Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Concert Review: First Ever US Show – Denver (December 26th, 1968)

The following I have transcribed as-is from the review in Rocky Mountain News:

tumblr_licwi3M9kO1qhalcno1_500From Rocky Mountain News music critic Thomas MacCluskey

The tale gets more fascinating. As the story goes, Denver, Colorado music promoter Barry Fey nearly became famous for being the guy who would not book Led Zeppelin!

“About 10 days before the show, I got a call from the agent saying, ‘Barry, I want to add an act to our show,’ ” Fey explains. “I said, ‘Ron (Terry), all the tickets are sold.’

“He said, ‘You’ve got to do this for me, Barry, this is a big, big act. Their name is Led Zeppelin.’ I thought it was a joke.”

Fey turned down Terry, until the agent flashed some cash.

“Ten minutes later Ron called back and said ‘Vanilla Fudge is going to give you $750, and if you give $750 of your own money, we still can put Led Zeppelin on the show.’ ” Fey gave in.

The big night was December 26, 1968 at the Denver Auditorium Arena.

It’s said that the unsuspecting audience at the concert had absolutely no idea that this new ‘heavy metal’ band from Britain was added to the gig. This historic night marked Led Zeppelin’s smashing American debut…

and the birth of heavy metal music as we know and love it today.

“I got up on the stage and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, give a warm Denver welcome to Led Zeppelin,’ ” Fey recalls. “They started playing, and it was incredible. It was an unbelievable show; people were gasping. That was a big day in Denver history.”

‘Rock’ Concert Is Real Groovy

Barry Fey did it again – a GREAT rock concert at the Auditorium Arena Thursday night with the Vanilla Fudge, Spirit and Led Zeppelin in colourful living sound!

And Freyline has nearly solved the sound fidelity problems – even on the main floor – with the stationary speaker system on the floor augmenting the group’s system on the rotating circular stage.

One hitch occurred – tangled cables underneath the bandstand pulled the lug on the Fudge and almost melted their entire performance. When repairs were completed the clock had punched my deadline. Thus catch the Fudge review in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain News.

Spirit – quintessima strong MUSICAL!

Everything especially interesting because of a non-ending, highly varied rhythmic continuum structured by Ed Cassidy, pile-driven by bassist Mark Andes, girded by conga drummer-vocalist Jay Ferguson, and filigreed by pianist John Locke and guitarist Randy California.

A UNIQUE dimension added to Spirit’s performance was an effective use of varied volume levels. The result not only rendered lyrics thankfully distinguishable, but also enabled a greater variety of subtle pitched and percussive sounds to filter through the textured surface of the music.

Spirit’s performance of ‘Mechanical World’ and ‘Elijah’ were exceptionally groovy. The latter, a jazz oriented swinger in 3/4 meter featured each of the players. Locke and Cassidy proved to be the most inventive, although Ferguson’s and Andes display of hambone performing (rhythmic slapping of the thighs and hands) was enjoyable.

A further dimension made especially welcome, was the group’s friendliness to the audience and humour.

THE CONCERT was cranked off by another heavy, the Led Zeppelin, a British group making it’s first US tour.

Blues oriented (although not a blues band, hyped electric, the full routine in mainstream rock – done powerfully, gutsily, unifiedly, inventively and swingingly (by the end of their set).

Singer Robert Plant – a cut above average in style, but no special appeal in sound. Guitarist Jimmy Page, of Yardbirds fame – exceptionally fine. Used a violin box on the guitar strings in a couple of tunes with resultant interesting, well integrated effects.

Bassist John Paul Jones – solid, involved, contributing. John Bonham – a very effective group drummer, but uninventive, unsubtle and unclimactic in an uneventful solo.

Thanks, Barry!

May 1, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Review Denver 1968 | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Concert Review: Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, September 1971

20110303-073243-432450From The Globe & Mail

Let us consider a problem in reviewing. Led Zeppelin, the enormously popular English rock band played a concert at Maple Leaf Gardens on Saturday night. That’s the problem in general. Led Zeppelin performed for 2 1/2 hours, playing as usual, music that was heavy, bluesy, rhythmically stolid, filled with long but not necessarily unique improvisational passages.

And the audience, a Gardens sell out, reacted in customary style of Led Zeppelin audiences, which is to say with plenty of ovations (particularly on a very long and genuinely inept drum solo), a great rush to the stage (during the band’s anthem, Whole Lotta Love), and a tribute of matches lit up every row of the Gardens (a beautiful and exciting site).

That’s the problem in specifics: what do you say about a concert that produced everything that was expected and customary?

Well, there’s a remark a couple of years ago by a critic who suggested that Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, is rock’s number one sex symbol after the late Jim Morrison. That may be so if, as Plant’s stage posturing indicates, sex is something swift and merciless. Plant offers the last word in performing narcissism: he acts out his songs, not for his audience, but for his mirror.

Okay then, how about the claim that Jimmy Page is one of rock’s finest guitarists? There’s more truth here. If nothing else, Page is efficient. He knows all the licks and he can execute them brilliantly. He’s a master at handling all the climaxes of the rave-up guitar style that came out of the Yardbirds way back in the early 1960’s. Which may be the trouble: there is something depressingly antiquated about the style. Psychedelic has lost its thrill, and surely Page would like to move on to new things. Led Zeppelin may be for him a straitjacket – a rich one, but still a straitjacket.

What else can you say about a Led Zeppelin show? That the band makes good music to get stoned by? Certainly, there was a nice haze of marijuana hanging over the Gardens and the people of St. John’s Ambulance had lots to do. One young man very appropriately chose the opening bars of Stairway To Heaven to freak out and collapse in aisle in front of the box seats.

Or you could say, on a purely simplistic level, that Led Zeppelin is at times the most overwhelmingly, stupifyingly loud band around. That’s true up to a point, and the point is Grand Funk Railroad which really is the loudest band and is coming to the Gardens on Oct. 9

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concet Review Toronto 1971 | , | Leave a comment