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Winterland - April 25, 1969

  • includes: Train Kept a Rollin', You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, As Long As I Have You (incl. Fresh Garbage).
srapallo's picture
on September 20, 2007 - 3:57pm
Rate this show: 
Average: 4.8 (17 votes)
April 25, 1969
San Francisco
CA
United States
us
Setlist: 

includes: Train Kept a Rollin', You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, As Long As I Have You (incl. Fresh Garbage).

Setlists: 

includes: Train Kept a Rollin', You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, As Long As I Have You (incl. Fresh Garbage).

Comments

Jonathan Hathaway's picture

There are a handfull of recordings of Led Zeppelin that I have relentlessly pursued in my quest to hear it in the absolute best quality. This is one of them. As short as the recording is, it presents the band in peak power, a hint of what may be the best show of all the early concerts in an era when the band routinely devastated in every appearance.

The show begins with the announcement (from Bill Graham?), "This is... Led Zeppelin!", and proceeds with a killler "Train Kept-a-Rollin' " requiring no warmup time at all, just Zeppelin firing on all cylinders and taking no prisoners. As Great as the whole band is, the star just might be John Paul Jones, who's improvistional bass lines show terrific improvisational genius in every corner. This opener just kills from start to finish, and in the fury of the moment Plant somehow forgets to ever mention the title in the chorus, instead frantically shouting "Sweet Baby's", with utimate enthusiasm.

This is followed by "You Shook Me" from later in the show, and it just slays. Jimmy and Robert always shine on this in these early shows, but this is just sublime. Robert's power is hard to believe, keeping up with anything Jimmy can throw at him. Page uses a echplex during these San Francisco shows, giving the guitar a spacey, psychedelic atmosphere not found in any other recording from the era, and it works perfectly with his slide playing here. His playing is so far beyond what he did with the Yardbirds, it's hard to believe it's only a matter of months since they disbanded.

"Communication Breakdown" is for my money the best live version to be found anywhere, a raging hurricane of power from a band who defined power. Jimmy's improvised intro is once again enhanced by John Paul Jones's kinetic lines creeping way up the neck of his bass. When the band enters the main riff, Plant comes out screaming in perfect early fashion. Jimmy's solo is frantic from start to finish, surely shaking this pre-Woodstock audience into disbelief, until the band crashes into the finale.

"As Long As I Have You" is incomplete, but shows a strong first half. After the tape cuts off, it segues directly into the last chord and farewell from Plant. I'm convinced that more of the concert was taped but not circulated, as nobody could capture only three and a half songs from different parts of the show, including Plant's complete spoken introduction of each song without getting more and editing it down. We can only hope more of this monumental show surfaces someday.

Nobody can match Led Zeppelin during this time in their career. Their improvisational powers are at a peak when they stretched the material from their first album without time limitations. After this tour, they played a number of summer festival shows where they were limited to an hour's length between many other acts. After that, they kept a professional set designed for maximum impact. But in these early sets, they flew by the collecive seats of their pants producing shows of incredible imagination and stamina. The best!

Argenteum Astrum's picture

Sounding very similar to the tape from January 9th at Fillmore West, this tape from the band's second gig of their second visit to the city (and their first performance at the Winterland Ballroom), is much longer in length, being just under 25 minutes. The taper was close to the stage, likely on the floor of the venue, and the resulting recording is a nice listen of an excellent performance. Unfortunately, the last song on the tape, As Long As I Have You, ends after only six minutes. Cuts are present between all four songs, which masks the fact that there are almost certainly songs missing in-between these cuts. This is a given for the simple reason that the entire tape is less than half an hour long, yet it starts with Bill Graham introducing the band, and ends with Plant giving the audience a sincere farewell for the evening. Whether or not the Graham introduction is from the beginning of the 1st set or the beginning of the 2nd set isn't known. But given Plant's farewell, we can assume that the taper was present from the start of at least one of the sets through to the end of the night, save for any additional encores the band may have done. Again, just like that January 9th Fillmore West tape, there is also confusion as to what the actual date of this recording is. And, again, the confusion here is caused by the words that Plant says to the audience. Just before that incomplete version of As Long As I Have You, he says the following: "Last time when we came here was the first ... it was the second gig we ever did in America ... and ... we'd been together about three months, and we were really pleased with the way we went down. If we hadn't have done well here I think we would've shitted ourselves and ran home. And you've done the same for us this time as you did last time. We'd like to say thank you very much, and good night." A simple fact-checking of his statement about the town being the second gig the band ever did in America would effectively rule out San Francisco. The first US gig was on December 26th, 1968 in Denver, with the second in Seattle on December 27th. After those first two, the band played Vancouver and Spokane, with Portland said to have been played as well during that week. From there, in the first week of the new year, the band headed south to California for four nights at the Whisky in Hollywood, before heading up to the Fillmore West in San Francisco the following week. So, unless this tape is from Seattle, Plant's words don't make sense. Thankfully, the mystery here is helped by the fact that this tape starts with that aforementioned introduction by Bill Graham: "...welcome them back from England, this is Led Zeppelin." Graham's introduction on the tape weighs in heavy on this debate. In fact, so heavy, that even though we can never be entirely sure about these types of things, it pretty much settles the date. During this era, Graham had yet to begin promoting concerts outside of his own venues in the Bay Area and New York. So, for his voice to appear on this tape immediately identifies San Francisco or New York as the location. However, the sound of Page's guitar on this tape matches with the echo-heavy and fuzzed-out sound he used in San Francisco in April. By the time the band reached New York in May, Page will have gotten rid of that constant echo and fuzz sound, and will have switched over exclusively to his Les Paul. So, that's two points for this tape being from San Francisco. Not definitive proof, but pretty close. As for which day in San Francisco, April 26th and 27th are automatically out due to the fact that we already have complete recordings from both nights. As well, the first night back in town, April 24th, is also out, as that show starts with As Long As I Have You, which the band can be heard playing on this tape from April 25th. Unlike shows at other venues on the tour, where the band played to separate audiences at separate early and late shows, at Fillmore West and Winterland, the band played to the same audience the entire night. And during this period, we have no record of them repeating any songs within the same night at any of the other dates they played in town. Which ultimately asks the question as to why Plant would make such statement. The easiest answer probably being that he was merely being sentimental and appreciative to the audience. San Francisco was an important town for the band during this period. The gigs that the band gave there, especially during that week of April, are among the finest that they ever gave. So, given that connection, what's wrong with a little white lie amongst friends? So, I think this recording is indeed from San Francisco, at Winterland, April 25th, 1969. Even though the recording is so short and fragmentary, it is still a wonderful slice, highlighting a caliber of playing that is right up there with the other nights of the run. Plant's voice is fantastic, in glorius high range, and Page's playing actually sounds even better than it would the next night.

 

Hopefully, one day more of this tape will circulate (if there indeed is any more).

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