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Led Zeppelin – Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C)

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Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C)

Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI - July 12th, 1973

Disc 1 (61:09):  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, Rain Song

Disc 2 (71:25):  mc, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love

Disc 3 (66:09):  Encore Call, Communication Breakdown, The Ocean.  Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI – July 13th, 1973:  Mc, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Dancing Days

By the time Led Zeppelin played two shows in Detroit in the middle of July 1973, they had perfected their live arrangements to the consistency of sharp steel.  Some, including Louis Rey in Led Zeppelin Live!, claim that the July 12th Cobo Hall show is perhaps Zeppelin’s all time best performance.

Allowing latitude for personal opinion and prejudice, this is a one of the best shows from the tour and vastly under-appreciated.  An extremely rare vinyl pressing surfaced from Japan called Detroit Cobo Hall (Led 1-4) with most of the show.

Several good CD titles surfaced in the nineties including Going Down To Detroit (Zeppelin Live Archives ZLA-9312/3), Detroit Rock City (Lemon Song LS-7218/19/20), Motor City Daze (Antrabata Reference Master ARM 120773), and the last title to come out before Graf Zeppelin was Rock And Roll Ever(Akashic AKA-MILLENNIUM-1) on the luxury Akashic label.

Graf Zeppelin utilize a first generation cassette.  Taped by Jared J (or Jared “The J”), it has very good sound quality, picking up the power and dynamics of the performance very well.  John Paul Jones’ bass is quite prominent in the mix.  “Rock And Roll” cuts in at the very end and there are cuts at 8:31 in ”No Quarter,” two very small cuts at 4:07 and 4:09 in “The Song Remains The Same,” in “Dazed And Confused” at 21:10, most of “Moby Dick” is cut (the drum solo), and a small cut at 1:17 in “Communication Breakdown.”  Graf Zeppelin apply the same kind of gentle mastering technique applied by all of the Lighthouse labels such as Wardour, Sigma, and Virtuoso.

What makes the July 12th show stand out is the band’s control over the material they’re playing in the set.  Quite the opposite of the wild improvisations of the past, much in this show is understated and quite subtle. 

After the opening songs, Robert Plant greets the audience and introduces “Over The Hills And Far Away” as a song ”from the album that we were able to get a title together for. The album was called Houses of the Holy and can be currently found in your local record shops. Rush out and buy a copy.”

The music elicits a strong reaction from the audience and firecrackers explode during the song.  “One thing we’d like to avoid” Plant responds.  “It’s no good.  Don’t throw any more of them firecrackers ’cause that’s silly.  It breaks the concentration of which we’ve got little left” he says before “Misty Mountain Hop.”  The segue into “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is extremely dramatic tonight. 

“Dazed And Confused” is singled out for particular praise in discussions about this show.  While it reaches a half hour as is standard by this point, the approach to the different sections is unique.  The section leading up to the Scott MacKenzie reference is normally quite fast and hard, but Page reigns himself in and delivers a delicate, studied guitar riff.  Plant seems to respond to Page by repeating “gentle people there” many times during “San Francisco.”

Page again tried a new approach to the middle funk section, before returning to normal for the “call-and-response” game with Plant.

In “Stairway To Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love” there are more studied playing and considerate performances.  The theremin duel with Plant is unique – never before have they been so in sync.

After “Communication Breakdown” the audience are rewarded with a second encore.  “This is for anybody that hasn’t already gotten Houses Of The Holy,” Plant says.  “This is one of the tracks from it.  It refers to the people inside the houses of the holy.” 

Bonham gives a lengthy (for him) speech before the count-in, telling the audience that “we’ve been together now for a long time.  And as you know I’ve never sang a note.  Nor ever going to.  But on this track I was allowed to shout…”  The taper Jared apparently did buy a copy.  He sings along to the backing vocals absent from live performance but present on the studio version.

Detroit Rock City 1973 closes with the fifty-five minute soundboard fragment from the following night.  Given its brevity and intensity, it has been included on many releases over the past twenty years.  It could be found on V 1/2+ (Last Stand Disc LSD-37/38/39) with Seattle and New York soundboard fragments and Monsters Of Rock (Tarantura T3CD-9-1~3) with the Seattle 1973 soundboard. 

Fly Over Nuremburg (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin Vol. 71) has this tape along with the complete Nurenberg show from the 1980 tour, and Song Of Detroit (Celebration Definitive Masters OO5LTD) has this tape along with “Dazed And Confused” and “Stairway To Heaven” from the Salt Lake City show in May erroneously attributed to Detroit.  Finally One More Daze (DS92D046) has the “Dancing Days” fragment along with various other songs.

The tape opens with Plant’s reaction to “Stairway To Heaven” and his introduction of Bonham before a twenty-seven minute drum solo.  “Whole Lotta Love” contains references to James Brown’s “Sex Machine” and Plant’s “Immigrant Song” shrieks by the end.

The tape end with about two minutes of “Dancing Days.”  The Houses Of The Holy track was dropped from the set before the American tour, but makes a surprise appearance in Detroit.  It’s a shame the tape runs out because it is an exiting version of the song. 

Detroit Rock City 1973 is another impressive release by Graf Zeppelin.  The label has been very sporadic in their release schedule, but everything they’ve released has been excellent.  It is packaged in a thick quad jewel case with liner notes pulled from Dave Lewis’ The Concert File.  The Detroit shows in 1973 have been neglected for a long time and now have close to a definitive release.    

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Led Zeppelin - Detroit Rock City 1973 (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-010A/B/C), 3.3 out of 5 based on 6 ratings

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  1. Avatar of Sputnik
    Sputnik says
    August 20, 2011, 8:26 am

    This is a fantastic release. To my ears, the sound mastering by Graf Zeppelin is superior to that of the Akashic version, and I would rate the audience tape as excellent. In my opinion, all of the instruments are equally balanced in the mix. If you don’t have this show, I would highly recomend that you acquire this title along with Bonzo’s Birthday Party on the same Label.

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  2. Avatar of Pedro Moya
    Pedro Moya says
    May 14, 2011, 10:48 pm

    I have 2 versions of this show and while they are both ok Jimmy’s guitar is way too low in the mix ( on both). Is this the case with this one?? It is a good show but not one of the best by far IMHO.

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