Conspiracy Theory (Empress Valley EVSD-263/264/265) outer slip cover
Conspiracy Theory (Empress Valley EVSD-263/264/265) digipack front cover
Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – March 14th, 1975
Disc 1 (54:21): 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 (65:31): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (54:54): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Heartbreaker
When Empress Valley announced the release of Conspiracy Theory in June 2004, it caught everyone by surprise. It was commonly thought that all of Led Zeppelin’s concerts after 1970 were pretty much documented and established, and the idea that a show as late as 1975 would elude scholars seemed hard to believe. Phone calls and emails were sent to the San Diego libraries to dig up newspaper evidence of this date. Its veracity stood to reason since, between March 12th and March 17th, there is a five day gap in which the band’s activities were unaccounted. The tape is similar to the other 1975 Empress Valley have been able to obtain. The music in general is well balanced and lively, but the audience sounds a bit further away compared to the Earls Court tapes. There is also as much as fifteen minutes missing since the first encore, “Whole Lotta Love” / “The Crunge” / “Black Dog” is absent. Although it is possible they simply dropped it from the performance, that is highly unlikely and most probably it is being held back since it really doesn’t make much sense that a gap that big would be an accident.
Since this new show comes after one of the best of the tour, it was hoped this show too would also fall into that catagory. There are some very good points to the show but it is uneven in general due in part to faulty equipment. “Rock And Roll” and “Sick Again” get the show off to a good start and Plant greets the audience by saying, “Good evening San Diego. Good evening. For anybody who isn’t aware of the fact…well thank you very much…our intention on this part of this tour of America is to try and re-associate you with a cross section of the music that we’ve done over the last six and a half years, right? A total cross section, light and shade, and we really hope that you dig it, cause we intend to have a good time doing it, and it starts, so we’ll start off with a story that goes something like this.”
“Over The Hills And Far Away” again contains an excellent Jimmy Page solo in the middle and in the final reiteration of the folk theme he includes a reference to “White Summer.” This is logical since the main theme comes from the old classic. Before “In My Time Of Dying” Plant says cryptically, “Sorry about the very slight delay tonight, but apparently it was snowing in Austria, which has got a lot to do with San Diego, right?” Plant is very impressive on this song as he storms the gates of heaven. Afterwards there is a buzz from the equipment onstage and Plant quips, “this is our turn to give you a good buzz.” Page loses his place in the introduction to “The Song Remains The Same” and waits two measures before coming back in. Both “The Rain Song” and “Kashmir” suffer from an out of tune mellotron. In fact it sounds as if the tapes were melting at the end of the former.
When Plant introduces Jones for “No Quarter,” he refers to “a brandy glass on top of his piano, and if we want, we put a dollar bill in, you know?…it’s for the conquistadors.” The reference to the brandy glass for cocktail lounge piano players to receive tips is appropriate for this night. Jones wanders a bit on the grand piano until he hits upon a soft jazzy melody before Bonham comes in. Page slinks up to the main melody in the guitar solo and turns in a very good improvisation. “Trampled Under Foot” is introduced as “Trampled Under Physical Foot.” The drum solo takes up almost twenty-five minutes and the middle section of the show turns out to be the strongest.
“Dazed And Confused” is a half hour long but Page again sounds somewhat tentative. Plant calls it “a very dramatic, dynamic piece which was, as we said at the beginning, is part of the musical spectrum.” The final song of the set “Stairway To Heaven” is “perhaps one of the infrared points.” It is a shame that the first encore is missing because that is a very exciting part of the show. “Heartbreaker” is very good although doesn’t have any blues references in the solo as other shows on the tour have. Overall this is a good but not great concert. The final week of the tour would see some stunning performances. Conspiracy Theory is one of the biggest surprises to come out in a long while and is a welcome release. It is packaged in a tri-fold digipack with a cardboard slip cover with and insert with liner notes explaining the origins and review of the show in both English and Japanese.