A popular band’s final show can be taken to be their definitive statement. The final word on what was a brilliant and creative career. As such, one can look at great final shows by Cream in 1968 and The Band in 1976. (Although both bands did play again in the subsequent years, they were more of a nostalgic trip than any display of creativity.
Led Zeppelin were not given an opportunity to prepare for their last show. The final show in Berlin on July 7th wasn’t even supposed to be the final show of the European tour, but a show in Berlin on July 8th that was on the original itinerary was cancelled.
July 7th serves as the final statement of Led Zeppelin only because of the tragic death of drummer John Bonham. It is in realty a mediocre gig. This is the final show of their first tour in three years and they sound tired, even to the point of dropping the one epic number in the show “Achilles Last Stand.”
Given its historic significance, bootlegs have been in circulation since shortly after the show documenting the event. An audience tape was booted on vinyl on Bonzo’s Last Ever Gig In Berlin July 1980 (Z 8077). The soundboard was used for the popular vinyl boots Bonzo’s Last Ever Gig (Amazing Stork 7780 A-F) and Last Stand (Toasted Recordworks TRW 1999). Two songs from the soundboard, “Rock And Roll” and “Whole Lotta Love,” appear as bonus tracks on Live In Zurich (Toasted Recordworks TRW 1951).
Almost all of the compact disc releases utilize the soundboard recording with the first Final Touch (Condor 1998) and Last Stand (Condor 1999) in 1989. These two are don’t have the complete show and the set list is messed up.
Better versions were issued on Complete Berlin (SIRA 111/112), Bonzo At Last (Seagull CD027/2) with three songs from Bremen, The Last (Immigrant IM-010~2) with some of the audience recording, The Final Tour European Daze 1980 (PATRIOT003-1/2), The Complete Last Concert (Baby Face BF29/30) with “Achilles Last Stand” from Rotterdam, Heineken (Tarantura LAST 1,2) which is considered THE rarest Tarantura titles ever produced and one of the rarest bootleg CDs in the world, and Berlin 1980 (Tarantura 1980-25, 26) part of Tarantura’s massive 1980 tour set.
The encores are on Spare Parts 1980 (POT-003), “Black Dog,” “In The Evening,” “Rain Song,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and “Rock And Roll” appear on the final disc of the boxset Cabala (OSOZ 001/8), and some material are on the two box sets Through The Years (Big Music BIG 4001~4005) in 1993 and Another Trip (Big Music BIG 4023~4027) in 1994.
In 2008 Godfather Records released A Memory Frozen Forever (Godfather Records GR265/266) which uses the soundboard recording with the audience source used as filler. The audience is used at the very beginning before “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” for fifteen seconds between 5:51 to 6:06 after “All My Love” of Plant saying “that was one of the more recent things” and for the audience anticipation before “Rock And Roll.”
But the ultimate release for Berlin was issued by Empress Valley in 2002. Eternal Magic comes packaged in a four-fold cardboard sleeve which fits into a deluxe box along with a 3″ bonus disc with radio reports and a miniature reproduction of the concert poster. The soundboard recording is found on discs one and two and sound as good as the best sounding releases. EV also use the audience tape to fill in the gap after “All My Love.”
On discs three and four EV use an excellent sounding audience tape which is much better at picking up the atmosphere of the gig. It is close to the stage, very clear and is one of the best sounding tapes from the tour. While the soundboard recording is very good, Eternal Magic fills a considerable need because it is the only title to feature a complete audience tape from this show and is essential for those of us who prefer audience tapes to soundboards.
Eissporthalle, Berlin, Germany – July 7th, 1980
Disc 1 (67:43): Train Kept a Rollin’, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Black Dog, In The Evening, Rain Song, Hot Dog, All My Love, Trampled Underfoot, Since I’ve Been Loving You
Disc 2 (67:44): White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love
Disc 3 (68:43): Train Kept a Rollin’, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Black Dog, In The Evening, Rain Song, Hot Dog, All My Love, Trampled Underfoot, Since I’ve Been Loving You
Disc 4 (73:39): White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love
After the opening show in Dortmund the tour peaked with the shows in Zurich and Frankfurt and hit its nadir with the two concerts in Mannheim. Munich was a solid tour and the final in Berlin draws mixed assessments from Zeppelin collectors. Some love it and others hate it, but in reality it is a solid show with some slow parts.
It is the result of their on stage experimenting in preparation for their return to the U.S. in the fall. What the set list would have been isn’t known, but one imagines that the numbers from In Through The Out Door would have been kept, “Carouselambra” was rumored to be included, and “The Rain Song” and “White Summer” might have been dropped. “Train Kept A Rollin’” sounds very frantic in this show and there is a pause afterwards instead of a clean segue into the next song “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”
Jimmy Page says, “Good evening all. It’s nice to see you, and it’s nice to be seen I can tell you. We got a number from the annals of rock history. It’s not called ‘Black Dog Jimmy’ but called ‘Schwartz Hund.’” Again “Black Dog” is very strong with a fluid solo by Page in the song. Plant’s first words are: “As Jimmy already said, good evening. What he didn’t say was, I know how he feels because he loves this town very much. Well, we’re back. We managed to get an album together eighteen months two years ago called In Through The Out Door. This is a track from that called ‘In The Evening.’” This is one of their strongest latter day numbers. At Knebworth it was played late in the set with Page’s guitar solo and a Bonham tympani solo serving as a long introduction. But on the final tour it was moved up earlier in the set without the bombast. The song really didn’t need it since it has plenty of bite on its own.
“This is from one of the very very formative parts of it all…” Plant says before the next song. Someone shouts out “Rock And Roll!” ”No, that was another formative part. This is called ‘The Rain Song.’” Plant gives a long introduction to “Hot Dog” again referencing the Showco staff, and “All My Love” is played with no introduction as it is on all the stops on the tour.
On most dates Jones begins the keyboard solo too fast but in Berlin he plays it perfect. “Trampled Underfoot” is dedicated to the roadies and this twelve minute version is one of the better ones on tape. Page and Jones change tempos throughout the solo lending a heaviness the studio version only hinted at, and Page plays a dense, expressionistic solo in the middle.
“Achilles Last Stand” is dropped for the only time on this tour. Page calls it a “readjustment of the program” but no explanation was ever given. The low point of the show is the incoherent mess Page makes of “White Summer.” It isn’t all his fault since, as he explains at the beginning, his Danelectro wasn’t tuned properly and it sounds like he is fighting the guitar throughout the piece. However, he gets lost in the middle and it takes him about ten minutes to find his way out.
This is one of his classic numbers and it is a shame that the final performance of the piece is so poor. The final song of the set “Stairway To Heaven” reaches fourteen minutes and is the longest ever performance of the classic. Page in particular attempts never before heard riffs and produces a solo of astounding beauty. Godfather includes a full six minute track of audience cheering afterwards before the first encore “Rock And Roll.”
The final encore of “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the most intriging tracks in the latter days of Zeppelin. This represents yet another recasting of the song and unlike the “Whole Lotta Love” / “Heartbreaker” experiment in Dortmund this one works. This eighteen minute wonder has been dubbed the “industrial” version but such an appellation is really unfair. Industrial music as an art-form wasn’t invented until several years later. What distinguishes this track is that Jone Paul Jones, for the only time, plays the lead on bass guitar. With the distorted treble he sounds like John Entwistle and this recalls the way The Who would jam in concert.
Disc 5 (3:52): The Radio Report
The bonus disc is very short, just under four minutes long. It contains several snippets from the radio with the news reports of his death and from December 4th, 1980 when Zeppelin issued their break up press release. The djs and promoters spend some time speculating on the wording of the release, whether “continue as we were” means they are breaking up or if they reforming under a different name. Subsequent history confirms it is indeed a break up and all the other talk was merely wishful thinking.
Overall, Eternal Magic is the ultimate release covering Led Zeppelin’s final concert. Some have said that the front cover, showing John Bonham’s tombstone, is creepy or morbid. However, the point of having tombstones is to remember the person who is buried and recall his contributions in life. That is indeed the spirit of Bonham’s tombstone and the intention of Empress Valley by placing it on the front cover. It serves as an appropriate memorial for Bonham.