Today in 1970 Zeppelin played the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Canada. The 17,500 fans set a new attendance record, and Zeppelin grossed $93,000. But it sounds like the reviewer just didn’t get it; the review wasn’t exactly glowing…
The Montreal Forum and promoter Donald K. Donald probably established two new records last night: approximately 17,500 people (the largest crowd yet) paid their way into the Forum to hear Led Zeppelin (the loudest rock group yet). And Led Zeppelin laid it on. For more than two hours, the British foursome sprayed the crowd with their painfully loud brand of blues – a harsh, frantic sound achieved through the combined efforts of John Bonham on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and organ, Jimmy Page on guitar and lead singer Robert Plant.
On record, Zeppelin have carved their own niche in the pop world, grounding their original blues tunes with heavy drumming and booming bass lines, topping them off with Plant’s high-pitched screech and Page’s gymnastic, highly-gimmicked freeform guitar.
The effect is stunning. Although there is a sameness to much of Zeppelin’s material, the interplay among the group has produced some fine, sensitive music. Last night, Led Zeppelin had to prove they could do it all in a live performance. They failed, but it was a splendid failure. As Robert Plant sings, “been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true”, Zeppelin did all the right things last night, but in the wrong order. The result was a concert top-heavy in technique and low on funk.
This is a group of great virtuosity, but the talent should never be allowed to overcome the music. What came across at the Forum was more expertise than honest excitement; a tired, almost automatic performance that hardly did justice to the two Zeppelin albums.
Jimmy Page is a talented guitarist. His nearly classical technique and imaginative use of electronic effects and accessories (e.g., a violin bow) gives the group its snaring sound. But last night’s guitar solos seemed vain attempts at instant orgasm, with Page sacrificing honest involvement for dazzling finger work. His intentions were clear but the music didn’t quite make it. Plant’s singing suffered much the same fate. Occasionally, and on Heartbreaker in particular, he and Page traded moaning phrases with a touch of the interplay that characterizes the best of Zeppelin’s music. But mostly, the singing seemed strained, with Plant losing the tune on more than one occasion.
If the music itself never really moved, the total sound certainly had its effect. The audience was up for this concert (it almost seemed to be the “Spring Prom” for Montreal’s music freaks) and thrilled to the sheer power of Zeppelin’s performance.
With technical assistance from the States, the Forum’s PA system never sounded stronger. No one in the building could have escaped the vibrations. As for me, I can’t hear the keys as I type this. (H. Aronoff, Gazette, April 1970)