Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Madison Square Garden 19th September 1970
“On Sept.19th, 1970, I attended one of many shows that came to the New York and Philadelphia area of the U.S. Although I have many detailed memories of all the shows ranging from Philly ’69 to Philly ’76, I am constantly reminded (based on other reviews and memories I’ve read about) about how unique the afternoon, 2 pm show at Madison Square Garden was on the aforementioned date.
After being hopelessly addicted to live Zep after a Philly show in early ’69, where they were still doing the very flashy premiere shows with the then mysterious Immigrant Song flowing right into the monstrous Dazed and Confused…..Jimmy doing his “sit down” numbers Black Mountain Side and White Summer…etc., my best friend and I (both just 15 ) learned of a new third album to be released very soon. in late summer of ’70, my older brother (who just returned home after a stay in Vietnam with the Army), told my friend and I that a local AM radio station – yes…AM…… had received a promo 45rmp pre release of the song Gallows Pole. My brother knew the director at the station and by that evening we had the record in our hands and on a record player. We all sat there listening very seriously and somewhat wondering about what we were hearing. We couldn’t help but wonder what was in store with the third LP, based on this promo record.
The next day, as we were driving to a local record shop, on the same AM station, came an almost overwhelming advertisement : “Led Zeppelin next week in New York at MSG – evening show sold out – but tickets remain for an added show at 2 pm that same day”. Needless to say we were on the phone with MSG and making sure that what we heard was for real…. a show way before the expected release date of LZ3! So, after borrowing a cassette tape recorder (sorry – the tapes are lost) from a poor soul who couldn’t go along with us, we took a bus to MSG , hoping to get tickets on the spot when we arrived. Well, tickets we got, and by some stroke of luck, they were 5th row center. We were ready. But not for what came.
About an hour before Showtime, as we sat there in total awe from the events, we saw a dark haired bearded man with a floppy hat (like a hiker or gardener would wear) walk up by the guitar amp area (Marshalls and Orange) . We looked at each other and said at once, “New…..that couldn’t be….. it must be his brother…. or….. new….” . It was. Jimmy had a beard and looked totally different than anything we expected. Jimmy talked with a stage hand about something for a few minutes from behind the amps, but I don’t think anyone else recognized him due to his new look. (At this point, before I review the concert and the unique aspects of it, I should mention that at this point in time, no one in the audience knew about the band members new look, the names of the songs from THREE which were about to be performed, not even the name of IMMIGRANT SONG which was used in previous concert openers from ’69 — due to the fact that there were no internet , and even magazine articles were way behind on new events and up to the moment happenings).
……………So, on with the show !!!!!! ………. At about 2:15 PM , a radio personality from a local NY station walked on stage with the houselights still on and said “From all of us at new FM – peace – and from England and he new survey just taken, the number one most popular group in the World replacing The Beatles …… Led Zeppelin !”The announcer walked off as the lights went down and on walked all four member of the band. As mentioned before, we had a preview of Jimmy with his beard, hat, and blue jeans. Robert we now saw was sporting his “sir guy de guy” swashbuckler moustache/goatee, dressed rather typically for him in tight blue jean bellbottoms and a stretchy knitted top that showed off his middle. John Paul and Bonham were both dressed rather conservative in a way that looked like they were just there to do a few practice numbers…regular men’s casual shirts, very uncommon-like and no glitz at all.
After a few thumps on the bass, a couple of drum whacks and a bit of guitar test notes , within about two minutes Immigrant Song (though we didn’t know it’s name – it wasn’t out yet) started out of no where in tight thunderous fashion. No counting down 1,2,3 or even clicking of drum sticks. And that’s not an easy tune for that to happen right on spot! Looking around , I noticed that there was something very different about this crowd compared to the first ’69 show I saw in Philadelphia……. everyone was seated and staring up at the stage with jaws dropped in awe at who and what was on stage. No jumping around. No screaming. No standing. Not even the smell of marijuana or alcohol in the air. Just a packed arena of early Zep fans that had been totally taken aback by the event that was to be the most unique of all periods in Zepdom. So, from this perspective of uniqueness, (which was made more evident by the passage of these last thirty some years), our new claimants to “fab-fourdom” proceeded to deliver the very best of live music shows.
Overall sound was , to my collective memory of many shows and venues, the most excellent of mix, volume level, and super home audios that I have ever experienced. It was powerful without being ear splitting. Wild without the typical mid-range mush so common even in our new millennium. The sound, the music, the Boys natural presence, the absence of goofy substance abusers acting like the apes from 2001 A Space Odyssey &trying to touch or get near the monolith on stage………..well, I guess you get the picture. It wasn’t the “band playing off the crowd” stuff we hear so much about but rather, Led Zeppelin delivering their goods to the consumers in audience land. This was a delivery. And in much the same way that people come to hear classical music performed at a musical academy – sitting in reverent respect of what is delivered, followed by enthusiastic applause from their hearts, so did this afternoon crowd of respectful LZ fans. Immigrant Song flowed into Heartbreaker (hey, we knew the name of this one!!!) and Jimmy gave his usual command performance of guitar improvisation. Funny, but he, as well as his three mates, looked quite sober and visceral for 2 in the afternoon…… considering their reputation for being party boys. Well, they sure weren’t burnt out looking on this day in New York.
With a pause after Heartbreaker, my friend decided to yell out requesting Dazed and Confused. With the lack of usual ambient crowd noise, his yell stood out like a sore thumb. But guess what song was next on their play list anyway? You got it. Plant looked our way and said : “Right>>>> this next one is from way>>>” , John Paul came in with the ominous baseline and my friend and I looked at each other in disbelief. But rather than continue reviewing the rest of the show (the set list can be found in the TABLE tour history pages) I’ll just give a few highlights……. When the folding chairs were put out on stage and acoustic guitars and mandolins appeared, I knew that this show had nothing to do with anything from the raucous early few years. At the time, I was somewhat shocked, but looking back from Jan.2002 , I now realize that these guys had a gift matched by no other pop music group from that time – or even since. Bonham played the bass notes on John Paul’s organ foot petals at the end of That’s The Way. Robert hit freaking’ high notes on the stuff from THREE that I never heard him do ever again in future shows.
Since I’ve Been Loving You gave new hope for the blues edge that was the basis for the band, and the show went on and on and on and on. No opening act. Sound quality to mesmerize. Performance without faking or cover-up. No goofy crowd to distract the worshiper. A set list that was exhaustive for both performer and audience alike repeat with new songs that were never heard before……. sometimes when your lucky enough to have witnessed a show as good as this, you almost have to wonder if you might have dreamed it. But not because of what you may have consumed prior to show or whatever….. but because it was good. It was good.
Finally, at the end when LZ reappeared for an encore, someone up front yelled out for “Hangman” !!!!! My friend and I yelled back at him and said quite proudly ” Hey man , the song’s name is Gallows Pole!!!!”We had the 45rpm solo. We knew.
Oh….sheeeeesh… I almost forgot one other really unique thing about this show……at the acoustic part of the show, Garden personnel allowed people with cameras from about the first ten rows to come up to the front and take pictures !!!!!!!!! Row by row for about fifteen minutes ………….That is definitely something never seen by this guy again.
Another of many LZ shows that I was at was the July ’73 show where they shot film for the TSRTS movie. But for all the reasons I just gave, I chose to offer my memory of this very unique period in time.Cheers to all who read. Double Cheers to those who may have also been there !!!!!!
Craig, Pennsylvania, USA”.
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