Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Pure Blues (Vancouver, March 1970)


Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC, Canada – March 21st, 1970

(70:02): We’re Gonna Groove, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown. Audience: Introduction, We’re Gonna Groove, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker

Perhaps the earliest Led Zeppelin bootleg to be produced was the forty minute soundboard fragment from the first show of their fifth tour of north America. The soundboard recording for the March 21st, 1970 show in Vancouver is clear and powerful with the vocals and drums up front and the guitar pushed deeper into the mix.

The taper captured only several songs from the show. What makes the tape strange is that the songs do not represent a sizable, consecutive sequence of the concert but are rather scattered throughout the set.

It starts with the opening song, and then drops two songs before “Heartbreaker,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” ”Thank You” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” are present in sequence but with Plant’s introductions cut out. “Moby Dick” and “How Many More Times” which follow are missing but the encores, “Whole Lotta Love” (with the middle section edited out) and “Communication Breakdown” are present. The nature of the tape strongly suggests it was edited for the initial vinyl release to fit onto one disc and raises the question about the rest of the soundboard. Since it has been almost forty years the rest is probably lost.

The virtue of this release is the inclusion of the thirty minute long audience recording that surfaced earlier in the year. It is fair to good with the tape being significantly more muffled during “We’re Gonna Groove.” For the Zeppelin collector it is clear enough to be enjoyed on some level and is valuable since it contains the first for songs in sequence including two, “I Can’t Quit You” and “Dazed And Confused,” which are not on the soundboard recording.

All that is still missing from the show is “White Summer,” “Moby Dick,” “How Many More Times” and the middle section of “Whole Lotta Love.” Boogie Mama package Pure Blues in a cardboard digipack with relevant photos on the cover and inside. They track the introduction on the audience tape separately but don’t mention it in the track listing and “I Can’t Quit You” is mistakenly listed as “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Otherwise this is an excellent production overall.

The label also reproduces a concert review from the March 24th, 1970 issue of Express which states:

“Robert Plant, lead singer of the high-flying Led Zeppelin, said recently in London the group wanted to tour America again because audiences here are so ‘ultra responsive’. His observation was correct, but even the Led Zeppelin was obviously not prepared for the reaction they caused Saturday at the Pacific Coliseum as nearly 19,000 rock fans jammed the building for the group’s first concert in a 19-city tour. Although it started half-an-hour late, the concert was already blessed by the fact that there were none of the often tedious and time-consuming supporting acts.

“Led Zeppelin walked onstage at 8:30pm, took control and didn’t stop through two-and-a-half hours of glorious, ear-splitting rock. They are essentially the same group they were here last year, with as many new faults as there were noticeable improvements. Except for a few minor mechanical problems during the opening of Dazed and Confused, Led Zeppelin succeeded in their heavy brand of rock that everyone came to hear. The only new material offered was the song Since I’ve Been Loving You, to be released soon on Led Zeppelin III. It’s raw, physical qualities make the album one worth looking forward to. And no one really minded that they played songs from their first two albums. From the raw, gutsy sounds of How Many More Times, to the frenzy improvisation that is Heartbreaker.

“Robert Plant, the physical and vocal gymnast of the group, turned the crowd on at will with his shaggy blond mane and his searing three-octave voice. The lead guitar of Jimmy Page was a constant delight to the senses, particularly in his much-improved White Summer solo. Drummer John Bonham demonstrated his talent in a 15-minute stick-twirling and barehanded exhibition that exhausted both himself and listener, while bass guitarist John Paul Jones more than kept the beat alive.

“As the concert drew to a close during the fever pitch of Whole Lotta Love, the massive crowd surged forward and about 50 senseless fans spoiled it for the group and the audience by vaulting up onto the 15-foot high stage. ‘Never before in the history of Led Zeppelin has this happened,’ Plant shouted mock-serious into the microphone, not knowing whether to be offended or flattered. When the stage was finally cleared, Led Zeppelin came back for two encores and a standing ovation that was a fitting tribute to one of the most talented rock groups in the business today.”

Opinions are split regarding the actual performance. Some claim this is a demonic display of Led Zeppelin’s talent while others claim this isn’t the best show. It is apparent they are basking in the success of Led Zeppelin II and everything is given the same sense of urgency inherent on that material.

It is a shame that the “How Many More Times” finale is missing because it would have been fascinating to hear how they approached the medley in Vancouver. “I Can’t Quit You” does sound slightly sluggish, but “Dazed And Confused” is a riot and the audience start to crush forward to the stage prompting Plant to go into crowd control during the violin bow episode.

“Heartbreaker” has a unique introduction which sounds like “C’Mon Everybody” audible only in the audience recording and the band are loose enough to quote Neil Young’s “Cowgirl In The Sand” and their own “Ramble On” in a very long “Communication Breakdown.”

Boogie Mama produced a solid release on all fronts and this is a great silver pressed edition of these two tapes.

March 10, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Pure Blues | , | Leave a comment