Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, CA, USA – 2 June 1973
Disc 1: Opening Anouncements, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, [Bring It On Home Intro/]Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2: Dazed And Confused [inc. San Francisco], Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick
Disc 3: Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love [Inc. The Crunge/Boogie Chillen’], Communication Breakdown, The Ocean, Bill Graham Outroduction
This massive outdoor show, played in front of 50,000 people, was intended to be the final concert of the first part of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 American Tour, leading onto a break of just over a month before the itinerary resumed in Chicago on 6 July. It was supposed to follow two shows at the Inglewood Forum on 30 and 31 May (the latter, of course, oft-bootlegged as Bonzo’s Birthday Party) , though the first of these shows was rescheduled for the day after the Kezar Stadium event due to Jimmy Page injuring a finger. The Kezar concert was a daytime show and Led Zeppelin were supported by Roy Harper, The Tubes and Lee Michaels.
The show appeared on LP as Persistence (Roon Dog) and there has since been a plethora of CD releases. Four songs from the show (Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown and The Ocean) appear on Led Zeppelin: The Butterqueen (Unbelievable) and the complete show features on Vibes Are Real (Continental Sounds), Takka Takka (Tarantura), Persistence Kezar (Holy), Persistence (Cobla), Two Days After (Immigrant), Best Vibes In Frisco (Jelly Roll), Who’s Next? (TDOLZ), and The Grateful Lead (Tarantura). The tape does have small cuts in No Quarter, Dazed And Confused and a far more substantial one in Moby Dick, which excises the majority of the number. In 2001 a soundboard fragment lasting a little under half-an-hour and including approximately fifteen minutes of the drum solo, appeared on Imperial Kezar (Electric Magic), edited with the audience recording. The following year a further half-hour surfaced, giving us the complete performance of Moby Dick and running to the conclusion of the show. The soundboard tape was released on Led Five (Empress Valley) and Vibes Are Real (Watch Tower). Wendy’s issue, Mary Kezar, a three-CD set featuring the complete audience recording supplemented by the hour-long soundboard excerpt, was reviewed by gsparaco in April 2010. Wendy has recently reissued Mary Kezar in new packaging, featuring the same photograph as the new Godfather release on the front cover.
Led Zeppelin arrived extremely late for their performance and hurried on to the stage, only to find the start of the show held up by an equipment malfunction, so we hear Robert Plant talking to the audience for a while, before deciding to leave the stage. “Well, thank you very much for a great show,” he jokes, “we’ll see you in five minutes.” “‘Rock and Roll’ finally commenced the proceedings,” writes Dave Lewis in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, “The band were a bit sluggish to start with, but didn’t take long to warm up.” The start of the show made a greater impression on attendee Gary Hodges, contributor to the website Brit Rock By the Bay, who remembers, “suddenly Led Zeppelin stormed on, opening with ‘Rock and Roll.’ The sound was huge and crisp – it almost felt warm.” Keith Shadwick, author of Led Zeppelin: A Band And Their Music 1968-2000, also detects no sign of sluggishness, calling it “a barnstorming version,” and it sounds suitably frenzied to my ears.
The tremendous momentum is maintained with a crunching Celebration Day and a thunderous Black Dog which here, as elsewhere on the tour, gains a few bars of Bring It On Home as an introduction. After all this mayhem, things calm down temporarily with the relatively subdued start of Over The Hills And Far Away, which Plant states, is “about the passage of man up and down the track.” During the heavier, almost brutal, latter part of the song, Plant makes his customary reference to ”Acapulco gold,” and prior to Misty Mountain Hop he goes on to comment on the smell of marijuana drifting up on to the stage, saying “smells good up here, it’s all going in the right direction.” At this point an enormous joint was thrown on to the stage, and we hear Plant stating that he will save for later.
Since I’ve Been Loving You is a very effective performance with an excellent vocal turn by Plant and atmospheric keyboards from John Paul Jones. As well as being an excellent performance in its own right, the song acts as an effective prelude to a ten-minute No Quarter, which, as Lewis puts it, “was developing into a showpiece all of its own.” With Jones, as Hodges puts it, “playing moody electric piano,” the song comes across as splendidly mysterious and dramatic in this performance. Dave Anderson, on the Underground Uprising website regards it as a “killer version,” and Argenteum Astrum, both on his Led Zeppelin Database website and on the band’s official site, argues that it is “one of the best 1973 versions” of this number.
Then we hear the two numbers which open Houses Of the Holy, then the band’s latest album. As I stated in my review of Godfather’s The American Return, the two songs complement each other effectively, for, as Jimmy Page stated in an interview with Guitar World in 1993, The Song Remains The Same ”was originally going to be an instrumental – an overture that led into ‘The Rain Song.’” Before The Song Remains The Same Plant makes scathing references to the press, referencing “a paper that’s published on the west coast that always seems to criticize poor old English groups,” and ironically dedicating the song, “to the musical papers that think we should remain a blues band.” The Rain Song is beautifully executed here, and it constitutes a splendid conclusion to the first disc, marred only by what seems to be an equipment problem which results in a few seconds of loud and horrible noise near the end. “I’m sorry about that strange, er, whatever it was,” says Plant.
A repeat of that sentence opens disc two, though now we hear Plant go on to say, “it really blew it, it really blew it. It could have been a lot nicer without it.” Returning to the subject of the press he then says, “Right, anyway, that was one of those things that we keep getting criticized for doing [laughs]. After five years of evolving, I think we can do a few things like that now and again.” Dazed And Confused is then introduced as, “an oldie but gooie that you might remember.” It is played in a superb version, stretching to half-an-hour, which brilliantly highlights the interplay of the musicians. As Argenteum Astrum comments both on his Led Zeppelin Database and on Zeppelin’s website, “Dazed And Confused is one of the best versions ever with Bonham and Jones going crazy at the end with the complex rhythms.” “Everything is played with extreme confidence,” asserts Anderson, “especially Dazed, with the rhythm section playing guessing games with Page.” I suspect that he tortured, menacing sounds Page wrings from his guitar with the violin bow are the source of Hodges’ description of this renditon as, “very psychedelic.” Tony Gassett, on Underground Uprising, rightly contends that Page is “on top form” here. Before this, an instrumental section that would later resurface on Achilles’ Last Stand leads into Plant singing a snippet of Scott MacKenzie’s 1967 hit San Francisco.
Stairway To Heaven follows, providing another indisputable highlight of the show. Hodges states that, “Jimmy Page played his red Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck guitar during a monumental version of ‘Stairway to Heaven.’” This is another song on which Gassett maintains that Page is “on top form,” and another of Anderson’s “killer versions.” Disc two then concludes with what gsparaco rates as a “very exciting” rendition of Moby Dick, with John Bonham demonstrating his astounding virtuosity on the drums for in excess of twenty-seven minutes.
A storming version of Heartbreaker, complete with lengthy guitar work from Page, opens the third disc and this is followed by an equally exciting Whole Lotta Love. The latter song was pruned back after the European dates earlier in the year, the band largely dispensing with the lengthy medleys and including just The Crunge and John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillen’ during most shows of the American Tour. The first encore is a blistering Communication Breakdown and then the show closes with The Ocean, the third song from the show to feature among Anderson’s “killer versions.” The event, and disc three, conclude with an “outroduction” from promoter Bill Graham.
This is a tremendous show, which as gsparaco contends, “is a great performance all around by the band…They play one of the most laid back yet slick concerts that summer.” Other commentaters are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Lewis states that, “the band turned in a superb performance, one of the most memorable outdoor appearances of their career.” Gassett calls it a “generally superb show,” and Anderson rates it, “one of the best from this period.” Hodges states that, “they were at the peak of their career – relaxed and confident, solid and tight, yet also taking chances.” David Miller, Assistant Editor/Photo Editor of Brit Rock By The Bay, writes, “musically, it was a great concert. Led Zeppelin were at their best.” Dan Cuny, a contributor to that site, adds that, “throughout their set, I was mesmerized by the showmanship of the band. It was truly one of the best performances I have ever seen.” Tee, posting on the official Led Zeppelin website, argues that, “it was excellent…the show itself was just spectacular in every respect.” Pete MacDonald adds that, “to this day this concert ranks, by far, as the most amazing performance by musicians I’ve ever seen,” and Matt Roberts calls it a “seminal show.” Also on the band’s site, in addition to his own, Argenteum Astrum enthuses, “a really big outdoor festival show and one of the greatest concerts ever! The sound is amazing and Robert’s voice is very powerful…he screams and gets right up there for perhaps the last time in his career…his range would be lessened on the following tours…The entire band shines on this show…and the entire show is excellent!”
The press did not necessarily agree. Philip Elwood, writing in the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, argues that, “the quartet’s performance lacked the dynamic spark of earlier local presentations. Plant’s vocals and bodily gyrations seemed tired and routine, and drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones had trouble solidifying their back-up sounds in in the early going.” Such a lacklustre performance might have resulted, if Rolling Stone is to be believed, from the band’s financial motives in playing to such a large audience; the magazine states that, “Zeppelin are back doing what they do best – converting heavy metal into dollars.” Comments such as these are perhaps unsurprising, given the negative attitude shown towards the band by large section of the press at the time, particularly in the USA. As Danny Goldberg, the band’s press agent at the time, points out, “the rock critics were brutal to Led Zeppelin.” One who was most certainly not was Charles Shaar Murray, who wrote in the UK music paper New Musical Express that, “Led Zeppelin and 50,000 San Francisco people got together to provide one of the finest musical events I’ve ever had the privilege to attend…altogether a magical concert…a revelation.”
For a tape recorded in an open-air venue amidst an audience of fifty thousand people in 1973, the sound quality is very impressive. As gsparaco (who considers the sound quality “excellent”) points out in his review of the Wendy release, “the taper was very close to the stage and is able to capture every little detail emanating from the stage that afternoon.” All audience-sourced releases derive from the same tape; most are broadly similar and are rated as “excellent” by Argenteum Astrum on Led Zeppelin Database. However, Persistence Kezar (Holy) is clearly inferior in terms of sound. It is rated as merely “good to very good” by Argenteum Astrum, who states, “this is the worst sounding of all June 2, 1973 releases.” Susumu Omi, on Underground Uprising, is even blunter, stating, “HORRIBLE!..sound quality is much more inferior to both ‘Persistence’ [LP] and ‘Vibes are Real.’” The latter release also has its problems. As Ingham points out, Continental Sounds ”used fairly high generation tapes that ran 3% too slow” and also failed to present the songs in the correct running order. (For further detailed and specific comparison of the various releases, see the Title Comparisons section of the BootLedZ website.)
Of the Wendy release, gsparaco goes on to point out that, “the audience tape sounds as good as the other releases…Wendy did slow the tape down a bit to be closer to the actual pitch. Likewise the soundboard recording does not sound harsh as the previous two titles.” Godfather’s A Celebration For Being Who You Are presents the audience tape with the soundboard only being utilized to fill gaps where appropriate, including the Bill Graham outroduction, which the taper did not capture. This decision emanated from the label’s desire to maintain “the same atmosphere” throughout the show. When details of the Godfather appeared on the Recent Updates page of his Led Zeppelin Database website, Argenteum Astrum stated, “the title presents a mix of audience and soundboard sources and is reported as a truly definitive and speed/pitch corrected version of this excellent show.” Posting a comment on the News & New Releases section of CMR Argenteum Astrum goes on to say that, “this is a huge…improvement over few past titles, such as ‘Mary Kezar’ (Wendy) or ‘Imperial Kezar’ (Electric Magic). The sound isn’t amplified, the speed/pitch seems to be corrected and splice between audience and soundboard are done in a truly perfect way, not missing any note from actual show!” Godfather states that work has been done on the tape to eliminate fluctuations in sound and to reduce wind problems, an obvious potential hazard with an outdoor concert. The cut/edit a little before twenty-two minutes in Dazed And Confused (which seems to excise no actual music) is still noticeable but a little less jarring. The overall result is a full, clear and dynamic sound which results in a satisfying listening experience.
A Celebration For Being Who You Are comes in Godfather’s customary tri-fold sleeve, which features photographs from the show, including two of Plant holding one of the white doves released during the band’s set. The colouring is quite bright with the track listing on the back given a deep yellow background and the photograph of Jimmy Page on the front being rainbow-hued. There is a foldover, four-panel booklet with further onstage shots and brief notes, based largely on Lewis’ book, credited to “Paul De Luxe.”
Overall, this set, which features a stunning performance, the best sound yet for the audience tape and very attractive packaging, is another exemplary Led Zeppelin release from Godfather. It would be terrific if the label went on to supplement it with its own version of the soundboard segment.