45 Years Ago: Led Zeppelin Play Royal Albert Hall
On Jan. 9, 1970 Led Zeppelin took the stage of London's venerated Royal Albert Hall and delivered one of the most celebrated gigs of their career. It was the third date of a short run of shows the band had scheduled in its home country in between U.S. tours, and it was a hot ticket. John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck are all rumored to have submitted requests to the band for tickets.
The stakes were high for Led Zeppelin, as Jimmy Page (who incidentally turned 26 that day) recalled in an interview with Guitar World in 2003. “Albert Hall was a massive gig for us, and we really wanted to do the best we could,” he said. “It was a magic venue. It was built in Victorian times, and you in there thinking about all the musical history that has preceded you. On top of that, it was something of a homecoming for John Paul Jones and I, because we had both grown up around there. So we were all really paying attention to what we were doing.”
Opening with ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ -- which was later spruced up, scrubbed of crowd noise and released on Zeppelin's final record, ‘Coda,’ in 1982 -- the band played a nearly two-hour long concert capped with two encores. The bulk of the evening was dominated by material from the band’s first two albums, but it also managed to throw in a performance of the still-unreleased ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ from the in-the-works third LP, as well as an array of '50 rock 'n' roll and blues covers.
After the gig ended, Page stopped to talk with a reporter from the British music magazine NME and could hardly hold back his enthusiasm for how the night had gone. “It was a great feeling,” he said. “What could be better than having everyone clapping and shouting along? It’s indescribable, but it just makes you feel that everything is worthwhile.”
At the behest of a director from the British music show ‘Top of the Pops,’ the band agreed to have the evening filmed for a proposed TV special. But, as Page recalled in Guitar World, “We watched the edit, and it was good. But we were moving so fast at the time that when we saw it, the show already felt dated to us. It seemed so passe. So the project got shelved.”
For nearly 30 years, there were only two ways to see recorded video of Led Zeppelin onstage. One was to pick up a copy of the concert film ‘The Song Remains the Same.’ The other was to peruse the black market for a stray, grainy bootleg. All of that changed in 2003 with the release of the ‘Led Zeppelin’ DVD. While the second disc of the multi-platinum set was dedicated to a bunch of clips from across the band’s career, the first was set aside for a nearly complete presentation of the band’s iconic one-night stand at Royal Albert Hall.
So finally, the greater public was finally able to catch a glimpse of Led Zeppelin as a young, hotshot band on the way up, dominating the stage in a way that few have either before or since.
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