Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 012/13/14)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – June 10th, 1977
Disc 1 (65:16): The Song Remains The Same, The Rover/ Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Disc 2 (73:18): Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Out On The Tiles / Moby Dick
Disc 3 (46:41): Heartbreaker, guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll
Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is an early TDOLZ release documenting the third of third of six nights in New York. They use only one tape source which is distant and noisy but surprisingly clear and enjoyable. It is very good at capturing the party atmosphere in the Garden that night and presents an accurate aural picture of what it was like going to rock concerts in New York in the seventies. A subsequent release of this show can be found on Riot In Thunderstorm (Electric Magic EMC-018A/B/C) which uses a second tape to fill in some of the cuts on the first.
But according to the bootledz website, “Overall EMCs splices add almost 2.5 minutes of music and a minute of tape between songs, but many are just pointless. The spliced introduction could possibly exist only to mislead.” On the TDOLZ there is a cut and repeat before “No Quarter” (repeating the same introduction) and a cut at 8:55, a cut and repeat before “Going To California” (again repeating some dialogue), a cut at the beginning of “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” cuts before and after “Moby Dick.”
The imperfections are secondary to the fun performance by the band. This is another legendary night in this inconsistent tour. A deafening roar starts the tape before the band play “The Song Remains The Same” and “Sick Again.” Plant is very chatty on this night and greats “our friends from Wales. You may have all come from Wales once upon a time.” This show contains a significant change in the set list early on by dropping “In My Time Of Dying.”
“This is a song that might come as a surprise for the people in the second row who’ve been here a couple of nights. So it might come as a surprise to us cause we haven’t done it for about two and a half years until tonight” Plant says as he introduces “Over The Hills And Far Away.” It hadn’t been played since Earls Court in 1975 and is a welcome change in the set and would alternate with “In My Time Of Dying” for the rest of the summer. The atmospheric recording makes the guitar solo sound massive as the notes bounce off the walls of the Garden.
Plant loses his place as he begins to introduce “No Quarter” but realizes they are about to play “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” referred to as “an English blues.” Plant’s voice is in perhaps the best shape of the tour as he bravely hits some of the high notes. “No Quarter” is a song with “strange vibes” and produces the first moments of tension in the show.
John Paul Jones plays a very confident and happy sounding solo on grand piano. The cut in the middle eliminates he transition from the first to the second half of the solo, but Page produces mysterious sounding riffs by the end. If the recording were better this would enter the argument concerning the most creative versions of this song.
“Ten Years Gone” is the result of “a little bit of trial and error at rehearsals.” Plant introduces Jones’ triple necked guitar and dedicates he song to David Northover, one of the band’s administrative assistants. Page almost loses control the the solo but recovers nicely to deliver an intense version of the difficult track. Bonham is introduced for “The Battle Of Evermore” and Plant has great fun introducing Jones, saying, “This is a song that ah, let’s just say, had a young lady assisting on vocals and we managed to convince the young lady in the group with us to do the singing tonight as well. It features John Paul Jones on vocals. John Paul Jones on vocals?”
There is a long delay before “Going To California” and Plant rambles on, saying, “Some technical problems with some of the equipment now. Two of the crew members. At this point you see the unique assistance of John Paul Jones’s three necked acoustic instrument because he now switches from guitar straight to mandolin. How many people have got a three necked instrument? Not a lot. Read Cream magazine and you’ll read all about it. John Paul Jones still plays backgammon. This is a song about um, it’s about what happens when you get over the Misty Mountain.”
The transition from “White Summer” to “Kashmir” produces one of the biggest reactions in the set. After the drum solo they play “Heartbreaker” for the first time on the tour. It would be played only a handful more times afterwards and is thrown in when the band are feeling particularly confident. The fuzz of the guitar solo works very well with the limitations of the recording and several firecrackers are thrown which are very well timed with the music.
Almost makes one think they were intentional. Before “Stairway To Heaven” Plant wonders why there are gentlemen with blue hats who just walked in. The tape cuts out in the middle of “Rock And Roll” and makes one wonder if they came back to play “Black Dog” as a second encore. Given hot loose the show is, it isn’t out of the question.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is packaged in a gorgeous glossy cardboard sleeve with several MSG photos from the tour. This is a good way to have just the one source but given the problems with the EMC version pointed out above, the definitive version of this great concert has yet to be released.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)