The First Time At The Forum (TCOLZ 049/050/051/052)
Great Western Forum, Inglewood, Los Angeles, CA – March 27th, 1970
It is axiomatic, when discusing Led Zeppelin’s live performance, in pointing out the special relationship the held with this particular city. The concerts seemed longer, looser and more wild than in other cities raising many of them into legendary status. In 1969 they played the Whisky A Go-Go in January and other shows in the region, but made played the first of sixteen total shows at the Forum on March 27th, 1970. Two unique audience recordings exist for the event and have been issued before. The First Time At The Forum, however, is the first one to offer both sources complete from low generation tapes.
Disc 1 (69:05): We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Bring It On Home, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ Solo, Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be
Disc 2 (70:57): Moby Dick, How Many More Times, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, announcements
Disc 3 (68:09): We’re Gonna Groove, Dazed And Confused, Heartbreaker, Organ Solo, Thank You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick
Disc 4 (41:03): How Many More Times, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown
The first tape on the first two discs was taped far from the stage. It is very unstable at the beginning of “We’re Gonna Groove” and cuts out at 11:23 in “Dazed And Confused,” has a small cut after “Bring It On Home,” at 2:20 in “What Is And What Should Never Be” and at 22:46 in “How Many More Times.” The tapers are having a great time at the show however and hold conversation between the songs, really appreciate Jimmy Page’s solo in “Thank You” and are impressed with John Bonham’s stickless banging of the drums in “Moby Dick.”
The second tape source sounds much better than the first. Whomever taped it was closer to the stage and didn’t talk too much throughout the performance. It has a nice live sound and captures the dynamics, paranoia and hostility in the performance very well. The major flaw is that it is missing “Bring It On Home,” “White Summer / Black Mountain Side,” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” It is a strange omission and suggests either the taper intentionally held these songs back for some reason or the tape was damaged.
D’Ya Feel Alright? (Mad Dogs-029/30) released many years ago is the only other silver release of the entire first tape. The two titles utilizing both tapes, LA Jive & Rambling Mind(Holy Grail HGCD 106/7) and Everybody Feel Alright? (Empress Valley EVSD-463/464), use the better sounding second tape as a base and edit in “Bring It On Home,” White Summer / Black Mountain Side” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” from the first tape. Regarding the new TCOLZ release, both tapes sound as good as possible without excessive remastering.
Regarding the performance, if there were tapes circulating that are as good as their September show in the Forum, this would be considered one of the all time greats and would be much more common. Zeppelin were touring off of Led Zeppelin II (still a big seller after being out for five months) and were introducing songs from Led Zeppelin IIIas well. The tape begins with Robert Plant promising to “get everybody loose, as loose as everybody’s ever been loose, even with cod liver oil. So you must help us right?” before they start with “We’re Gonna Groove,” one of their more effective openers.
“I Can’t Quit You,” which was played as the second song for every show up to this point, was dropped in favor of a direct segue into “Dazed And Confused.” “Heartbreaker,” the third song of the set, lacks the theremin introduction that Page used for this tour but does have a moment of Hendrix-like feedback and distortion. “Bring It On Home” is good enough to make one wish it were on the better sounding tape. This is such an effective vehicle for improvisation and fun on-stage antics between Page, Plant and Bonham that it makes me wonder why it was dropped from the set list the following year and played only on rare occasions.
Plant gives a rather cryptic introduction to “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” saying: “we’d like to get some birdseed for the geese over there. We’d also like to dedicate this next song to the little men with the big sticks who keep pushing everybody back down the aisle. It’s their big day you see? They can’t understand it”
John Paul Jones’ organ solo before “Thank You” is the first attempt to introduce an improvisational keyboard solo in the Zeppelin live repertoire. Many times on this and the following American tour the solo sounds disjointed with the experiments sounding more stupid than interesting. But on this night it lasts only three minutes and is melodic and enjoyable.
“What Is And What Should Never Be” is usually one of the more “standard” numbers inthe set, being performed the same every night with very little difference. But Plant adds many interjections between the verses making this version stand out. Before “Moby Dick” Plant thanks everybody who saw them in Anaheim the previous year. “How Many More Times” lasts for twenty-five minutes with Plant promising to get the audience “looser and looser”. He introduces the band as “four survivors of the Graf Zeppelin” and the band get very intense. Page plays Ravel’s Bolero in increasing intensity and Plant tries to calm the police presence down throughout the entire medley.
“Whole Lotta Love”, their newest single at this time is the first encore and includes Page’s theremin solo in the middle and Jones banging on the keyboards to create the appropriate cacophony. The show closes with a version of “Communication Breakdown” that includes a reference to Neil Young’s “Down By The River” which was his latest hit that spring. The presentation from TCOLZ is very good with many rare photographs from the event.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)