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How I wish that all concert reviews were written with such enthusiasm as this one! Worth reading for anyone wondering how a great concert review looks like.
Hail Hail Rock n` Roll
Nick Kent on the Zeppelin on-stage spectacular
“There have been two or three truly magic gigs – umm – Bath was one of them.
“That was quite incredible because everything seemed to be right for us. The energy there was quite phenomenal.”
Jimmy Page is talking about the Led Zeppelin concert experience.
“Our gigs usually work up out to last around 2 1/2 to three hours. I think the longest we ever played was 4 1/2 hours, which was another of those magic occasions.
“It was never really a conscious thing that we`d play for so long, it was a gradual process of building up material.
“Someone would want to play this and someone else would throw in a suggestion and eventually we had all this material, both electric and acoustic.
“And then there were the numbers like `Dazed And Confused` and `Whole Lotta Love` which come out different every time.”
No one introduces Led Zeppelin to the hordes, before they come on. There are never any warm-up acts either: the blinding mass of electronic equipment littering the stage is statement enough of what is about to occur.
The audience have all washed their hair and look eager enough so…it`s one for the money two for the show, three to get ready, now…
The band saunter on. Page, dressed in black and looking majestically evil, plugs in while Plant displays his definitive pretty-boy English rock`n`roll star looks and physique under the main spotlight for the first time.
He stands there for a second, looking breathtakingly beautiful rather like a choirboy possessed by the spirit of early Gene Vincent and then, no messing around, Page hits the first power chords of “Rock `n Roll” with perfection.
The rock ritual has begun and we`re all away. Tonight there are going to be no spectators. And what a song.
Recorded in no more than 15 minutes for “Led Zeppelin 4” it burns up the first few minutes splendidly and before you can discover what hit you, the band drive on into “Black Dog”, which must stand as the ultimate Led Zeppelin heavy riff number, beating even the Plant orang-utang histrionics of “Whole Lotta Love.”
God, but it`s so brash that it works as perfect rock `n` roll, never for a moment sounding bland or lacklustre.
Plant never overpowers the stage – he picks his spot and drives the song home with that shrieking voice of his taking deadly aim.
The big surprise of this tour, though, is Page, who`s up and rockin` alongside the Lemon Squeeze Kid.
While Plant tends to move in curves with the emphasis on the hips, Page seems more deranged, doing knee-bends, thrusting out and using the guitar-neck as a bayonet.
He even moves like a demon when playing his weighty twin-neck guitar, flashing weird evil grins when the mood takes him.
But he never leaves one in any doubt that he is total master of his axe.
We all love Jeff Beck for his inspired craziness and Eric Clapton for his transcendental tastefulness and fluidity, but Page is the man to lend an ear to for guitar dynamics and sheer gut drive.
He never lets up, soldiering his guitar to the rhythm section of Bonham`s thrashing and Jones` fine bass to one finely wrought metallic sound.
On “Misty Mountain Hop” he provides the dynamics for Plant to bounce his vocals off, beating out that tricky time signature, and then straight into “Since I`ve Been Loving You”, the obligatory blues number.
He sets your teeth on edge, in fact, with these mighty lead riffs.
It`s around this time that you realise that the Zeps are the ace heavy band.
I mean, let`s be serious, kids – put away all that Black Sabbath wastage and all that hysterically bland cross-influence Curved Air stuff.
This is the teenage band.
For a start, they play music and they`re – wait for it – tasteful about it. The acoustic set finds Plant and Page seated for “Bron-y-aur Stomp” and another number which makes this the shortest non-electric sequence the band have done.
(Where have “That`s The Way” and “Goin` To California” gone, asks oneself quitely).
Actually, the band`s real peaks come when they play their gentler compositions electrically to hold the balance of dynamics together more effectively.
A new composition “The Song Remains The Same” drives on with Page mingling major and minor chords to dazzling effect and Bonham thrashing his kit with a vengeance.
The song sounds almost like Yes in construction, with the emphasis on the dexterity of rock `n` roll, and then the song breaks to accommodate a luxurious Page chord passage which heralds the performance of “Rain Song”, another newie.
Plant sings elongated lethargic phrases over the minor chords while John Paul Jones moves to mellotron to amplify the sounds.
By the end of the number – a “Stairway to Heaven” type of epic work – the band sound like a full-blown orchestra.
Next up is “Dancing Days”, the third introduction to the fifth Led Zeppelin album repertoire, this time an unselfconscious rocker celebrating school holidays and general teenage liberation, packing none of the bland aspects to be found in Alice Cooper`s self-style anthem “School`s Out”.
Plant is moving around again shaking his lion`s mane of golden curls and being his rockingly precocious best.
And now it`s – gasp – time for that one the audience has been bellowing for coarsely since the first number – the Page piece de resistance – a great work of teasing rock `n` roll frustration if there ever was.
Plant oohs and aahs through the vocals leaving the show open to Page and his magic violin-bow.
Many eerie futuristic scrapping sounds are emitted from the guitar and the number is climaxed by Page slapping the bow against the strings to spectacular effect and pointing the bow at the audience evil-magician style.
All great stuff and the kids love every minute of it. Here is, after all, a band who know how to put on a good rockin` show.
To prove their point the Zeps pull the ace from their sleeve and go into the introduction of “Stairway To Heaven”, which must be the band`s finest musical achievement.
This is the one and audience, band and rock critic alike know it.
Again, Page never puts a foot wrong, the notes are always precise, the tone of his playing is always clear.
Plant excels himself here, free-forming on certain parts, bending notes and ad-libbing to great effect as he builds on where Bonham starts coming in on drums.
Then the song starts to take a majestic shape, sailing on until it breaks loose into the final part with everyone giving the final gasp as Plant sings “To Be A Rock and Not to Roll”. Supreme live experience rock `n` roll.
Well what can a poor boy do now but drive on into another golden oldie.
No more Lemon Squeezing, so it`s time for what must be THE chrominium-plated heavy rocker of the `60s, sharing the title with “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen – “Whole Lotta Love.”
Now here is a pulp classic if ever there was – inane as they come, and directly influenced by the Small Faces “You Need Love” which was in turn influenced by…well, you name it…and it`s classic punk rock.
You can almost hear the acne swell on the faces of these mean teens as Page hits the first mind-curdling chords of what is, indisputedly, a gorgeously blatant piece of cock rock.
Here is the song that, more than any other, the band are known for, which isn`t so bad.
I mean, how many bands can claim to have a song which transcends being just another rock `n` roll song to become a symbol of everything we`ve ever known and loved as rock `n` roll?
The band barnstorm straight through it, stopping just before the end to go into a medley of good ole` rock`n`roll.
Anything can be performed in the inimitable Zep style at this juncture of the proceedings and to make no bones about it, the band show they mean business by kicking off with “Blue Suede Shoes”.
Robert Plant`s two ultimate heroes are Presley and Gene Vincent even when he talks enthusiastically about such as Arthur Lee and Neil Young, and here he is now, the original white boy with a rock `n` roll soul, pumping out the greatest rocker of `em all.
From there it`s anyone`s guess, but it`s “Let`s Have A Party” – “Some People like to rock…Some people like to roll.”
You must know all about it. A few tentative verses of “Let The Boy Rock`N`Roll” follow, to be capped with a merciless rendition of “Bee-Bop-a-Lula” which has Plant doing his best Vincent impersonation.
It`s one more verse of “Whole Lotta Love” and then off to be followed by three separate encores, first “Heartbreaker”, second a new song called “The Ocean”. “This is about you” says Plant, matter-of-factly to the audience, and finally, a long version of “Thank You” with John Paul Jones excelling on mellotron.
So what can you do after one truly satisfying rock`n`roll concert? The audience looks wiped-out and leave slowly.
The Zeps seem relatively un-exhausted and relaxed and sign the occasional autograph book.
One character, probably 16 with a slight moustache, scruffy denims and skull-cap, gets to shake Jimmy Page`s hand and gets so overcome by the honour he starts crying.
Outside the hall, a bunch of young kids, mostly male, babble on excitedly about the concert.
“I mean…like, I saw Emerson, Lake and Palmer two weeks ago…and, like, they`re good musicians and all…but Led Zeppelin…y`know.
We all knew. Hail, hail Rock `n Roll!
They had a points system to measure popularity based on chart positions in 1972. This was the year that Slade became more popular than T. Rex. Led Zeppelin is not on this list, but they were never a singles band, so in reality I guess this list gives the wrong impression about actual popularity.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Wishbone Ash, Rolling Stones, King Crimson, Elton John, Fairport Convention, Uriah Heep, Joan Armatrading, Frankie Miller, Rick Wakeman meets Moog, Michael Tait (Super-roadie for Yes), Merry Clayton.
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