Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Providence, Rhode Island, 21st July 1973

1973%2007_21%20D%20Led%20Zepppelin%20-%20ProviCivicCtrFrom Underground Uprising uuweb.led-zeppelin.us

When I was 17 I was making pretty good money for the time and still living at home. Mom and Dad weren’t asking for any contribution to the household bills and I was frankly ignorant about volunteering to do that. Long story short though, I had a wad of cash from payday just burning a hole in my pocket and as usual I went to my local record store to see what was new and exciting.

This was before the days of Ticketmaster et al and this guy behind the counter, who knew my tastes, if not my name, pulled out a big old stack of Led Zeppelin tickets bundled together in a rubber band for an upcoming show in Providence. He just set the stack on the counter in front of me and let me read who they were for. Led Zeppelin? September? Providence? This was the first time I had heard it mentioned, it hadn’t even been advertised yet.

Fast as I could retrieve the money from my pocket I bought 2 tickets and he peeled them off the top of the stack for me. By the time I finally did hear them mentioned on the radio they were already sold out. I had my tickets though and I was eighth row dead centre. One of the best shows by any band I ever saw, they played for 3 hours and the only break they took was to calm the crowd down. A night or two before they had played Boston and there were many problems, fans did a lot of damage inside the arena, as they did months earlier when tickets there first went on sale. We knew about that, it was in all the papers.

That troubled my parents and my friend’s parents but we went anyway. Providence would be different, but several songs into the show it did look like there would be trouble. We had already seen 2 people ejected after they started a fight on the floor a few aisles away from us. And the aisles were packed with people. We knew Page and Plant and Jones saw what was happening. Plant pointed out the two fighting to Page. They must have had a plan just in case because they didn’t consult with each other, they just finished that song and Plant stepped up to the mic.

Plant said they weren’t going to let another Boston happen so they were stopping the show until everyone got back in their seats and the aisles were all cleared. That took a few minutes and the band just waited on stage for us to comply. Everyone did return to their seats, but we all stood on our seats, you couldn’t sit down for a show by Zeppelin no matter how close you were. When we finally got organized and the aisles were clear again they launched into something..can’t remember now but after that Plant thanked us and said to show there are no hard feelings they were going to play the next song especially well.

They played Misty Mountain Hop and it was outstanding. Later on they of course played Stairway to Heaven and it was the first time I had ever seen a mirrored ‘disco ball’. When they hit that with lights at the end of Stairway the effect was stunning to say the least, and you could hear the awe of the crowd. I know it sounds campy or even lame by today’s standards but for most of us this was a first. During No Quarter they used dry ice and though that wasn’t my first exposure to the fog there was more of it than I had ever seen and the effect was equally stunning…it looked like Plant was standing in the middle of a waterfall that was falling over the edge of the stage.

By far the highlight though was Dazed and Confused. To be able to watch Jimmy do what he did with that guitar live was an honour and a treat! He moved from pick to bow, he employed feedback waving his hands like a deranged healer across the range of some kind of electrical device a few yards away from him. Every movement of his hands resulted in a change to the feedback. When he used the bow it was smooth and graceful, until he started to bang the strings with the bow…not violently, but enough that we knew he was stepping it up a notch. I read an interview early the following year where Page said he thought the Providence show was the best show they did that year and I won’t argue that, as I said easily the best show I ever saw.

Page and Plant, even back then, got most the press so I was surprised, and thrilled to hear both Bonzo and John Paul…a better rhythm section I can’t imagine. This was July 21st, 1973. Tickets were $7.50 each. A friend of mine (Hey Tom Vartanian! Where did you end up?) way back then actually taped the show and gave me an 8-track (!) of it. I was thrilled to have it, it was my first ever bootleg recording and even though it sounded less than pristine I cherished it and played it continually for months. Even when other music finally managed to get playing time that recording was never far away and it was still played often. If I remember correctly he was sitting in the front row of the lower balcony stage left.

I got a copy of the show several years ago on CD. Turns out it’s a small world, I can tell it’s my friend’s recording. There’s one part when they’ve stopped the show and Plant says something along the lines that we just want to have a good time playing, we’re not going to hang ourselves or anything. On the CD I have you can hear my friend, the taper, yell out hey Alice. A reference to Alice Cooper’s tour at the time where he ‘hung’ himself as part of the theatrics. Unfortunately though the CD sounds as bad as the 8 track did although someone has eliminated the cuts between tracks or more likely had access to something closer to the source tape and prior to it being put on 8-track. I rate the recording as a C. I’ve certainly heard worse but it’s really probably only of interest to folks like myself who were there and those who want everything regardless of quality. But that’s my story.

I didn’t realize until later, after Bonzo died how lucky I was to have seen them at all, let alone as close as I was. A very memorable evening! I haven’t been to the Providence Civic Center in years, indeed it has a new name today, but back then there was a good sized water fountain outside the arena. Leaving the venue after the show I met up with a friend of mine (Hey Wayne!) who seemed absolutely possessed…he was ‘celebrating’ the tremendous show standing in the fountain, completely drenched head to toe, and splashing everyone he could with water. No one seemed to mind, there seemed to be a universal, “wow, did you hear that show?”, state of euphoria running rampant through the crowd.

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April 23, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Providence Rhode Island 21st July 1973 | , | Leave a comment