October 28, 1972
includes: Rock and Roll, Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I've Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love (medley incl. Let's Have a Party, I Need Your Love Tonight, Heartbreak Hotel).
Review: Led The Good Times Roll
Last weekend Led Zeppelin played a couple of concerts in sleepy Montreux. I saw both shows. Ask any of the 4,000 fans who came from as far afield as Germany, France and Italy and they’ll tell you straight: Zep knocked spots off their many rivals with the ease of true professionals. They’ve been in the game too long to let fashions worry them.
Zeppelin are a tremendous live force. They’ve lost none of the energy that characterizes a band who need to work to gain recognition, but the energy has matured into a confidence that allows them to spring off into spontaneous directions during their shows.
A nod, a wink, a drum roll or a wave of a fretboard and Zeppelin can turn a number back on its heels into songs totally unexpected. Who would imagine, for example, that Whole Lotta Love could end up as Heartbreak Hotel? It can and it does when Zeppelin fly.
But we’ll start at the beginning: Both shows – on Saturday and Sunday – were sellouts, a fact which seems superfluous to mention, but have to remember Zeppelin haven’t been around these parts lately. And there was a minimum of advertising.
Swiss promoter, Claude Nobs, a man who has brought so much contemporary music to Switzerland, was in London last week to tie up the deal with Zeppelin’s management, and the group have a soft spot for Claude.
Montreux is a wonderfully peaceful town, nestling by the side of Lake Geneva in the shadow of huge snowcapped mountains. It’s a picture postcard in real like – so what better place than here for Zeppelin to warm up for a possible British tour at the end of the year?
The town was deserted on Saturday morning, but the streets gradually filled during the afternoon until the area around the Casino was tight with fans. They’d come from all over Switzerland and from even further afield.
They packed the hall a full half-hour before the concert was due to start, and they built up a hot sweaty atmosphere that anticipates a certain feeling that something is going to happen. It happened, all right.
It happened shortly after Nobs announced – in English – that Led Zeppelin were the greatest rock and roll band in the world, a description taken for granted by many, but which suits only a few. That night Zeppelin deserved the title.
Messrs Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham ran on and zipped into their music with no hesitation. Three straight rockers open the proceedings – Rock and Roll, Black Dog and Over the Hills and Far Away, but notice how the music flows from the group naturally instead of being forced.
Misty Mountain Hop flows into Since I’ve Been Loving You without a stop – a complete change of rhythm and mood – that must have taken hours to perfect, and it’s in this bluesy track where Page excels.
It’s a well known fact that he has the technical ability to play better than most, but the feeling comes out here as well. And Plant’s tortured vocals tear into the number that must be one of the best they’ve ever produced.
From here the set builds and builds. There’s a new number, Dancing Days and there’s the acoustic break for the stomping Bron-Y-Aur Stomp where Page’s skills are given yet more rein.
They move into an overture (The Song Remains the Same / Rain Song) with classical overtones, a sort of orchestral piece where John Paul Jones’ organ seers above the echo effects of Page’s guitar and John Bonham strikes his kettle drum to add a pounding drama to the piece. It’s not so much a number as a chunk of music designed to build into a cacophony of sounds.
Dazed and Confused is the next step up Zeppelin’s ladder and their current version lasts well over 20 minutes. It features Page with violin bow and echo effects which only goes to underline the man’s mastery with the guitar.
It’s Page’s trademark to swop plectrum for bow, and the effect is stunning, at the first hearing yet striking on transformed from larger than life numbers into basic rock and roll.
Stairway to Heaven follows and here Page uses a double-necked guitar to bring out the emphasis of another Zep spectacular. It’s another builder that climbs so high one wonders how it can be followed. The answer is simple: Whole Lotta Love, the Zeppelin anthem that must rank as the best known hard-rock of all time.
Here the climax comes, because here Zeppelin are doing what they revel in. They’ve proved themselves with the complicated, sophisticated numbers and here the fun starts.
Whole Lotta Love moves through a brief history of rock and roll, with Robert Plant taking his audience through the inspiration of Zeppelin and amateurs alike: Elvis Presley.
Remember “Let’s Have a Party”? Zeppelin haven’t forgotten, their version sounds remarkable like the original. Remember “I Need Your Love Tonight”? Zep do. Each number flows at the drop of a hat, and you get the impression that this medley is going on forever. Remember “Heartbreak Hotel”? Jimmy Page hasn’t forgotten those licks and he can reproduce them as easily as Robert Plant remembers the words.
Eventually it has to end and the closing Lotta Love riff is still echoing around the hall as the exhausted band leave the stage. Ten minutes clapping provokes an encore – Heartbreaker with that inimitable little guitar solo in the middle that Page throws at the audience using his left hand only.
Sunday’s concert at Montreux followed the same pattern of Saturday’s, and if anything, was better for the experience of the previous day. (C. Charlesworth, MelodyMaker, Nov. ’72)