Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Empire Strikes Back (Wembley London, November 1971)


Wembley Arena, London, England – November 20th, 1971

Disc 1 (60:21): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Rock and Roll, Stairway to Heaven, Going to California, That’s the Way, Tangerine

Disc 2 (56:41): Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, Celebration Day, Moby Dick

Disc 2 (24:06): Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin’s first London shows after the release of the fourth LP were two at the Wembley Arena billed Electric Magic. These were two five hour long extravaganzas with many opening acts like Stone The Crows and performing animals on stage. Nearly 10,000 tickets were sold out within an hour before the second night was added. Empire Strikes Back presents the almost complete tape for the first night.

It is a distant and distorted but listenable recording. There is a cut in at 23:52 in “Dazed And Confused” and one after “Whole Lotta Love” eliminating the encores “Communication Breakdown,” “Thank You” and whatever else they chose to play. The earliest releases of the show include The Electric Magic Show (Mad Dogs-033/34), Magik (Tarantura EM-001, 2), and Electric Magic Show(Apple No. 376) on CDR. These three were all missing missing “Immigrant Song” and most of “Whole Lotta Love” and the Tarantura and Apple were also missing “Tangerine” and most of “Moby Dick.” 2352

In 2003 Electric Magic Show Definitive Edition(Electric Magic EMC-023 A/B) was released with contained ”Dancing Days” from the December 23rd, 1972 London show and “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Celebration Day” switched places. Empire Strikes Back has all of the known tape from the show in the correct order and without the inserted faux-”Dancing Days.” For silver pressed editions, this stands as the definitive statement of the Electric Magic show at Wembley.

The press were very enthusiastic for this performance. Melody Maker claimed “the atmosphere almost leaps off the stage. Led Zeppelin performed Friday night and 9,000 of them put their hands above their heads and got their Saturday night rocks off” and NME writes that this is “What the true essence of rock and roll is about.”

Despite the plaudits received, this is a good show but Zeppelin sound too uptight for it to be a magical night. There are some embaressing moments too such as the loud bum note at the end of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” The were contending with various factors such as the length of the show and the temperature in the venue. In fact, Plant’s first words to the audience are “are you cold?”

Things do warm up as the show progresses however, especially with very heavy version of “Black Dog” and “Stairway To Heaven,” two newer numbers. But the acoustic set in the middle is truly intimate and a highlight of the set. By the winter UK tour they had added “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” but that is dropped from the set this night, so the acoustic set is three songs long instead of two.

There is a bit of a “technical hitch” before they proceed with “Dazed And Confused” which still holds similarities to the version played in the BBC the previous April including the spaced out coda. “Moby Dick” makes a rare appearance in the set since it has been dropped for this particular tour. ”Whole Lotta Love” lasts twenty-five minutes and includes the normal songs in the medley with “Boogie Chillun’,” “Hello Mary Lou” and ending with “Going Down Slow.”

Empire Strike Back is limited to 150 numbered copies. The discs are enclosed in a thick tri-fold cardboard sleeve which is housed in a box with the same cover design ad the sleeve and with a T-shirt, much in the same design as the Winterland boxset. Given this the sound quality and this is the only silver release with the complete tape, this stands as definitive (until another tape surfaces).

March 18, 2013 - Posted by | Led Zeppelin Empire Strike Back | ,

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