Flying Circus (Eelgrass EL20108/9/10)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – February 12th, 1975
Disc 1: Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir
Disc 2: No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3: Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker
Led Zeppelin’s February 12th Madison Square Garden show is among the most famous shows the band every gave. This is due to its long history of unofficial releases dating back to the days of vinyl using one of the all time best audience recordings ever to surface. The soundboard recording surfaced in 2002 several months after the release of the complete Earls Court boxset which had a previously unknown soundboard tape for the final night.
When Flying Circus (Empress Valley EVSD-185/186/187) was released, it was the first complete soundboard to surface for the American tour that year and caused considerable excitement. In contrast to the dry soundboards from the 1973 tour this had the depth and balance of an official release and many speculated this was a final mix by Eddie Kramer. In the subsequent years soundboards have surfaced for both Dallas shows, St. Louis, San Diego and Vancouver.
Empress Valley reissued this tape in 2003 on gold discs and in 2007 on a budget release. Eelgrass first issued it soon after the initial release and due to its popularity has gone into a second pressing. There are cuts 9:39 in “Moby Dick” and after Plant’s “good night” after “Stairway To Heaven.”
Considering the slow start of the tour, this is one of their best performances. Plant’s voice sounds good and Page is on too. The band’s introduction is cut and the tape picks up with the opening “Rock And Roll” and “Sick Again.”
“We came four blocks in the snow to get here you realize that? People were calling me up on the telephone today saying, ‘is it gonna be on, is it gonna be on?’ For a minute I wondered about my anatomy and then I realized there is some discrepancy about the weather. Isn’t it good it snows? Doesn’t it change the vibe of the city?” “Over The Hills And Far Away” is dedicated to the “keeper of the seasons, whoever and where ever he may be.” Great version of the difficult track and Jimmy Page duel with John Bonham in the middle of the solo.
Before “In My Time Of Dying” Plant again becomes very loquacious, saying: “This is what we would consider to be the last of the New York concerts. We got the Nassau County ones but we’ve always really dug playing in the Garden. So tonight we’re gonna have a really ecstatic one. This is codependent on two things: us and you. I’m in the mood to do a lot of talking but that’s not what it’s all about. We have a new album coming out shortly called Physical Graffiti. The likes of which we left in California.”
Page’s slide is devestating and afterwards Plant speaks in admiration of the piece by saying, “Ironically that’s what one might call an old folk standard. They become folk songs when nobody writes the music to them anymore and are passed on by memory. Can you imagine ‘Whole Lotta Love’ ending up like that?”
“The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” follow next. It is interesting that, despite Plant’s nightly announcement that they plan to play a cross section of all their material, the middle ninety minutes of the concert (from “Sick Again” to “Trampled Under Foot”) come from either Houses Of The Holy and Physical Graffiti.
There is a short delay after “The Rain Song” where Plant says, “It says: happy birthday, Abe. Sorry about that small intermission. This is a track from Physical Graffiti which once again takes the vibe of travel and experience and flashes of environments like the one we’re getting right now. This one is called ‘Kashmir.'”
The first very long epic of the night is “No Quarter.” Reaching twenty minutes, the versions on the first leg of the tour are long variants of those found on the previous tour with Jones remaining on the organ throughout the song’s duration. Later on he would introduce the grand piano changing the nature of the piece.
Plant introduces Jones by saying, “The next track features the impeccably clean fingernails of John Paul Jones. The man who make Monty Python’s Flying Circus a flop in New York. This is again about a journey…we never seem to get off of them.” At thirteen minutes Jones and Page get messed up and wind up playing in different keys making it sound horrible. After “Trampled Under Foot” they play the second epic of the night, a very long version of “Moby Dick.”
“Dazed And Confused” goes back to their “immaculate conception…referring to Jimmy, of course.” The band play a rare (for this tour) version of “Walter’s Walk” during the long improvisation. The band play a few bars of “Whole Lotta Love” as an introduction to “Black Dog.” They reward the audience with the second encore of “Heartbreaker.”
The band get into Elvis’ “That’s Alright” in the middle of the solo. Overall this is a very joyous experience which, despite the long epics, seems to fly by. This is a concert that is worth having in both the excellent audience and excellent soundboard recordings. Eelgrass makes this much more affordable than the original release of the show. It is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with an insert with several photos from the tour on the artwork.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)