Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Chicago April 10th 1977
Concert Memories :: Led Zeppelin :: April 10, 1977
The final night of Zeppelin’s stay in Chicago lands on Easter Sunday, 4/10/77. As a good Catholic boy I attend mass Sunday morning. I had witnessed Jimmy Page fall ill just hours before , which led to the cancellation of Zeppelin’s Saturday concert.. What a dichotomy! I spend my prayer time wondering if Jimmy will make it for tonight’s show. The extra Hail Mary’s pay off as the news is Jimmy’s fit and ready to play.
Saving the best for last, my seats this evening are Box seats 1st row, even with 18th row Main Floor. Because of our seats, a friend of ours lent us his 8mm film camera. The footage that exists of that night was shot by us. As we go to our seats I revel in our good fortune to be so close. The only drawback is that there are a couple disco boys next to us who seem ill-at-ease.
The show begins promptly by Zeppelin standards. The weather has warmed up and so has the playing. It’s evident the minute it goes dark and a mixture of euphoria and flashbulbs engulf the Chicago Stadium. The initial spotlight pinpoints Robert, but astride him is Page in a dark outfit. One note introduces The Song Remains The Same and a blast of light and sound jolt you with every chord accent. My God Almighty! Jimmy Page is dressed in Nazi regalia. Jack boots up to his knees, peaked cap ,black shirt and pants, white scarf, sunglasses and a smoke. Too Fucking much! Happy Easter Jimmy! On top of that he was playing like a demon. All the breaks are executed with conviction. The Rover is spot on leading into Sick Again. Bonzo hammers it out against Page’s slurred and bluesy overbends.
Robert mentions Saturday’s fiasco stating ” Jimmy was rather ill last night. It was only a false pregnancy.” Nobody’s Fault But Mine features a fine harmonica solo by Plant which is similar to the Presence version. I’m very close to Jimmy and with the apparel he’s wearing tonight his guitar does resemble a machine gun. Especially during his rapid-fire and galvanizing solo. As I observe Jimmy’s physique, I notice his arms are bone- thin. Against his black outfit he appeared ghoulishly pale.
In My Time Of Dying is added back to the set tonight and it really kicks ass! I see Jimmy dig into his pants pocket to retrieve his slide and is brought out his Danelectro. Robert treats us to some Chicago blues history before the song’s start. Zeppelin really gel on this one tonight. Jones and Bonham work like a machine, providing the muscle. Robert and Jimmy flying high outfront!
Robert lauds Willie Dixon to the fan’s puzzlement. Most not knowing who the hell he is. Page plays a mesmerizing version of Since I’ve Been Loving You in honor of his blues forefathers. Sheets of notes blend with sustained cries. Yes Sir!
Dry ice billows from the front of the stage as Jonesy does his thing to initiate No Quarter. Wah-Wah and kick drum, Page and Bonham put the pedal to the metal. Robert is spartan in his phrasing and clear, singing powerfully. As JPJ switches to the piano, Page unleashes an enormous tidal wave of sound from his theramin! Jonesy plays a refined and tasty sounding solo, which leads into a rock and roll 50’s boogie with Jimmy and Bonzo. Pagey has reappeared from the shadows donning a white fedora. One minute he’s in the SS, the next in the Mafia. The guy understands theater.The main improv begins and there’s a languid soulfullness to the feel of it, until Jimmy charges it up with some fast and flash playing which leads to Page breaking his high E strung. Jimmy throws up both hands in disgust, taking a second to regroup and proceded to play a totally different solo. Great playing Jimmy! A series of viscious wah wah licks conclude the song.
Robert speaks of light and shade in describing the reasons for including Ten Years Gone in their current set list. Plant praises JPJ’s versatility in playing guitar and bass foot pedals simultaneously. Page’s shimmering notes cut across everything. He is really making amends for last night. Sweeping and beautiful in it’s construction and presentation. A Supreme highlight
. As the band head to the front for the acoustic routine, Robert derides the local rock radio station for accusing Page of being too wasted to play on Saturday. Covering for Jimmy he states, ” Jimmy doesn’t drink, smoke or take women while on tour. So an apology would be nice with a crate of the same alcohol!’ Battle of Evermore is played splendily with dynamism. Going To California provides a soothing and calming effect. And it sounds great too! The acoustic set really emphasizes Robert’s abilities.
Robert keeps hinting at Elvis Presley’s Surrender. Not tonight. Black Country Woman revs up the crowd and Robert puts on a railroad engineer’s cap that a fan has thrown on stage. Page leads the band into his acoustic tour-de-force Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp. With fingers flying and thumb-pick rolling Page plays a gem of a solo. Robert shouts ” Strider! ” to wrap it up.
Without introduction JPJ plunks out the opening clavinet lick of Trampled Under Foot. It had been played opening night as an encore. But tonight, it’s very effective after the subtler acoustic segment. This song is rip-roaring rock and roll. I love it as Page marches around in lockstep with Bonzo’s drum madness! Multi-colored light beams spinning upward from a rotating device behind Jonesy. The middle section features Jimmy in guitar god mode. Sound, structure and intensity meld as one. The peak is attained as Page and Plant perform their Push! Push! climax. This is my personal highlight of the concert.
The exotic White Summer changes the mood entirely. Hunched over his wooden chair, Jimmy seduces clean and resonant melodies from his black and white Danelectro. I now knew Kashmir was next. Page played his cue and turned back at Bonham. Right as Kashmir began Jimmy stood up and kicked his chair back with the heal of his boot. Kashmir sounded so immense and was pure magic, played without error.
Robert comments about how good it’s sounding tonight and contributes it to ” the hats we’ve been wearing!” Over the Top has Robert referring to Bonham as ” The man I call my Brother.” John Bonham never failed to deliver the goods and the same could be said tonight. He tore into it with passion and fury, never losing the crowd. What a gifted musician.
After the drum solo Page reappears in his white satin poppy suit. To the cleaners with the SS gear! Jimmy’s harmonized sound experiments and theramin swoops lead into a edgy and creepy violin bow spectacle. Being so close to Page in his swirling laser pyramid gave you a palpable chill. He had shredded the horsehair off his bow. The image of Page dredging up otherworldly shrieks while Bonzo pummeled his tympani is unforgettable. To myself I had privately hoped they would launch into Dazed and Confused. But as the set had already been established it was again Achilles Last Stand. It sounded tighter and more assured this evening. Nice improvement.
Stairway To Heaven finishes the main set. It is given a heartfelt rendering and is enjoyed thoroughly by the crowd. Page’s Spanish guitar influence is apparent in his solo. Bonzo and Jonesy keep driving it mantra -like. Robert leads the song to it’s conclusion. The band members walk out front and acknowledge the crowd before going backstage. The wait for their return was long. I could tell the crowd was getting a little restless and some were leaving.
Now becoming routine, the encore was again Rock and Roll. Explosions and light flashes were strategically employed. The sound of this version is loud and nasty. A fitting conclusion. One last blast of drum rolls from Bonzo , a final crashing guitar chord and that was it . All over. As they left the stage that night it would be my final glimpse at Led Zeppelin.
I gratefully thank Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham for enhancing my life and so many others in this world. God Bless You.
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