Sunday, June 3rd – My ears have just stopped ringing. I go meet Bob Withers to take us to the concert. We stop by his work, Marie Callender’s on La Tijera, for a quick snack, and then we’re off to the Forum.
When we arrive, we hold our tickets tightly, and we notice one person walking around with a $20 bill hanging high above his head. I’ll never know if he found a ticket.
We walk inside and all the way up to the front row. I take the inside seat, but I notice his seat is directly in front of Jimmy’s amps. I switch with him. My view is unobstructed.
This is very strange! I always expected people to be in front of me, but there is no one! Even the security guard is just off to my right.
Next, Danny and his friend sit down right next to us. I told him about the other front row tickets, and he could have had four tickets together, but he didn’t care. Chris #2 arrives and takes centre stage. Gene #1 is not in the front row. How did this happen? He ended up in the second row for this night. Did I get his tickets? Who knows….
My brother arrives with his girlfriend and Mike and Ann. Mike has a camera with him. It is the first (and will be his only) time that he is going to take pictures of a rock concert. They are way back in the fifth row. My brother has the identical seat I had three days previously.
A frisbee flies through the air and just misses my head. I remember three nights ago, people were trying to throw frisbees on stage before the concert. I then turned around and waited for another to appear. One came from the other side. Bob picked one up and put it under his chair. There were several near misses, but I saw each of them coming.
Just when I was noticing how full the arena looked, the lights went out. Again, no warning, no dimming. Out. And the crowd roared. About a minute later, a spotlight hit the stage, and Jimmy walked out to the front of the stage, right in front of me!. He was raising his hands and smiling from ear to ear. The stage lights became brighter and I could see the entire group. The crowd started clapping in unison. Jimmy put on his guitar and hit a chord.
Uh, oh…. I suddenly realized how loud it was going to be. However, the large speakers are now above me, so maybe it won’t be as loud.
POW! Bonzo jumps right into Rock and Roll. Bob looked at me, and said, “Shit!” I guess he wasn’t prepared for the volume. When the rest of the band came in, the guitar overshadowed everything. I was thinking, “Wow! That is loud, but so clear.” I guess the Marshall amplifier does that. Plant started to sing, but I couldn’t hear him! I was still trying to adjust my hearing to Jimmy’s amp. Plant walked past me to my right. A guy to the right of me who had rushed the aisle threw a wine boda bag on stage and hit Plant in the head. Two security guards looked at Plant, Plant gave a nod, and the guards picked the guy up under each shoulder and whisked him off, legs cycling like a cartoon character. Scary to think what happened to him…..
Fortunately, due to the large speakers now above me, Bonzo’s drumming was not pounding at my chest like before. Still, I couldn’t get over how Jimmy’s amp was so loud and clean. Jimmy looked a lot more relaxed, and he was playing well. The band seemed together, and by the second verse, I could start to hear Robert.
Time for the guitar solo, and Jimmy ripped a great one.
Again, right into Celebration Day at warp 10, and Jimmy was still kicking butt, Robert’s voice was strong, and Jones was playing some great bass lines to augment Bonzo’s drumming. Again, Bring It On Home into Black Dog. At this time, I know Robert’s voice is definitely better, and the band seems overpowering. These tunes will always remain my favourite Led Zeppelin opening. Extremely powerful.
Jimmy begins playing Over The Hills And Far Away and the crowd gives their approval. Page is exuding confidence; something I didn’t see three days earlier. He is smiling and relaxed. Plant’s voice is strong, and his range has improved.
Jones moves over to the keyboards and starts Misty Mountain Hop. This version was very driving; almost hipnotic. Bonzo inserts some great drum fills. Page seems to be attacking this song, unlike three days previously. The three rhythm players are really playing well. Plant is now singing well.
A short guitar solo follows into Since I’ve Been Loving You. Jimmy right in front of me, concentrating hard, playing his heart out.
Next, No Quarter. The fog enters the stage, but what I didn’t notice before is the fog flowing over the front of the stage and engulfing the entire first row. Bob, sitting next to me, picks up the frisbee under his chair and tries to fan it away. Very funny. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything else about this tune.
Next up, The Song Remains The Same. The opening was powerful, and it did not let up. I sensed a “Take No Prisoners” attitude. Bonham and Jones laid down some phenomenal rhythm, and Page followed. At this point, since no one was sitting in front of me, I felt the group was playing just for me. This individual song performance continues to stay with me today.
Just like the album, the song ends and goes directly into The Rain Song, and this version is tender and beautiful. The mellotron is in tune! No cringing from me. This was beautifully performed. Very delicate playing by Jimmy.
Dazed and Confused – Page, right in front of me, begins with his wah-wah pedal. During this tune, Page caught my eye a few times and smiled. Was it me? Or was it the Jimi Hendrix tank top I was wearing? Probably the latter, but I like to think it was me….
The bow section came up, and what was this? I didn’t notice it before…. He’s using a cello bow; not a violin bow! My father is a professional violinist, and I’ve played in orchestras for many years. Believe me; I know! Also, I’m the closest person to Page other than Plant. I notice a lot of bow hair ripping off each time he pounded those strings. Probably half the hair had been removed by the time he was finished with the solo. (Later, I would check out several pictures of Jimmy with the bow, but they all seem to be violin bows).
After the bow solo, I remember how well Jones and Bonham are playing. The band has really matured, and tonight, there is fire in their eyes unlike Thursday night. Page and Bonham smile back and forth at one another trying to guess what each one is going to do next. I realized that this was now a jam. It was very interesting to watch. At the end, I’m standing and applauding with everyone else. This was the best performance of Dazed and Confused I had witnessed (and unfortunately, it would be my last). Jimmy’s performance was extraordinary. When the song ends, Plant says, “Jimmy Page, Guitar.” And, the crowd acknowledges properly.
Stairway starts, and the crowd erupts again. This time, the Mellotron is just a bit out of tune, but not enough to cringe. Page’s solo is so much better than Thursday night. The whole tune is better. Plant sings strong. Rhythm continues to kick ass. When the song finishes, another standing ovation.
Moby Dick starts, and my friend Bob leaves to go to the restroom. “Are you crazy? Couldn’t you take care of that before the concert?” Well, if you hate drum solos, I guess this is the time to go…. He makes it back in a few minutes, and nothing new has materialized. I remember Bonzo playing with his hands and playing the tympani. Bonzo was a great drummer, and I remember a few great riffs, but there was nothing that memorable. I can now see why Mr. Righteous fell asleep on Thursday.
Next, Plant dedicates the next song to the worst group in the world. Slade. Bonzo starts that drum beat which I forgot about from Thursday, the band enters with Heartbreaker, and the crowd is ecstatic once again.
Plant’s voice is rested and comes in strong with the first verse. The rest of the band is playing strongly as one. Page was flying through the guitar solo and smiling a lot. None of that tentative or worried look on his face.
Again, just before the last verse, Bonzo breaks into the next drum break and Whole Lotta Love begins. Another crowd favorite! I remember Jimmy playing an extended theramin solo which seemed to pierce my ears. Yeow!
Now, a couple of new numbers in the medley. Going Down. I had recently listened to the Jeff Beck version within the previous weeks, and I was excited that Led Zeppelin were trying to perform it. The jam worked well, and I was continually wondering what was going to come next.
Finally, the ending is near. Plant sings, “You neeeeed it”. This time, the final “Looooove” yell going upward succeeds and is very strong. The audience goes nuts, a standing ovation, and Plant says, “Good Night.”
I remember the encores from Thursday. Are they going to play The Ocean and Communication Breakdown?
Sure enough, Bonzo starts his vocal and the band begins The Ocean. What a difference three days make. Jimmy plays better, Robert sings in the upper register, and the rhythm is tight. Great job.
For the second encore, Communication Breakdown. This time, Jimmy starts attacking just like the record. The whole band follows, including Plant. Powerful performance. They finish, and the lights stay dimmed. Could it be another encore?
In a couple of minutes, they all return, and Jones starts off quietly with an organ solo. From earlier shows, I know this was an introduction to Thank You. Bob turns to me and asks, “What is that?” I tell him, “Thank You.” Bob says, “It sure doesn’t sound like Thank You to me.”
A great version of Thank You is played. One of the last times that Led Zeppelin ever plays this tune, and a great closing to this concert.
(Note: During one of the encores – either The Ocean or Thank You – the house lights came on. Robert looked up, smiled, and then the lights went out again.
Even after the concert ends, the crowd continues to clap. The lights come on, and almost immediately, the crowd stops.
I turned to Danny and Chris and said something like, “Am I biased because of the front row seats, or was this better than the previous night?” Danny said it was MUCH better. Chris, who had seen them several times said, “This is one to remember.”
Overall summary: This concert I’ll remember for life. It is definitely one of the best concerts I ever witnessed. Every member’s individual performance was outstanding, but the performance of the group as a whole was incredible.
After arriving home, I brush my teeth and get into bed. All I can hear is a high pitch squeal in my ears….. Three more days….
A few weeks later, Mike (who sat in the fifth row) had his pictures developed, and he blew one up for me. I would see Mike fairly regularly for the next few years, but somehow we lost touch.
In 1996, Dave Lewis was looking for pictures for his upcoming book, “The Concert Files.” Not long thereafter, I ran into Mike who I had not seen in 15 years. I asked him if he still had the pictures from the Led Zeppelin show. He had no idea. About one week later, I received the negatives in the mail with a note, “These are yours to keep. Thanks for the tickets.”
I had the pictures developed at a local photo store. I sent the set of 20 shots to Dave Lewis with a note telling him to keep them as a gift, whether you use them or not.
After the release of “The Concert Files”, I received a package from England. Inside was a copy of “The Concert Files” with note inside stating “Complimentary copy for Steve Kurasch.” After looking through the book, I noticed two of the photos were used on page 95. I sent Mr. Lewis a thank you note. My mom would have been proud.