heaven...after a quick dedication to Bonzo?, Jimmy plays one of the most recognizable song intros ever, and a great hue-and-cry goes up and the Forum is aglow once again with lighted Bics. Stairway is Stairway...Plant makes a "laughter" remark and by 1973, the solo has really taken shape, divided into two parts. At the end of the song, cue the giant mirror ball with the spotlight hitting it, sending thousands of shafts of shimmering light whirling around the arena. Add to this thousands of Bics held aloft in tribute, and it was quite a sight.

But before long, Robert was saluting the birthday boy and that meant one thing...

12. Moby Dick...Bonzo's drum solo. As first Robert, then Jimmy and Jonesy, left the stage, I settled back for what I knew would be at least 20 minutes of drums. By then, I had already grown weary of drum solos, which in less-skilled hands became bore-a-thons. But since it was Bonzo AND it was his BIRTHDAY, I didn't mind watching this one. As I stayed, my BB went to get us more snacks, as the contact-high munchies I had acquired since Rain Song had exacerbated to a full-on hunger attack. Fortunately, my need to piss had dissipated...I guess because of all the excitement.

Drums, drums and more drums...some hit with sticks, some with his bare hands. And they were LOUD. My ears were already ringing...now it felt like a jackhammer was hammering away at my chest and head. Then there was the sight of Bonham's head and arms flailing away at often incredible speeds, while his hair flew and every so often he'd snarl and roar. Throw in the light show, with the lights bouncing off his orange coloured Vistalights creating interesting effects, and the total effect was one of total sensory overload.

Oh, and he added a new wrinkle for 1973, phased tympani...which actually sounded pretty cool.

After it was over, it only seemed natural to sing "Happy Birthday" to Bonzo, so with Robert leading the way,18,000 sang Happy Birthday to John Henry Bonham. 25 years old. Still, I couldn't believe I was getting to sing "Happy Birthday" in person to one of my drumming heroes!

Before anyone could catch their breath, Bonham launched into an unfamiliar beat...was he just fooling around or was this a song? The answer came as soon as Jimmy swaggered in...

13. Heartbreaker...Did I say swagger? I meant SWAGGER! For when Jimmy came in with his familiar strutting riff, it was with a sound and tone that was incredible. It SNARLED! It GROWLED! It was OUT FOR BLOOD! Top that off with the sight of Jimmy strutting and staggering sexily across the stage...well, like I said before, this band oozes sex like no other.

And really, Jimmy's 1973 guitar rig should be in some guitar hall of fame as one of the most amazing sounds of all time.

However, the fast solo, while okay, didn't seem to possess the careening wildness of earlier Heartbreakers. And then they chopped off the end of the song, for right when the solo ends, instead of Robert going into the last verse, Bonzo does a choppy fill, then...

14. Whole Lotta Love...the band lurches into their big radio hit, and the long acknowledged set closer. Because of the sudden beginning, it takes a while before the band finds its footing. One treat you get with this song, is you get to see Jimmy, the Silent Man, sing along with Robert during the chorus.

By the theremin interlude, the band has found its footing, and worked its way into a groove. Which brings me to another quality that separated Led Zeppelin from countless other hard rock and metal bands...its ability and willingness to get down and funky. Led Zeppelin had a way with a groove that was uncanny...and it often revealed itself most often during Whole Lotta Love. More than other hard rock bands, you'd see blacks and latinos at Led Zeppelin gigs.

After the bow solo, the most mesmerizing sight at a Zeppelin show was watching Jimmy work the Theremin. You'd get a small taste during No Quarter, but it was WLL where you got the whole wizardry, with Jimmy throwing crazy shapes while Plant did battle with his moans of love. It was amazing to hear and hypnotic to watch...and you couldn't stop dancing because Bonham and Jones were laying down a serious groove!

God, I LOVE THIS BAND!

After the guitar solo...sounding almost note-for-note perfect to the album version...and the last verse, it's time for another Zeppelin concert favourite: the Boogie Mama medley! The Boogie Mamas in 1973 sound really sweet...again Jimmy's 1973 guitar sound gives it that extra oomph. But just when you're expecting a fun oldies medley like in 72, Robert comes in with the "woman, woman, woman" refrain, and it's back to WLL, long before anyone expected. But the band has a trick up its sleeve. As Robert goes into that long "Looooooove" and the band crashes into the WLL riff, giant flashpots explode behind the stage, sending balls of fire and smoke upwards. I believe this was the first tour where Led Zeppelin had used explosives, and it caught all of us by surprise.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, at the end, during the final crescendo, Bonham calls forth the fire gods with his Gong of Fire. We are all going nuts...the audience is in sheer pandemonium at this point. Robert says good night and the band bow and wave goodbye...but we all know they'll be back. This audience will riot if they don't get an encore. And with the memory of the 4 encores they did in 72 fresh in some of our heads, we might not even be happy with one.

Minutes go by and after much clapping and stomping, the band returns to the stage as the crowd hails its conquering heroes. Robert pays tribute to the crowd and to Jimmy, remarking for the first time about his finger injury. He says Jimmy has been soaking his hand in cold water...aha, that is what Jimmy was doing when I saw him going off to the side. "When he was doing that bit in Heartbreaker...if you could have felt what he felt...". Atta-boy Jimmy...way to play through the pain! Then, surprise-surprise, Bonzo goes into the spoken-word intro to...

Encore 1: 15. The Ocean...dah dah dah-de-dah....as Jimmy launches into that riff, the place explodes with energy. This is a fun song, and the band seem to enjoy playing it. I really don't understand why they didn't play it more often. This is another HotH song, and I realize that they played almost the entire album. Another thing I notice is that the Holy songs all sound better in concert than the recorded versions. For all the bitching about its eclecticism and production, Houses of the Holy provided Zeppelin with many concert standards.

The Ocean is over much too quickly and the band says good night again. But they return for one more....I'm hoping it's Thank You. But it's not. Instead Jimmy cranks the Les Paul up one more time for...

Encore 2: 16. Communication Breakdown...another pile-driving riff. And another song that sounds way better in concert than on record. People are headbanging like crazy. I summon every last bit of energy I can from my weary 11-year old body to indulge in one last carefree blast of headbanging. Throw in a funky bit at the end, and I'm watching Jones and Bonham laugh together as they're feeling the groove. All you can think of at such a moment is how cool it must be to play in Led Zeppelin. It would be like being a member of the coolest boy's club in the world.

With Communication Breakdown over and the band, once again, taking bows and saying goodnight, we held out hope for another encore. But shortly after that, the house lights were raised and it was obvious that was it. It must have been around 11:30pm.

Either way, I was in a euphoric state...and really, with Jimmy's finger, I don't blame them for not playing as long as they had previously. Two hours is a lot to ask for with an injured finger, let alone three hours. Led Zeppelin had just played around 2 and one-half hours.

As we made the long, slow trek to BB's car, and out of the parking lot, I tried to stave off the sleep that was beginning to come over me. I thought about the 1973 Tour shirt that I was going to wear to the last day of school the next day. Yeah, I was gonna show it off with pride!

As I leaned my head against the car window, my ears ringing from the extreme loudness they had been subjected to, and watched the city lights and car lights whiz by in the dark night, one final thought reaffirmed itself in my mind, as I let sleep overtake me.

I had just seen THE BEST DAMN BAND ON THE PLANET!

And I was going to get to see them again...and, this time with my girlfriend. Up ahead: San Francisco and the second LA Forum show.

To be continued...