Led Zeppelin History – May 17

This week in 1975 85,000 people attended Zeppelin’s five massive shows at the Earls Court arena in London. Clocking in at almost 4 hours, these were some of Zeppelin’s longest performances. The May 25 show would be the last Led Zeppelin concert of 1975, and the last ever performance of “Dazed and Confused” (it was dropped from live sets after this).

Setlist: Rock and Roll, Sick Again, Over the Hills and Far Away, In My Time of Dying, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song, Kashmir, No Quarter, Tangerine, Going to California, That’s the Way, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick, Dazed and Confused (incl. Woodstock), Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog.

There are moments during Zeppelin’s colorful, sometimes psychedelic, non-stop 240-minute show in Earls Court (the Rolling Stones do 50 minutes or less), when Jimmy Page’s searing guitar, carried by 60,000 watts of power, cuts right through the senses like some fast-acting drug and virtually blots out everything but the music. And with lead singer Robert Plant looking like some demented Shirley Temple – thick blond hair falling in ringlets across his shoulders, blouse slashed open to the navel, neck and arms adorned with jewelry and a Bardot pout to his lips – this in its field is one of the most astonishing examples of pure theatre I have ever seen anywhere.

Up there on stage, flanked by 40 tons of equipment that is generating enough light to illuminate Piccadilly Circus, Page in his black velvet suit embroidered with gold dragons allows a smile to flicker across a weary face. And 17,000 people burst into applause as he picks out the intro for Stairway to Heaven, one Zeppelin’s most popular numbers. In contrast, the group’s keyboard player and bassist John Paul Jones is a shy, intense introvert who two years ago seriously considered giving up rock to apply for the job of chief organist at Winchester Cathedral. He remains in the shadows laying down excellent sounds to form with John Bonham the rhythmic platform for Plant and Page’s exotic excesses.

“When Led Zeppelin are peaking, then kiss your skull goodbye!”… or so they say! (R. Gilchrist, May 20, 1975)


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