Friday, November 27, 2015

Put the Boot In: Led Zeppelin March 24, 1973 Offenburg, Germany 'Cold Sweat' - European Tour

Today in the 'rock room' I am enjoying another stellar performance from Led Zeppelin's 1973 European tour. The 'rock room' previously reviewed the excellent Essen, Germany concert from two days prior on March 22, 1973 which can be found here. Everything fell into place for the band on this tour as the perfect combination of health, wealth, practice, friendship, talent and even drugs combined to make the early 1973 performances of Zeppelin definitive statements of peak artistic musical expressions. The recording I am listening to is titled 'Cold Sweat' and features a beautifully captured field recording that not only spotlights a pleasing instrumental balance but an ambience that secures the feel of the crowd, PA and venue. Almost every performance from the third European jaunt for the band offers some moment of virtuous moment of musical madness, but this particular performance from Offenburg finds the best overall show track for track. Here the 'rock room' presents Zeppelin at the peak of their powers and improvisational prowess.

The nicely balanced mono audience recording begins with the MC introduction preceding the typical opener for the era, Zeppelin VI's 'Rock and Roll'. The band crashes into the opener like the echos of post war gunfire. Rumbling like a pair of work boots thrown into a dryer Bonham is especially spunky in his approach. A quintessential and explosive opener for the show and era.

The new for the time 'Over the Hills and Far Away' follows next in its infantile state, with the release of Houses of the Holy approaching within the week. By 1975 renditions of the track would stretch  into musical ridge line alpine excursions and nightly concert highlights. Here this young version features a truncated Page solo spot that still highlights substantial bundles of riffing. The audio of the concert shines here spotlighting Page's over driven Les Paul sounding like multiple guitar players.

Plant speaks to the crowd for the first time introducing a heavy duty reading of 'Black Dog' and the following 'Misty Mountain Hop'/'Since I've Been Loving You' combo. The 'Misty Mountain Hop'/SIBLY' combo contains the same segue illustrated in the Song Remains the Same film but here approached with a deft hand and proper approach. 'Misty Mountain Hop' 'sits stoically in the clouds and releases an avalanche of John Paul Jones keyboards and chest pounding Plant vocals. The real magic occurs when the band slips into 'Since I've Been Loving You', brimming with full band dynamics this particular version steps into the footprints of past versions but leaves the map behind and takes its own unique twists and turns along the musical path. There is a creeping foreboding that emanates from the songs verses that bracket the stunning central solo. Plant uses all of the tools in his vocal arsenal helping to make this an all time rendition.
While the concert does not feature a full acoustic set, it does contain a shit kicking 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp'. The song is Plant's campfire paean to his pup 'Stryder', in contrast to the preceding musical thunder this track acts as a feather on the wind. Lush strums, Bonham backing vocals and a melodic quote from 'That's the Way' are only a few of the highlights.
Following this great version of 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp' is a version of 'Dancing Days' that is missing from the recording.

The Houses of the Holy combo 'The Song Remains the Same'/'The Rain Song' follows and is another musical clinic featuring light, shade, power, grace and dynamic instrumental expression. The band rolls to a boil through 'Song' before settling into the Tolkien-esque world of 'The Rain Song' where fantasy becomes reality and love blooms from the warm musical precipitation. A great version of an oft-played combo freshly minted from their new LP release.

The lofty cloud obscured summit of the show and quite possibly of the entire tour follows as John Paul Jones begins the recognizable opening figure of 'Dazed and Confused'. The introduction stirs like a beast with one eye slightly ajar apprehensive of its surroundings. Page plays a series of harmonics and vibratto'd laser lights to which Bonham responds accordingly. 'Dazed and Confused' uses the same basic format that had been developed throughout the tour for its jam sequence but here is stretched and formed into new and exclusive areas.

After disposing of the verse and chorus the band cracks open the core of the song revealing the rich center. The song accelerates into a downhill groove that rotates around itself gaining inertia and momentum. Page and Bonham intertwine like threads of hearty boat rope under tension. After a mini climax the jam descends into a syncopated theme that opens the gate to Plant's 'San Fransisco' lyrical quotes. Slightly more extended than usual its obvious the band is loving the on stage interactions on this evening.
'San Fransisco' retreats to the mists and Page starts to conjure wispy screams of despair and guttural groans for the expected 'bow' segment .Playing his guitar like a fiddle of he dark lord, Page conjures mythical creatures and mystical spells through his sonic explorations. Plant enters into a carved circle of the earth for a call and response area that sounds inciting yet remains slightly menacing. The duo's song spreads its black wings to pick up John Paul Jones as the band detonates into the famed 'Dazed' mid song mantra. Laying the foundation with a builders hands Jones and Bonham wrench down the infrastructure tightly leaving room for Page's string scribbles.

Changing masks yet again the groove morphs into a 'Crunge' like funk before becoming a more mature jam. The rhythm section is all the rage displaying their adeptness at switching between the poles of musical genres. A brief 'Purple Haze' statement peeks around the corner before Page soars, eyes clenched and strings bent to their breaking point. The jam climbs astonishingly before Page pulls the rip cord, descending back toward the earth. At 19 minutes Page hits on a brisk melody with the band close behind him, he states a theme adjusting on the fly, swimming deep in improv.

The jam has the rug pulled out from under it giving all parties involved a brief respite to catch their breath. Plant and Page again duet with strings and chords to the crowds great pleasure and excitement. Page invites Jones and Bonham to join him once again and the band returns to the molten core of the 'Dazed' central jam. At 21 minutes an awesome run takes place in which Page maliciously strangles notes from his guitar neck as Plant watches in interested delight.

From this point on in the jam Page eradicates the venue and ravages the crowd with an astonishing array of licks, melodic quotes and inspired guitar work. This is the stuff of magic as an open faucet of ideas runs free from Page's ample library of musical alchemy. Jimmy removes himself from the earthly realm with multiple and deranged scales that clamp down the aural capabilities of the audience. This is the essence of Led Zeppelin, a microcosm of their individual elements, the sum greater than the parts. A moment thankfully captured by a fan, immortalized forever, cataloged so that listeners can witness years on what Led Zeppelin is all about.

Page, Bonham and Jones land back into the body of the song, reprising the chorus. The band swaggers as they have to know that they just knocked this one out of the park. Page continues his amazing playing through the verses and mines the same rich vein discovered in the central part of the song. The band slides into the concluding jam and Page reaches for the high hanging fruit, stretching for the ripe and juicy melodic magic. The band comes together for a spectacular conclusion to a special half hour of music.

How do you follow something as stellar as the preceding collection of songs? With a monumental reading of the most recognizable song in rock history, 'Stairway to Heaven' and then another half hour reading of your biggest hit 'Whole Lotta Love'. After a galvanized 'Stairway', which a number of superlatives has already been written comes another elongated jam session.
Once the verses of 'Whole Lotta Love' have been sung Bonham immediately bops into a hi hat smashing and compressed drum accent groove. Page steps on his cry baby stirring the jam into a thick mixture. Plant exclaims, "Do the James Brown' and 'Cold Sweat' and the band enters a statement of the James Brown track even more fully realized than other attempts made during the tour (like 3/22). Things get seriously funky and remain so even as Page starts to conjure sonic anomalies from his Theremin. While Jones and Bonham continue their bridge bolt tight R and B relations Page's sound experiments make a spectral appearance. While Page's 'dogs of doom' howl, Jones and Bonham enter into a sympathetic  drum and bass syncopation; machine like in its rhythmic precision. Page then starts to unravel through multiple diversions from the theme.

Plant joins in with the festivities and right when I think that Pages recognizable studio guitar segment is about to appear Zep rises and a new improvisational passage begins. This segment morphs into a rockabilly rendition of Solomon Burke's 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love'. The song slowly takes shape and soon becomes the recipient of Bonham's slam bam blast beat drums encouraging Led Zeppelin's version of the song into a incendiary 'rave up'. Page's recognizable solo spot comes out from behind the electric curtain and becomes everything you would want it to be. Plant's vocals start to show slight strains at this point, but the music grows in stature.

After an oh so groovy return to the 'Whole Lotta Love' theme the stage grows silent Page and Plant enter into the gritty 'Boogie Chillun' section of the track. Singing to each other through their respective instruments Page and Plant invite Bonham to join in the festivities. The band smashes the glass door leading into 'Boogie Mama' with Page disseminating a plethora of crisp and clean lines. Similar to 'Dazed and Confused' the following series of jams to follow are arguably the best of the year. Sure and steady the band swings while Page reveals riff after jaw dropping riff. The Led Zeppelin jukebox in full effect!

Page continues to solo endlessly while he honky-tonk's the band into a rough and ready 'Your So Square, Baby I Don't Care' where Plant now channels Presley and Bonham navigates the changes with a hammer. Pagey's amphetamine Carl Perkins licks and Eddie Cochran riffs are delightful, respectful, yet wholly original. The real stars of the show here are Jones and Bonham who display not only their rock and roll prowess but how their crispy execution and error free grooves are the impetus that allow Page and Plant the freedom to decorate the songs melodically and at will.
The confetti flies and the jamming continues with a hip grinding 'Let's Have A Party' (also previously covered by Elvis). This is a knee deep dirty and grinding rendition with Plant perfectly on point. Page takes a patient and buttery guitar break and leads the group to an anticipatory pause before perhaps the definitive reading 'I Can't Quit You Baby', tucked inside this tasty rock and roll sandwich.

'I Can't Quit You Baby' is played as a full version and should be in the running for a 'best of all time' version. Regal soling from Page is the hallmark as the mid song solo segment moves from a shuffle to a double time groove. Page's soloing is biting and aggressive with barely a note wasted. He directs Bonham and Jones with pauses, scrubs, climbs and bluesy melodic quotes that differ in their dynamic approach every time. This portion features Page at his very best and Zeppelin at their most powerful. Plant quotes the 'Lemon Song' and as close as a shadow the band follows him. With puckered the jamming the band grips the fruit unleashing the juice and falling into the 'woman' interlude leading back to the 'Whole Lotta Love' conclusion. Woah.

The show concludes when the band returns to the stage with a spiky version of 'Heartbreaker'. On this evening it is as if the band cannot stop! 'Heartbreaker' plows along before it too enters into a Page solo segment which offers up a quote of the '59th Bridge Street Song'. The band tears through the concluding jam with Jones leading the charge before ending the show succinctly. The crowd howls and just like that, Led Zeppelin has performed and finished one of the finest shows of the era.

Beginning on March 4, 1973 in Sweden and concluding on April 4th in France the month long 1973 European tour was a lofty summit of sorts for the band. Building on the previous 5 years the band had developed an impressive catalog as well as second sense when improvising as a band. The groups popularity had exploded  and their nightly concert rituals become mass meetings of clairvoyance, destruction and musical alchemy. While their were many years of magic to come and a number of amazing songs to be written the definitive performances in 1972-1973 would never be equaled by the band. I am sure Talk from the Rock Room will again jump start the time machine and visit this stellar era for the group as there is much more gold to be mined. As always, thanks for reading!

Led Zeppelin 3-24-1973





















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