Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland, OH, USA – April 28, 1977
Disc 1 (74:58) Anticipatory Audience Ecstasy, The Song Remains The Same, The Rover Introduction / Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone
Disc 2 (59:51) The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman / Bron-YR-Aur Stomp, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Out On The Tiles / Moby Dick
Disc 3 (46:44) Guitar Solo (inc. Star Spangled Banner), Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll, Trampled Underfoot
In early 2019 the Tarantura label released Destroyers, a nine CD box set featuring recordings from both concerts Led Zeppelin performed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977. This box set was the first to utilize a newly surfaced recording of the second performance on April 28, 1977, a recording that had been kept in a very tight circle of people from Cleveland. Apparently the recording was not released with permission and to make matters worse, suffered the effects of heavy handed mastering. The decision was made to release the recording on an internet Led Zeppelin fan forum site so fans could here the unaltered recording, so it’s no surprise when Empress Valley announced this new title shortly after. As usual the label released it on two packages, Destroyer Newly Discovered! Cleveland Rocks is a 3 CD version containing just the new tape and Destroyer a nine CD box set featuring the well known recordings from both nights plus this new tape and based upon the CD matrix numbers, the label uses old discs for both. In typical EV fashion, the 9 disc box set comes in two different covers.
The recording itself is very good and just a notch below the first recording, it is clear and very atmospheric. The taper was position in section 210 on the right side of the stage and managed to capture a perfectly balanced, clear and detailed recording. He used a Phillips portable tape recorder and Memorex Tracs 90 and 120 cassettes, he was positioned on a platform usually used for a television camera for sports broadcasts. The batteries were loose in the machine and thus the recording suffered from speed fluctuations, the majority of these were fixed although some issues can still be heard during In My Time Of Dying, No Quarter and Ten Years Gone. The taper did an excellent job of tape management and managed to capture the complete concert save for a few tape flips and pauses during the encore cheering. The only real detriment to this recording is it does have some audience interference sporadically, conversations asking about getting a copy of the tape, having a baby on the way, and some serious coughing are some of the topics. Empress Valley did a nice job on the mastering and pretty much left the tape alone to stand on its own merits.
In a 2008 interview with Uncut magazine, Robert Plant spoke of the 1977 tour: “By 1977, I was 29, just prior to Karac’s passing, and that sort of wild energy that was there in the beginning had come to the point where we were showboating a bit. Unfortunately, we had no choice. We were on tours where places were going ape-shit. There was no way of containing the energy in those buildings. It was insane. And we became more and more victims of our own success. And the whole deal about the goldfish bowl and living in it, that kicked in”. The first minute and half of this recording conveys this image, the recording picks up the depth of the arena and the massive ovation and anticipation and the lights going out and band taking the stage.
This concert is easily one of the best from 1977, the atmosphere captured on this tape rivals the first source as well as confirms this performances legacy. The playing is laid back and yet intense, this is one of my favorite 77 versions of Since I’ve Been Loving You, Plant and Page tease the crowd while Jones adds these flourishes on the keys that are outstanding, and Bonham’s drumming is superlative, the band does not force a thing. No Quarter is also a standout, the theramin section has a bit of tape speed issue and someone close to the taper coughs a lot, surely partaking for the mystic journey that is No Quarter. The audience cheer and Jones begins his solo and goes into the Nutrocker portion, the piece is somewhat of a novelty and does not compare to the proper solo section, Page attacks his guitar with a staggered fury of leads adding to the dramatic effect. The whole piece is sometimes soft and luxurious, sometimes aggressive and angry, the results will blow one’s mind.
Despite a few firecrackers, the acoustic set is nice, the audience are respectful and the band manage to get an intimate feel with a crowd of 18,000 in a large arena. Plant tells the audience “It’s really nice to do acoustic stuff because it breaks the um…it makes the music flow a little more so you don’t know what the hell’s gonna happen next…we really enjoy it”. After the upbeat combo of Black Country Woman and Bron-YR-Aur Stomp, Jimmy’s Black Mountain Side seems to have the audience in a lull and Kashmir catches them by surprise. The recording is powerful, Bonham’s drumming is incredible and the song retains its grandeur. While Bonham’s Ode To Excess does get tedious, Page’s guitar solo is focused and to the point, as with many performances on this tour, it includes the Star Spangled Banner and leads into a blistering take on Achilles Last Stand. This song is best heard on audience recordings, I find the soundboard versions fall rather flat, the hall ambiance adds greatly to the songs depth. Great version of Stairway to finish the set, the audience seem to relish in the song, the hard rock section is quite powerful and well delivered by the band, Plant tells the audience “Thank you very much, we had a really great time…thank you. We hope you enjoyed it too…Good Night!”, the ovation seems to raise the rafters of the Coliseum.
Really great recording and for the 3 CD version I purchased, the packaging is very minimalist. A simple glossy cardboard sleeve with common pictures of Page on the front and the band and their entourage in front of Caesars Chariot on the rear. While this minimalist packaging has kept the price down, it could have been nicer, the original download files of this tape came with a seating chart overview of the area showing the tapers position, an information sheet with recording and mastering notes, pictures of the master cassettes, not to mention a huge file of pictures from these concerts by Cleveland Rock Photographer Janet Macoska. Any of this could have been used to embellish the cover, nonetheless this is a really great addition to my collection and for the price you cannot beat it.