Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY – July 15th, 1973
Led Zeppelin made their Buffalo debut on their fourth tour in 1969 when they sold out the Kleinhans Music Hall. They played two more times in the city, on June 10th, 1972 (which was not taped as far as we know) and on July 15th, 1973, right in the middle of the second leg. They were scheduled to play at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park in August 1977 at the end of the eleventh tour and on November 1st 1980, but both were cancelled making this performance their last in western New York.
There are two tape sources in existence for this show. The most popular recording is a soundboard tape of two thirds of the show, from “Rock And Roll” to “Stairway To Heaven” that surfaced in the late eighties along with many other soundboard fragments from this tour. But also in circulation is an audience recording of the entire show that had never been pressed in its entirety on sivler until this release came out. Slowing Down In Buffalo is a five disc set on TCOLZ with both tapes collected together in one convenient package.
Disc 1 (64:05): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 (37:59): Dazed and Confused, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 3 (54:07): Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, The Ocean
The first three dics contain the complete show including the final hour of the missing from the soundboard. The sound is fair to good with hints of distortion and deterioration in “The Rain Song” and “Stairway To Heaven” but it’s much more listenable than I expected. Like many audience tapes, it offers a more authentic document of the concert as it occured in the venue. Luckily there is very little audience noise to drown out the music and no interference.
There are cuts in “Since I’ve Been Loving You” at 3:13, a cut in “No Quarter” at 12:04 and one in “Dazed And Confused” at 16:52. The cut in “No Quarter” is a problematic because it repeats a two minute section of the second and final verse of the song. It’s not present on the master recording and can only be attributed to faulty mastering of the source tape.
Disc 4 (65:38): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song
Disc 5 (45:09): Dazed and Confused, Stairway To Heaven
Slowing Down In Buffalo presents for the first time on silver disc both sources for Led Zeppelin’s July 15th, 1973 show in Buffalo. The soundboard fragment has been on many different releases going back over twenty years including And It Makes Me Wonder (American Concert Series ACS 046), with the complete tape except “Dazed And Confused,” and copied onto Buffalo 1973 (VIP) and Outrageous Live (Zoso’s Company).
The same year Misty Mountain Crop (Flying Disc CD 6-816) was released with “Rock And Roll” to “The Rain Song” and Razed And Confused (Flying Disc CD 6-819) had the other two songs. The problem with the early releases is that they ran too fast, as does In Concert and Beyond (TDOLZ 0001/2). Finally, “Dazed And Confused” was featured on the compilation Best Of Tour 1973 (Forever Standard Series FSS 99-08).
Where The Buffalo Roam (Midas Touch MD62121/2) was released in 1996 and really offered the definitive version of the soundboard. Slowing Down In Buffalo has the soundboard on discs four and five and its sound and presentation are closest to the Midas Touch version. There is little to no mastering and it sounds slightly “fatter” and “punchier.” There is a cut in “The Rain Song” at 2:26 (but no gap) but is otherwise complete.
Regarding the performance, a review in the paper states that “Led Zeppelin doesn’t give concerts, they perform physical transformations. They kneaded the full-house crowd in Memorial Auditorium into silly putty Sunday night with two hours and 50 minutes of massive sensory massage. The sheer enormity of the sound did it (though the full moon may have helped), an enormity that resonates into your paleolithic pith, the cry of the dinosaur summoning out that primitive quickening in the face of monstrosity.
“Whatever isn’t touched by the earthquake rumble of John Paul Jones’ bass, John Bonham’s gunshot cracks on the drums or Robert Plant’s echoey heart-of-darkness voice is left quivering by the swooping electronic slices of guitarist Jimmy Page, especially his solo on the theremin. Their relatively simple brooding themes are blown larger than life, like skyscraping office buildings, and they lay on thick embellishments and broad dramatic resolutions that mean more en masse than as individual items. The four of them approached it all with unexpected good humor. John and Bonham lay back blithely amongst the folding backdrop of mirrors that run the length of the stage.
“Page in black with a rhinestone-studded rose on his open jacket, prancing around like a cocky midlands soccer player in a pub, and Plant in tight jeans and a short jacket with rhinestones and puffed sleeves strutting back his curly blond mane. The band took no breaks, despite the heat. Applause followed a few Page guitar solos but the youngish crowd didn’t really erupt until the start of Stairway to Heaven and again when the spinning mirrored ball went on as it closed.
“The heavy drumbeat of Moby Dick brought a rush on the stage and most of the hall stayed on its feet for that last hour, including a long Bonham drum solo with special synthesizer effects. An 8-minute ovation brought them back for an encore after their boogieing final number. ‘Thank you Buffalo, Plant said when they finished. ‘Take care until we see you again.’” (D. Anderson, Buffalo News / July 1973)
In 2001 I wrote, “This show is clearly not the best of the tour. Page makes many mistakes in Dazed & Confused, and Stairway to Heaven sounds by rote. Moreover, several huge explosions distract the group (especially during the violin bow solo). This title is recommended for fans of the tour.” Listening to it years later has altered my opinion. And while “Rock And Roll” starts off a bit slow and Page’s fingers get tangled in the guitar strings in “Celebration Day,” it does settle into a really nice groove by the time they hit “Black Dog.”
Several times the band has to contend with firecrackers and other objects thrown towards the stage. When Plant is speaking after “Black Dog” someone thrown toilet paper on stage. He quips, ”judging from that toilet roll, somebody’s had diarrhea. That should do as an excuse for that.” The strap on Page’s guitar broke during the opening numbers, which is probably why ”Celebation Day” is flubbed, and Plant explains that, “Jimmy’s got a guitar string that’s made of cement. His guitar’s had a bit of an accident, but we got it fixed now. So we had to use his other guitar, which you can appreciate. It feel apart.” While beginning “Over The Hills And Far Away” a firecracker blows prompting Plant to say, “That’s one guy who’s not on the same journey.”
“Since I’ve Been Loving You” sound interesting in this performance with Page answering Plant’s pleadings. But ”No Quarter” reaches heights of sublimity in the guitar solo. By this time they’ve been playing the new song for several months and have worked out an effective arrangement. “Dazed And Confused,” far from being chaotic, actually shares some characteristics with the great versions played in Europe earlier in the year. Bonham in particular is very inventive with new rhythms chasing Page’s improvisation. During the violin bow segment someone lets off a loud firecracker. Page, and everyone it seems, stops for a split second in reaction. An eyewitness states how “everyone including the band jumped ten feet in surprise” and that “a girl was injured by the explosion and had to be removed from the arena.”
Plant admonishes the audience afterwards saying, “I don’t know who the sadist was who let off the bomb, but he really is a jerk off. Lot’s of love. Well, you’ve got to put up with him every week. That’s one thing we ain’t gotta do, thank goodness…” Plant sounds angry as they start “Stairway To Heaven,” a version that brings down the house with long and loud ovations and cheers up Plant mightily.
“Good evening Buffalo!!” He shouts. “This is one with just as much power. It features the old time percussionist of rock and roll, John Bonham!” The drummer gives Buffalo a “Moby Dick” for close to a half hour. The medley of “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love” reaches twenty minutes. When they return to the stage for the encore Plant announces, “this requires the vocal talents of John Bonham. The vocal talents of John Bonham” before he gives the count-in for “The Ocean.” Slowing Down In Buffalo is, despite the cut and repeat in “No Quarter,” still a very solid release by TCOLZ and worth having.