We’re back with the final entry in our top Led Zeppelin bootlegs list.
Many Zeppelin fans will attest that the group’s performing prowess faltered in their final years. But, there are some truly grand live moments in Zeppelin’s latter days, and the first entry in this article might just be the grandest…
“Listen to this Eddie” (L.A. Forum, June 21st 1977)
Really, could there be a Led Zeppelin bootlegs list without this one?
“Listen to this Eddie” is not just a great Zeppelin bootleg; it’s a contender for the greatest bootleg of all time.
What you’ve got here is a complete recording of the band’s performance at the L.A. Forum on June 21st 1977. As aficionados will tell you, Zep’s ’77 US tour was a pretty patchy affair. But, all that changed when the band hit their familiar L.A. Forum stomping ground, with a run of six shows that featured the masters of hard and heavy at their very best.
This first show, captured in pristine quality by legendary bootlegger Mike “the Mic” Millard, is testament to that. Bonham’s playing is thunderous, yet precise. Pagey’s solos – often meandering during the ’77 shows – are consistently inspired here. And Robert Plant’s vocals are strong, despite the damagedone to his voice and range from constant touring at this point.
In short, this one’s a classic, and probably my favourite Zeppelin bootleg of all time.
“Copenhagen Warm Ups” (Copenhagen, Denmark, July 24th 1979)
“Knebworth was useless. It was no good because we weren't ready to do it, the whole thing was a management decision. It felt like I was cheating myself, because I wasn't as relaxed as I could have been. There was so much expectation there and the least we could have done was to have been confident enough to kill. We maimed the beast for life, but we didn't kill it. It was good, but only because everybody made it good. There was that sense of event.”
- Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File
To call Led Zeppelin’s 1979 performances in Knebworth “hyped” would be an understatement. Their first major shows since the ’77 US tour, and their first on home soil since ’75, expectation was understandably high.
And, unfortunately for Zeppelin, popular memory has it that they didn’t deliver. In reviews at the time, the punk-centric press derided them as dinosaurs and, as the above quote from Robert Plant shows, the band’s recollections of the gigs aren’t exactly rosy either.
Now, I’m more of a Knebworth apologist than some. Listening back to the boots today (the August 4th gig being the better of the two), I think that those punk-centric journos unfairly shaped popular opinion of these shows. Granted, they’re uneven in places, but there’s plenty great Zeppelin moments throughout.
What I will say, though, is that the two low-key warm up shows performed in Copenhagen the week before (especially July 24th - the second night) are the superior examples of Zep live in ’79. Without the enormous pressure of making a comeback in front of 100,000+ fans, the band simply cuts loose, doing what they do best with glorious aplomb. There are plenty of highlights, but some of my favourite moments include a barnstorming “Song Remains the Same” opener and captivatingly moody “Ten Years Gone.”
So there it is folks. Eight of the Greatest Led Zeppelin live albums that you’ve (probably) never heard. But which was your favourite? And is there a Zeppelin bootleg you love that I didn’t feature in this list? As always, share your stories in the comments!