Led Zeppelin’s eight north American tour was, with seventeen shows in twenty-two days, their shortest. It also must rank as the most intense visit too with many of the shows turning into long improvisational free-for-alls sometimes lasting three hours. Thankfully all but four of the concerts were recorded (missing are the opening night in Detroit, Buffalo, Denver and San Diego) and have found their way onto bootleg.
The tour also was strange for almost completely bypassing the Midwest and south. Except for Detroit and Charlotte, the shows were located on the east and west coast. The first west coast was the June 17th Portland, Oregon show followed by the two nights in Seattle. The tapes for these two shows have been in almost constant circulation and have appeared on numerous titles. Both are severely flawed, but since nothing better has surfaced in the intervening thirty-eight years these are the only documents we have for these nights.
There is an air of expectation, freedom and magic in these shows that are not always present in others. Both are worth tolerating the low fidelity of the recordings to appreciate how Zeppelin functioned on stage and how they interacted with one another. There are many different titles with these tapes in circulation, but Seattle 1972 offers a convenient way to obtain these two shows together in the best available sound quality.
Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – June 18th, 1972
Disc 1 (47:48): Announcement, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California
Disc one contains a fragment of the June 18th tape that has seen several releases over the years. It appears on Trouble In Vancouver (LZP 388) on the old Gold Standard label, on the no label Sub Zep and as a bonus on the Flagge title Axeman of Cometh with the June 11th, 1972 Baltimore tape. The latest release is on Ahead & After The Prestigious Grammy Award (Empress Valley EVSD-329/330/331) along with other material.
The tape is very good and clear and is of comparable quality as the older versions. It is very clear and vivid, made close to the stage. It begins with the house announcer saying the show will start at 8:30 to give the people from Vancouver more time to arrive.
The band was originally scheduled to play that city on this date but the city were concerned about violence and cancelled the gig. It is commonly assumed it is based upon the behavior of the manager at 1971′s show in Vancouver where they broke a government officials equipment but that explanation really doesn’t agree with Plant’s comments on the tape.
It was cancelled because of the riot on June 3rd at the Rolling Stones’ concert, the beginning of the STP. According to The Sun: “The Rolling Stones and an ecstatic crowd of 17,000 were inside, flying stones and an unruly mob of 2,000 were outside…285 policemen faced a barrage of rocks, bottles and, for the first time in recent Vancouver history, Molotov cocktails…Thirteen of the police required hospital treatment…thirteen people were arrested…PNC directors will meet within the next few days to draw up new ground rules for rock concerts.” The melee was precipitated when Marshall Chess three free tickets into the crowd outside the venue.
After the announcement, there is a cut and then the electronic drone Led Zeppelin used to start the concerts on this tour is audible. Usually this lead directly into “Immigrant Song” but Plant interrupts it to have a short sound check and to address some hecklers before the band begin playing. After “Heartbreaker” Plants says to the crowd, “What can we say? Somebody tried to do a lot of damage in Vancouver, breaking down doors and all that old shit” and asks if anyone is from Vancouver to dedicate ”Black Dog” to them.
Plant afterwards introduces “Since I’ve Been Loving You” as “something that we’ve grown very fond of.” But the song doesn’t start because of a problem with John Paul Jones’ organ. “You keep on calling man. We’ve got this nightly occurrence. Well, apart from getting in trouble with Texas rangers, and not being allowed in Canada, and things. The organ is always in a bad state. So, if you’d give us just two minutes to catch up with that” he explains but the instrument is fixed and the song proceeds.
Before “Stairway To Heaven” Plant jokes: “Somebody told me we were gonna go fishing today, and then we thought about all them people up there. Anyway, we won’t say anything else about it” referring to the infamous mud-shark episode from three years before. “It was just, if people keep doing that all around the world, and nobody’s gonna have any faith in the children of the sun, are they?” “Stairway To Heaven,” already a classic and fast becoming their anthem, follows.
The tape ends with the first song of the acoustic set. Plant gives a very long, rambling discourse while Page and Jones are setting up: “Now we reached our, almost reached our fourth birthday, so we have to sit down… does anybody remember the first time we came to Seattle, or Vancouver? And shit, things have changed, haven’t they? That’s right. With Vanilla Fudge. The drummer and the bass player are still going, still doing things, but that was then.”
The rest of the show has never surfaced so this is all that we have. It is very tight but laid back as well with none of the hostility or weirdness of the following night or the Los Angeles shows.
Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, WA – June 19th, 1972
Disc 2 (66:32): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, The Ocean, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, Black Country Woman, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Disc 3 (58:43): Dazed and Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days, Moby Dick
Disc 4 (65:08): Whole Lotta Love (includes Boogie Chillun’, Let’s Have A Party, Hello Mary Lou, Only The Lonely, Heartbreak Hotel, Going Down Slow), Rock And Roll, Organ Solo (includes Amazing Grace, Everyday People, Louie Louie, et al.)/Thank You, Money, Over The Hills And Far Away, Dancing Days
The second Seattle show exists in a fair, distorted and cut tape that is also listenable once your ears adjust to the low fidelity. Struggling with the sonic limitations is worth it because this ranks among Led Zeppelin’s all-time greatest concerts. There were no vinyl titles with this tape. The earliest is Sizzles in Seattle on Lemon Song (LS-7215-17) followed by The Evergreen (TDOLZ Vol. 031).
Better sounding versions came out several years afterwards on Lightbringer (Cashmere CSCD-001/002/003), with almost five minutes cut from “Moby Dick,” and Let’s Do It Again (Badgeholders BH002-01-02-03) within a month of one another. Finally Empress Valley released Dancing Again (EVSD-396/397/398). Seattle 1972 is on par with Empress Valley. It’s not as loud and has a more natural sound to it.
The tape cuts in during the second verse of “Immigrant Song.” There are cuts at 5:58 in “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” after ”Stairway To Heaven,” and thirty seconds in “Tangerine” eliminating half of the first verse. There is a small cut at the end of “Whole Lotta Love,” between the encore numbers and one which eliminates the first verse of “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Despite all the cuts, most of the show is preserved.
What makes this show legendary is the loose attitude of the band that enables them the band to open up and throw in tons of previews. They play as if they are all alone in a room with no distractions and no pressure with no hint of self-consciousness in the entire performance and the light and shade ethos really shines.
The show opens with the standard “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker” medley before “Black Dog,” which is about the old black dog who used to boogie a lot. But the previews being right afterwards. Plant tells Seattle “we’d like to do something we’ve never ever done before in fact, in front of people.” They perform a tight version of “The Ocean” without the opening count-in.
After a riotous “Since I’ve Been Loving You” there is some consternation in the audience. Plant tells them to “take your time, we got about three hours.”
“Going To California” starts off one of the longest acoustic sets Led Zeppelin ever plays, on par with the September 29th, 1971 Osaka show or any of the Earls Court shows in 1975. When they finish “Going To California” Plant begins to introduce “That’s The Way” by telling the audience “here’s a song that you must know pretty well. All parents are gonna join in the chorus, so that involves most of us.” But instead they play a full version of “Black Country Woman” which would be included on Physical Graffiti in 1975.
Before “Tangerine” Plant jokes that “I usually do a five minute chat on everything it makes me feel singing it, but we’re off.” While playing the song someone shouts out a request, and afterwards Plant mentions it, saying “now, for the guy, did somebody shout out Communication Breakdown in the middle of that? You got to notice that is the ultimate communication breakdown, that is. Far out.” They complete the acoustic set with “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” which is “about a blue eyed dog who lives about five feet from me when I’m at home.”
When Plant is introducing “Dazed And Confused” he refers to the last time they played in Seattle, complaining they “nearly fella sleep last time we were here, didn’t you. Remember that?” The pervious time they played Seattle was September 1st, 1970 but no tape survives from that show. Plant then speaks about the events in Vancouver, saying “a lot of kids got hairy, and kicked the doors down and everything. So we brought people from Vancouver down here instead, and we had a good time.” The long “Dazed And Confused” epic reaches thirty minutes with references to “Walter’s Walk” and “The Crunge” with Plant even shouting out the song’s name.
Another new song is played after “What Is And What Should Never Be.” Plant tell the audience that “we got another new one we want to do off the next album. Freshly rehearsed about thirty minutes before you came here. This is a song about summer. It’s called, it’s called ‘Dancing Days.’” They give a competent but tentative performance of the new song and at the end Plant tells Seattle that “all being well, we’ve got to get this album out before the summer goes, otherwise it’s like the past tense.”
“Whole Lotta Love” closes the show and contains the standard tunes in the medley like “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” “Hello Mary Lou” and “Let’s Have A Party.” What is rare is them attempting Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely.” This is the only time they attempted it on stage and it shows. Page plays the melody very slow trying to remember it and being very careful not to make mistake.
“Rock And Roll” starts off the very long encore set. The organ solo is a carry over from the previous year’s tour, serving as an introduction to “Thank You.” This piece reaches twenty minutes. Jones plays the hymn “Amazing Grace,” “Everyday People” and “Let’s Dance” before the band come in with “Louie Louie.” They continue after “Thank You” with a very rare cover of “Money (That’s What I Want).” The only other times they played it was in Toronto 1969 and in Frankfurt 1980 with Phil Carson on bass.
“Over The Hills And Far Away” makes its live debut. It’s a shame the introduction is cut off since it would be nice to hear how Plant introduces the song. The audience are going nuts at the point and Plant has to calm them down: “We’d like to … because, because, because, because … we’re only, listen, listen, listen, because we were only contracted to do fifty minutes in the first place, and it’s now three hours twenty minutes since we’ve started, and because because because, we only come here once every twelve months cause the rest of the time we’re stuck in the mountains, we’d like to do this song off the new album. This is one that you might have heard about two hours ago. This is called Dancing Days. We like it so much, we’re gonna do it again!” They close the long evening with “Dancing Days” again. It’s certainly unusual to hear a band play a song twice, especially a song that’s new. The second time around is much tighter than the first.
Seattle 1972 is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with tour photos on the front and back. Overall this is an excellent way to obtain these shows. The sound quality, particularly for the second show, isn’t that great but these are both wild concerts which have ascended into Led Zeppelin mythology.