Average: 4.9 (114 votes)

June 26, 1977

Inglewood, CA US

The Forum

Setlist:

The Song Remains The Same, (The Rover intro) Sick Again, Nobody's Fault But Mine, Over the Hills and Far Away, Since I've Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Battle of Evermore, Going to California, That's Alright Mama, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, (Out On the Tiles intro) Moby Dick, Jimmy Page solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, It'll Be Me.

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6-26-77 Anticipation was high....

The Fabulous Forum, Los Angeles (actually, Inglewood…)
Sunday, 6-26-77

Anticipation was high. After all, it had been 6 months of waiting.

Before Robert Plant’s accident in August 1975, I had only been into “Immigrant Song” and “Stairway to Heaven.” I am African-American with a pretty wide musical palate, which then had really begun to widen as I progressed through college. In September 1975 as a freshman at USC, my white roomies exposed me further—they had all the albums and were abuzz re: Plant’s accident. Most of them had seen Led Zeppelin between 1969-75. Some were not satisfied with the group’s then current musical direction, as opposed to the sound of the first two albums.

Well, I started listening and by December I had purchased most of the albums; I was hooked. Then I started witnessing some visual evidence of the power in magazines and books on the subject(s). The curiosity rose to the point where I had to see them the next time around.

The next year, I began learning what I could about them, and then the movie came out. In December, 1976, they announced in the new magazine called “People” that they would be back with “blood, thunder and the hammer of the gods.” It was an absolute must to see them, because I witnessed a pattern growing: they were only touring every 2 years at this point, which was a developing pattern. It was no telling when (or if) they would be back at all. (The same thought process motivated me to see Pink Floyd perform “The Wall” 2-1/2 years later.)

January 30, 1977, a one-page announcement in “Calendar” section, Sunday “Los Angeles Times”: “J. Weintraub presents An Evening with Led Zeppelin, 7:30 p.m. March 9, 12, 13 at the Fabulous Forum.” Tickets went on sale the next day at 10am. After my morning classes and some errands, I got to the Ticketron outlet at Wallich’s Music City on Sunset and Vine at 12.30pm. I figured 2 hours or so, they wouldn’t sell out. Two hours? Well, the guy at the window told me they sold out “an hour ago,” at 11.30am! Drat! Missed them—or so I thought.

I planned to go to the show with my brother, another friend and my two new roommates, who were skeptical. Both were African-American and not rock fans. But college opens lots of doors, and due to the influence of myself and the brother of one roommate’s girlfriend, they were exposed to Led Zeppelin. One of my roomies railed against the “weirdness” of the music. The brother of the girlfriend was a hardcore fan who saw them at Kezar Stadium, San Francisco in ’73. Both roomies became curious. By this time they had heard the music and wanted to see Led Zeppelin live. My roomies were astounded when I told them that all three concerts sold out.
More tickets went on sale later. I went out to the Forum box office this time. After 1-1/2 hrs of waiting, running in herds, and hassles from militaristic bouncers, I got to the window and got 5 nosebleed tickets. Within a half hour these last 3 shows were sold out also. Got in just under the wire. Now we had to wait the 2-1/2 months for them.

News of Plant’s tonsillitis came, as did the new tour schedule: our tickets were to be honored in June! This was a bit of a bummer, because not only did my brother, my friend and I really want to see them, but also I really wanted my roommates to see why I appreciated these guys’ music so, what all the furor was about. My roomies would be back home in the summer and couldn’t come back to see the show. (They eventually learned to appreciate and like some of the band’s music.) Two of my brother’s college chums were to go instead. And now, we’d have to commute from home (San Diego) to see them. So-----“Oh, no, 3 more months!”

In the interim, I read several magazine articles about the tour and “L.A. Times” rock music critic Robert Hilburn’s reports from early in the tour. He detailed most of the setlist and profiled Peter Grant and the band. He later reviewed the two opening L.A. shows. I read about Page’s food poisoning in Chicago on April 9, where the band had to abandon the concert an hour into it. (They said the culprit was possibly some bad ribs eaten on the South Side.) I also read a review in the “San Diego Union” of the June 19 San Diego show while at home there. There was a picture of Robert Plant, preening with yellow satin pants. This article really pumped us up, one week before our show.

Sunday, June 26, 1977

Since we were working at home for the summer, the plan was to drive to L.A. in the afternoon, pick up my friend and meet my brother’s friends at the Forum at a designated spot. My friend wasn’t home, so after waiting for an hour or so, we left his ticket with his mom so he could meet us there. Well, he didn’t make it; turned out he was with a girl. To this day he still has the ticket and regrets not going.

We met my brother’s friends as planned, about 7pm. We waited around 15-20 minutes more for my friend, who was still a no-show. We were kind of an unusual group at a Led Zeppelin concert, particularly my brother and me being literally two of a handful of African-Americans at the show. My missing friend was black; my brother’s friends were white and white/Japanese. But we didn’t give a shit, as we had the business of Led Zeppelin to tend to.

We went into the arena and the first thing I looked at once inside, as I do to this day, was the stage and equipment. (We were also greeted by, of course, the obligatory cloud of marijuana smoke.) All the stage/equipment was black or dark gray: the stage, lights, amps/speakers, drum riser, keyboard instruments, the screens behind the stage, the P.A. above. (We were face-to-face with the famous “ZOSO” on one of Page’s black cabinets!) Whatever else was to be from looking at that P.A., I told my bro that it was going to be loud. Only John Bonham’s Paiste gong, tympani, cymbals, and the wood grain top of the Clavinet stood out as a different color. This was such a contrast to all the photos I had seen, which were so colorful. That was, of course, due to the lighting. Of which there was plenty. A couple of years ago I read a review of Led Zeppelin’s 3-10-75 show in San Diego online and the person described the massiveness of that stage. He went on to say that he saw them in 1977 and the stage didn’t compare. He was right on one count. Wonders of the Internet: at Ledzeppelin.com, I saw fans’ photos of the 1975 stage and it was massive. But the 1977 stage absolutely dwarfed that stage. (I have since made my own drawings of the 1977 stage.) And there was one lone vocal mic stand at the front of the stage.

The stage itself was about 8-ft high with 5 really big bouncers abreast. Lighting structures reached up around 4 stories or so, and then the jumble of P.A. speakers was hung above that. They weren’t arranged as orderly and uniformly as those used by acts today.

Anticipation was so high. While waiting, we heard various artists over the P.A. Two albums played that I remember were Linda Ronstadt’s “Hasten Down The Wind,” and another album that was causing a ruckus at the time: “Hotel California” by the Eagles. When I heard that album, I realized why everyone was talking so much about it. The next week, I went out and bought both albums and have been a fan ever since.

There were a few Frisbees and a beach ball tossed around. One very disturbing thing that happened at this concert was the exploding of an abundance of fireworks. Back then, this often happened at concerts around the 4th of July. Another article written earlier in the tour covered an injury Page incurred to his hand as a result of someone throwing a cherry bomb onto the stage. We were startled when someone lit and threw a whole string of firecrackers just over our heads. Around 7.45pm, one of the promoter’s team made an announcement at Plant’s mic:

“The Fourth of July is still a couple of weeks away, and anyway it’s too dangerous to be throwing fireworks in here. It’s dangerous to the rest of the audience and to you, too. So let’s cool down with the fireworks, ‘cause we don’t like ‘em and Led Zeppelin doesn’t like them either!” (Wild applause) “So let’s cut the fireworks, okay? Enjoy the show!”

For the most part the request was heeded, but there were still a few knuckleheads… Firecrackers were the reason large screens covered the back and sides of the stage. Lighters went on in droves around 8pm, going on and off till the show began. We waited through all this up to 8.15pm. Then all the lights went down.

There were several lighters that had stayed lit constantly and you could see them now, as well as the other thousands that were lighting up. The applause was, to use a cliché, deafening. Then—movement on stage. You could hear it. A couple of hits on the snare—John Bonham, in the flesh. Testing the doubleneck—it’s Jimmy Page. Only 2 or 3 notes in a short bass run were necessary—John Paul Jones! A nice drum roll and some bass drum—sounded like thunder. A note on the guitar—not ready yet, but everyone knew what was coming.

On the opening note of “The Song Remains The Same,” a beam of purple light flashed down at stage left on a guy with long curly blond hair, purple “blouse” open at the front, purple satin pants and platform shoes. He was facing the back of the stage, microphone in left hand thrust upward, on cue with the first note. Then darkness, as the band pounded out the opening 4 beats of the song.

Next—lights! Only the band was lit as Plant danced in the dark. A serious power trio in full flight. John Paul Jones, ever in control, slowly walked around his side of the stage as he delivered the thunder with his new Alembic bass. JPJ was dressed all in white, with white clogs. (Though I was in nosebleeds, I still noticed that…) Jimmy Page… as my brother’s friend said, “See, he’s a baaad motherfucker!” He was stalking the lip of the stage with the doubleneck, then down on one knee, simply jamming. He now sported shades to shield from the initial blast of stage lighting. His anomalous presence as a non-smoking British rock musician was over, with a cig now hanging from his mouth. Page danced, crouched over, took complete control of the stage. Led Zeppelin took command. Period. And John Bonham, “all wrists these days,” as he had said in an interview. This was in reference to his playing style, influenced by watching Ziggy Modeliste of The Meters perform. No more flailing wildman (sorry I missed him in that incarnation.) He steadily blasted away, with his impeccable timing. A spotlight came up on Plant as he sang the opening line, “I had a dream…”

“TSRTS” ended and they stepped immediately into a funky beat; it stopped a second…”The Rover!” I knew this was going to be a show, with songs never before performed live. But just as suddenly as they had begun, they slid into “Sick Again” before the first verse. Nice, quick change-up, though I would have loved to have heard at least one verse of “The Rover.” The end of “Sick Again” was sick—it was a jam.

At the end, Mr. Plant bode the audience his usual ‘Well, good evening!” He then apologized for the long delay (postponement) and the “45 min. delay, but the Yellow Cab broke down…” It was a trip hearing him talk as a live person, with that British accent. Until I came to university, the only place I heard an accent like that was on TV. And to hear such an icon—or superstar or whatever superlative you choose to use—actually talk as a human being in the flesh, quite a trip indeed. Plant mentioned that they were glad to “have Bonham back with us…” Where had he been? I discovered years later that he reportedly had food poisoning the week before.

Mr. Page then took off the outer jacket of his white satin suit, exposing the white dragon suit top. He then thrust his arms into the air as if cheering. Page strapped on one of the Les Pauls and started into “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” one of the hardest rocking songs ever conceived. (I believe JPJ broke out the 8-string Alembic for this one.) The first 30 min. of the show was like this, song-after-song. The excitement of the audience was almost immeasurable. It was very entertaining to catch little gestures such as the one by Page before “Nobody’s Fault.” Another occurred just as Page was about to begin his solo on “Over The Hills…,” when Robert Plant hit the effects pedal for him. It threw Jimmy off for a second, and then he smiled and started the solo. On the “No Quarter” jam, Robert laid on top of the piano.

I really wanted to see “In My Time Of Dying” live, but couldn’t complain too much about the set change. Robert mentioned “Badgeholders” and Richard Cole. I had no idea, in my virgin mind at the time, what this meant or who the hell Richard Cole was. I was not in on the joke then.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” was exquisite, as usual, a band favorite. The stage was lit in magenta for most of the song. Bonham extended the drum fill before the coda into a mini-solo. The crowd went wild. Then, as if necessary, Plant introduced “Jimmy Page on guitar!”

By the time “No Quarter” came around, it was time for Led Zeppelin to show off their musicianship, even though an astounding amount of energy and musicianship had already been expended in the first half hour. In this part of the show special effects were introduced more heavily. “No Quarter” made use of dry ice machines and spotlights that shot up, on cue, from the lip of the stage like a Nuremburg rally before the first verse. Before the solo, signaled by the Theremin, JPJ stepped from the electric piano to the Steinway grand and bass pedals to improvise. During this section a green laser shot over his head from behind the stage. It broke into sections and pulsated. The piano solo melded into a bluesy jam. It was at this point that Robert laid on top of the piano, when Jimmy and John joined in for some boogie-woogie. Then they returned to the last verse and coda of “No Quarter,” with some extra “Dogs of doom…!” lines, soaked with heavy delay. Very cool. This excursion took over 30 minutes.

Many didn’t expect such jamming. Some fans were impatient and wanted to hear more songs. Much of the jamming was labeled “self-indulgent” by critics and fans alike. But this was their act, though: come out jamming hard, then performing long jams, and solos where the other band members got to rest. I believe, and the band has said in interviews, that they always tried to give a well-rounded show. They always gave it a go, never wanting to give a half-assed performance.

There were other treats, though. “Ten Years Gone” was included, with Jimmy playing the string-bender Telecaster. Not only was this song never played live (nor did many fans expected to ever hear it live), it was also a showcase for the most understated talent of John Paul Jones. One word description fit him for the entire show: a workhorse! He was, indeed, the orchestra. JPJ busted out the three-necked Manson acoustic/electric at this point. He had recently taken delivery of it half way through the tour. What a sight to behold. About half way through the song, I was watching them play and realized there was bass in the song but no bass guitar. Then I figured it out (remember, I was waaay up in nosebleeds): JPJ, who was sitting on a stool playing the triple-neck, was also simultaneously playing Moog Taurus synthesizer pedals. He was bad-ass. Nice purple and green lighting for the song, also.

For the first time since 1973, there was an acoustic set. The acoustic set was an unexpected treat for those who did not know the setlist. This was a spot in their ’77 set where they could have added another song on more occasions than they did. (I’m being a little picky here—they already performed a 3-hr show nightly!) This night though, we did get a bit of “That’s Alright, Mama” before “Black Country Woman,” complete with thick reverb on the vocal, like Elvis’. “The Battle of Evermore” was as electrifying as any of the electric set, with the imagery of the lyrics and the Harmonizer and delay on Robert’s vocals. Page played a wicked mandolin and JPJ sang Sandy Denny’s vocal. Bonham played a miked tambourine with mallet, a nice Celtic touch. (It sounded like a bodhran, an Irish frame drum that’s basically like a big tambourine without the bells.) That was a fitting arrangement. Quite an epic performance. “Going To California” was/is clearly a fondly nostalgic song for the band, especially Robert. You can always hear it in his intros to the song from any concert, any tour. He always talked about their first visits to California in the ‘60’s and the atmosphere they encountered.

JPJ used the triple-neck throughout the acoustic set, except on “Black Country Woman,” “Bron-y-aur Stomp,” and any other song they would throw in as an extra treat. On these songs he used a Framus upright acoustic/electric bass. (Note: I didn’t realize, until the “Led Zeppelin” DVD was released, that John Bonham sang background vocals and played castanets on “Bron-y-aur Stomp.” I always thought it was Jimmy singing backup. Bonzo actually had a pretty good singing voice!) Jimmy’s slide jamming at the end of the song was superb; it was noticeable here that he really enjoyed just sitting in a chair and wailing away on acoustic guitar, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

After this, we didn’t know what to expect next. We hear plucking and harmonics on a very distinctive sounding guitar. As one light comes up, we see Jimmy sitting again, now playing the Danelectro. There are some runs and string bending in an Eastern tuning. He goes into “White Summer/Black Mountainside.” For musicians, including myself, this was another treat. For many others, I think the show may have begun to drag a bit. It would have been nice to get a full- band song to push the proceedings along. Again, it was evident that Jimmy really got off, sitting there jamming. He added a great bit of improvisation. Bonham assisted on toms also, just like back in the day, 1968-70.

At the end of the jam, the lights began to dim. As Jimmy ended “Black Mountainside,” he kicked the chair aside, by accounts from other shows …it got too dark for me to see this from so far away. Anyway, he jumped up as the lights came up and the band blasted into “Kashmir.” Their masterpiece of masterpieces (they have a few masterpieces.) The one song I really wanted to hear that night. And they did not disappoint. Page was all over the stage, stalking, twirling, in cue with the music. Nobody moves on stage like Jimmy Page. I heard the June 23 performance years later, as well as the June 21, 1980 performance in Rotterdam, where they got off-pace and kinda screwed up on the “bridge” part. JPJ has mentioned in interviews that they screwed up this song a few times in concert. (Guess these guys were human after all.) I do remember hearing some kind of miscue during the bridge this night, but whatever it was, they recovered with little damage.

The stage was mainly washed in yellow/golden light. Bonzo thrashed away while his whole drum kit, including cymbals and gong, were phased (see drum solo.) Back then, I had told college my chums who couldn’t make any of the concerts that no audio effects were used. Turns out I couldn’t hear any effects clearly due to the volume of the concert. Upon hearing bootlegs years later, I found that Led Zeppelin used heavy effects, i.e., the phased drum kit. JPJ sat at the Mellotron/bass pedals. In 1975, he played the Clavinet on the “orchestral” part. But here, he didn’t. From my position that night, I could only see the back of the keyboards. I couldn’t see the manual and assumed for decades that JPJ played a synth. I read in books and mags later that he used a Mellotron, as he did from 1972-75. But as with Bonzo singing on “Bron-y-aur Stomp,” I discovered years later that JPJ didn’t use the often-used Mellotron 400 in 1977, but the 2-manual MkII. I purchased Ross Halfin’s compilation “The Photographs of Led Zeppelin” in 1995. There was an onstage shot from the Oakland Coliseum in which a very small section of the Mellotron MkII appeared. This was a mystery from 1977 that was finally solved!

I suspected some kind of really special effect on the “orchestral” part. And what an effect. Atop the lighting rig, on either side there were two mirror ball assemblies. Each consisted of three half-balls, or discs, with a bright spotlight in the middle. They were arranged in triangular fashion, attached to motors. During the interlude, the bright light shot out from the middle of each rotating disc, across the top of the stage to illuminate its counterpart on the other side. Shafts of brilliant light shot off the discs in all directions from the top of the stage. It was like finding some type of enlightenment (or very bright lights) atop a mountain. The performance of this piece alone was worth the price of admission.

As its place was alongside “Kashmir” on the album, I expected to hear ”Trampled Underfoot” next (Led Zeppelin were/are some of the funkiest white boys on the planet!) Instead, Bonham’s hi-hat was fitted with a tambourine. The band then blasted into something called “Over The Top” that I didn’t recognize till the stutter-stop riff: “Out On The Tiles!” Hell yea! But only the opening. What happened for the next 30 minutes was jaw-dropping. Though long drum solos were quite normal in the day, again, for many they were yawn-inducing or signaled a bathroom break. However, we watched every second. After the “Tiles” intro, the “Moby Dick” solo began. The whole drum riser moved to the front of the stage. The top of the riser was lit from below with colored lights under the drum kit. Bonzo soloed with sticks first, then hands (as legend had it! We had actually seen it in the movie; it was cool seeing it in the flesh.) This was the usual order of things. He went back to sticks and ended this segment with a strike of the gong. Simultaneously, a huge Queen/KISS-like flashpot exploded behind the gong, and the mini-Nuremburg lighting effect erupted from the lip of the drum riser (a smaller version of the “No Quarter” effect.)

Now Bonzo started playing tympani behind an enclosure of spotlights. Quite dramatic. As the tympani solo progressed and the spots died down, the (sound) effects became more pronounced. The effect was an early version of mic-triggering: the drum mics were run through electronic effects—or in this case, a synthesizer—which was activated by striking the drum head. The most famous pioneer of this effect was Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Palmer used the effect in 1973 on Ginastera’s “Toccata” from the “Brain Salad Surgery” album. Palmer also used the effect on the 1973-74 tour and resulting live album, “Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…” Bonzo and Palmer were buddies and loved to talk tech. On Led Zeppelin’s 1973 and 1975 tours, Bonzo ran the mics through a phase effect for “Kashmir” and the tympani solo. In 1976 he and Page recorded “Bonzo’s Montreux”, running drums through synth effects. For the 1977 tour, Bonham took it further and used the synthesizer for the tympani solo, to extreme effect. The phase effect was kept for “Kashmir,” also. Each strike of the tymps began to sound as if some mythical sea monster like the Hydra or Scylla reared its head and began bellowing. At the end, Bonham did a couple of long drum rolls on the tympani, which sounded like a 747 taking off next to you. Wow. He returned to the trap set, then the band returned with the “Moby Dick” outro. On the first riff, two of those huge flashpots exploded on each side of the lip of the stage. Same with the second riff. These things lit up the whole arena and shocked the very stoned audience. My brother remarks to this day that he continued to “see dimes sparkling all over the place” after these blasts. The song ended, then Robert introduced his old buddy.

After this onslaught, the lights went down except for one lone red spot on the Marshall cabinet with the “ZOSO” design. Some squealing effect was heard next. I was learning more about modern effects at the time through college friends who were musicians. But I had never heard anything like that. It turned out to be a Les Paul run through an Eventide Harmonizer, the same effect that multiplied Robert’s vocals on “Evermore,” “Achilles’ Last Stand,” “Sick Again” and “Rock and Roll.” Pretty mind-blowing. Jimmy was on one knee, bending the sound like rubber and on cue rising and falling back onto one knee. To this day, I am not sure if he simply bent the strings or used yet another effect with the harmonizer. This effect actually sounded like a Digitech Whammy Pedal, which would be invented several years later. (The band was quite ahead of its time with effects. Besides Bonzo/Carl Palmer, JPJ noted in an interview years later that he and an inventor friend actually invented a sampler while the band was on hiatus in 1978.) Here during Jimmy’s section is where we started to hear the restless comments (i.e., from June 21: “We’ve had the guitar lesson!” Or, “Play some fuckin’ musiiiic!”) Anyway, Jimmy didn’t play “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the harmonizer solo, as was usual on this tour. He played “Loch Lomond” (chorus: “You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…”)

Next, still under the red spot, Jimmy started playing with the Theremin. He ran it through a Maestro Echoplex and “conducted” the sound as it repeated, waving his arms in the air to the beat of the delay. He then picked up the violin bow and continued to “conduct.” He was waving that long stick like some wacked-out maestro under one red spot with the other 18,000+ of us in total darkness. Strange. Sounded cool, though. (I’m a sucker for effects, especially delays!) The end of the Theremin solo was a long, high-pitched wail, followed by an extended repeat, fading to nothing. Awesome.

Staccato guitar sounds followed, more beautiful noise. What’s next up Jimmy’s sleeve? The sounds then became saturated with wah-wah. I always thought Jimmy was beating the strings with the bow. It wasn’t until I went to the Led Zeppelin convention in San Diego in 2004 that I realized how the sound was created. There was a video of the Seattle concert that took place 3 weeks after this one. Page made this staccato sound by flipping the Les Paul’s toggle switch back and forth. This effect was used often in ’68-’69 on “You Shook Me” and the “How Many More Times” medley.

As I had read in the review from earlier in the tour, there was no more “Dazed and Confused,” but the violin bow section remained. Page stood on stage with his pedals and did the bow-thing. This was one reason why many had an itch to see Led Zeppelin live.

“Dazed” was gone, but not the bow. Jimmy was under two spots, the rest of the stage backlit in green. As the solo progressed, a pyramid of green laser surrounded him from above. (I’m also a sucker for lasers. But no rainbow lasers from the back of the stage for us this night.) During the second slap/echo part, the stage lights changed colors. Also, the pyramid rotated once to each echo. Dry ice emanated from under the stage, giving the effect that the laser was burning through the stage floor. As if that wasn’t enough, as the solo progressed more, red lights came up from the stage floor under Jimmy, in the configuration of 5 boxes (one big one under Page, surrounded by 4 smaller ones.) This was a sight to behold. This night we got superb playing and hell-of effects. This concert, effects-wise, was the concert against which I’ve measured every concert I have seen since.

At the climax of the bow solo, the stage was covered with dry ice and the pyramid began to spin, faster and faster, while Bonham pounded away on the gong. Now I was lost. What could possibly be next?

The stage was dark. Then Page began “Achilles’ Last Stand” as one lone green spot illuminated him. Performing another masterpiece. As the band crashed in, every white spot (except the floor ones) illuminated the stage. The audience was blown back. This song was, as was well documented, recorded with 16 overdubbed guitars. A formidable task that Jimmy –and John Paul—took on, this performance was brilliant. JPJ pulled out the 8-string bass; with this and Jimmy’s 6-string with effects they attempted to replicate the song live. Bonzo held it together almost every night with a relentless and difficult drum part.

Without extra musicians or pre-recorded backing, live music takes on its own life, as it is rearranged depending upon the players’ abilities as well as keeping the song recognizable. Robert mentioned in 2007 that the unfortunate thing about the 1977 tour was that it was so erratic: some shows were brilliant and some were sketchy. This often showed in Page’s playing in general, as he wasn’t physically fit at the time (and apparently way worse than I ever imagined. But somehow, like Keith Richards, he managed to get onstage and play.) Another barometer of how the performance was faring was in the performance of “Achilles’”. Some nights it was brilliant, some nights it was three musicians playing as many different pieces. But what a song, and what a performance on June 26. Jimmy did a Townshend-leap during the song, to top it off! The “Ah-ah-ah!” part, with Page and Plant facing off against each other was sheer drama, even from the nosebleed seats. The song ended with Page tagging it out under the now diminishing green spotlight as Robert’s final yelp echoed into darkness. A tour-de-force.

Following, Jimmy donned the Gibson doubleneck and the stage was bathed in blue light. The (then) obligatory “Stairway To Heaven,” their third masterpiece. The yellow spot came up on Robert as he began to sing. And though obligatory, it was another outstanding performance. Everyone cheered at the “Does anybody remember laughter?” part. This became a de facto part of the lyrics of the song, especially after the “TSRTS” movie was released.

As the power chords commenced before Page’s solo, Bonham hit his gong and another one of those huge, super-bright flashpots exploded behind them. Jimmy played a great solo. The band almost broke into some reggae. (On other nights, they actually did break into reggae!) I am still amazed at their versatility. The song ended with the big mirror ball sparkling above the audience and a rainbow of light hitting the stage from above. The band bade us farewell.

The encore. Now, I really expected to hear one, maybe two songs but nothing more, as we were already past the 3-hour mark. I figured there would be, unfortunately but understandably, no 15-min. “Whole Lotta Love.” I expected “Rock and Roll,” or a “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Immigrant Song,”—yea, right! (I specifically remember hoping that they played “Misty Mountain Hop” or a “Presence” song.) I was unaware that earlier in the tour they closed with “Trampled Underfoot.” Introduced by Plant as “a song that will be on the next album,” “It’ll Be Me” ended the evening. A nice surprise and a rarity. I didn’t know at the time that it was a Jerry Lee Lewis song, though the opening line did sound like a song from his era. The band played it hard-rockabilly, with strange stutter-step rhythm and all. JPJ played grand piano/pedals and they hammered this song. Only thing was that many were unfamiliar with the song.

I was really pumped up at news of a new album and the “preview” we received. (None of us knew that their next album was to be conceived from a very different set of circumstances.) Then they left the stage for good. The aural/visual assault left us stunned for a few minutes. Then, totally wiped out, we drove back to San Diego, with a nap stop in between….Ah, youth…..

What more can be said? Awesome, self-indulgent, boring? Even “all-of-the-above” for some? Overall, incredible. Our show was long, very long. We walked out of The Forum after midnight. Yea, much of that time was taken up on solos. The main criticism of the show, depending on one’s point of view or personal taste, was the abundance (or length?) of solos and lack of more actual songs. For musicians this was at least interesting, and the solos were brilliant. But I do agree, to a degree, with the impatient fans. One of our friends saw them in ’75 and remarked that he liked that show better because “they played more actual songs.” (He also noted that he walked around the Forum towards the end of the show and caught a glimpse of some roadies and band members doing lines behind the stage. So much easier to roam around at a concert in those days…) At least one other song thrown into the middle of the set would have improved the pacing of the show for those not into long solos. For example, “Heartbreaker” on June 21 (and in many of the New York shows.) In my opinion, that made an excellent concert outstanding, as it kept the pace of show from dragging, being placed in the middle of the solos/experimental segments. (Again, being a little picky here…) That was also possibly the hardest “Heartbreaker” ever performed, absolutely brutal.

The acoustic set was a great change of pace, yet still, some in the audience complained and became impatient. This was probably why they dropped it in 1973. Jimmy’s electronic noodling was many things: interesting, cool, fascinating, experimental, annoying, drug-tripped-out-meandering. If they had added a “Heartbreaker” or another song from “Presence,” this would have broken any sense of monotony the solos may have created for some. (Could you imagine if they played “For Your Life?”) On the other hand, we did get “It’ll Be Me” as an encore. We witnessed the second and last time it was played in concert. What other Led Zeppelin song(s) hold that or similar status? “Four Sticks” and “Gallows Pole,” maybe.

Two very brave moves were executed on this tour, usually successfully: opening with “TSRTS” and performing “Achilles’”. These are two very daunting pieces of music, originally recorded with multiple guitar parts and lots of timing changes. For the band to perform these songs as a 3-piece with vocals demonstrated sheer balls.

Over the years I discovered the magazines devoted to Led Zeppelin. “ZOSO” and “Tight But Loose” were the first. I subscribed to “ZOSO.” My original review was written in 1987 for “ZOSO” magazine (editor: Taylor.) I never completed it for submission. I later subscribed to “Proximity” before it ended its run. These magazines were extremely informative and kept me more connected to the band’s music via other fans. I also kept all magazine articles on the band that I could get ahold to in the U.S. over the last 30 years. Ross Halfin’s compilation of photos, along with books by Dave Lewis, Charles Cross, Richard Cole, Neal Preston, Chris Welch, et al, and “Circus,” “Hit Parader,” and “Creem” magazines were invaluable as references for my drawings of the stage and the band. And the Internet has taken us steps further as a base of loads more information. My interest was never lost on the band or its music. Unfortunately, the only concert I have seen of the surviving members was JPJ in 1999 (that was not unfortunate.) What a slamming performance. He sounded more like Led Zeppelin than the other two did!

I recently heard a recording of this concert (June 26.) Upon listening, I was quite pleased to learn that my memory of the show was quite accurate, even after, initially, 10 years gone. (Of course, you can now see footage from this tour and this concert on the Internet!) Also, we had a great show. Playing-wise, there was no “sketchiness,” or uneven performance. During Jimmy’s harmonizer solo, he really stretched out and did some experimenting with the effect. As much as he may have indulged himself, it still sounded pretty awesome. His solo on “Stairway” was outstanding.

Led Zeppelin demonstrated a very high level of musicianship and were extremely exciting to watch. Plant did not look hobbled at all. He was all over the place. Having not seen them live before, I had nothing but the movie to compare, but it had edits and did not focus only on Plant. (It was pointed out in one of Hilburn’s articles from earlier in the tour that Plant needed to do a few shows to break in his ankle [no pun intended.])

Many thanks to Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant for their music, performances and artistry. I am forever grateful that I got to see the band live and that bootleggers taped all those concerts! And sadly, my hunch was correct: that summer was the last we’d all see of Led Zeppelin.

T. Westbrook
Los Angeles CA