September 5, 1971
Chicago, IL US
Includes: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I've Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, Going to California, That's the Way, Celebration Day, What Is and What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (medley).
Press Review: Led Zeppelin a Downer
Led Zeppelin is the perfect image of the nihilistic, sensual abandon that high-collared clerics used to equate with complete moral anarchy.
The group first rumbled on the scene three years ago with its bone-crushing style of Lead Rock and at one point, it was number-one-selling band in England.
Recently somewhat in eclipse, it is still big enough to draw huge crowds, and Sunday night in the International Ampitheatre, it did its reptilian thing before a frothing sell-out crowd of 12,000 persons.
Lead singer Robert Plant: “Good to see you’re all still here”, which is not entirely accurate, since “all here” is virtually impossible in LZ’s dreary domain. In one mere song for example, they recreate what seems like the entire sound track of World War II, and one can neither think nor communicate under such an assault.
Therein however, lies the appeal. The band is an anesthetic. It dulls all sensibility in a way that alcohol never could.
If a band’s popularity is a measure of its ability to touch something in an audience, then the whole LZ essence should serve as a warning. Masochism is rampant.
Not that Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones aren’t strong musicians. They are (although they’re also bored musicians). It’s just that the kind of music they personify is a dead-end on both musical and spiritual levels.
Musically, LZ’s material is so stylized that it is moribund – a terminal, rococo parody of the vitality at the core of rock music. LZ hasn’t explored, it has ossified. In part, this is the old technician vs. artist rap, but the problem goes deeper.
Affirmation is the soul of rock ‘n’ roll. But the LZ style promotes the opposite, a jaded, decadent, downer materialism. It offers nothing more than cheap sensuality. And even that is tainted with a “go ahead, kid, the first one’s free”, creepiness.
Consequently, LZ is also a spiritual bummer. On Sunday night, I was approached at least five times for “downers” (barbiturates) by hollow-eyed youths. I hate to be the one to say this, but bay, downers stunt your growth. Numbness is nowhere.
Complicating the issue is the undeniable fact that LZ has considerable talent. Bonham’s drum solo Sunday evening was truly electrifying. But it’s not enough.
LZ’s waning popularity is a good sign. It’s just too bad that its influence will continue to haunt us in every lesser band, from Grand Funk to the freshman mixer. [-J. Hafferkamp / Chicago News / Sept. 1971]