Great Chicago Fire (Empress Valley EVSD – 367/368/369/370/371/372/373/374/375/DVD – 008 (CD #s actually run 369-377))
Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL – April 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th, 1977
Disc 1: April 6, 1977: 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
Disc 2: April 6, 1977: Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Surrender, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir
Disc 3: April 6, 1977: Out On the Tiles/Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Trampled Underfoot
Disc 4: April 7, 1977: The Song Remains the Same, The Rover Introduction/Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault but Mine, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone
Disc 5: April 7, 1977: The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll
Disc 6: April 9, 1977: The Song Remains the Same, The Rover Introduction/Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault but Mine, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Announcements
Disc 7: April 10, 1977: 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
Disc 8: April 10, 1977: Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, Trampled Underfoot, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir
Disc 9: April 10, 1977: Moby Dick, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll
DVD: April 9/10, 1977: The Complete 1977 Chicago Stadium Tapes Bonus DVD, Slideshows From 1977 North American Tour
The first of four nights in Chicago has Robert Plant speaking to the crowd about fire crackers before the first note even gets played. The recording from this night is plagued with distortion and a very harsh top end. A real shame because it sounds like the taper was close to the stage and turning the levels down may have resulted in an excellent, much cleaner sound. Plant’s comments between songs are easily heard and he’s in a playful mood singing bits of Elvis tunes, among other classics, in between songs.
This is the third show into the tour and Led Zeppelin still sound as if they are getting back into the swing of things (Plant even mentions this before “Ten Years Gone”). A few missed cues and a couple of near disasters show the band trying to chip through the rust. The tape from April 6th also suffers from the most tape problems. “In My Time of Dying” contains many drop outs and garbled sections of tape as does the acoustic section and “No Quarter” has two cuts near the end where a small section of tape runs backwards. A very heavy sounding “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is dedicated to all the great blues man that come from Chicago as it will be on some of the following nights. Plant’s emphasis on Willie Dixon seems to get the biggest reaction from the crowd. Jimmy seems to be having trouble keeping his guitar in tune for “White Summer/BMS” and “Kashmir”.
The second night in Chicago sees its first release on silver disc. It’s not as harsh as the previous nights recording but is more distant and echoey, still having a very nice atmosphere, though. Robert’s voice is still warming up for the tour and Page’s playing is choppy, but not entirely in a bad way. Page always had a way of pulling out some great moments even on some of his worst nights. Perhaps the audience recording helps to hide his imperfections.
This recording from April 7th is far from complete. Part of the acoustic section, drum solo, guitar solo and much of “Achilles” are all missing. A few missed cues again with “The Song Remains” and “Nobody’s Fault”. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is not listed on the sleeve but is present and comes directly after “Nobody’s Fault” (thanks to gsparaco for catching this one). “In My Time of Dying” must have been dropped as there doesn’t appear to be a cut between “Nobody’s Fault” and “Since”. The end of “No Quarter” also cuts into “Ten Years Gone”. It’s too bad tonight’s recording is not more complete; it’s probably the best sounding of these Chicago concerts. As usual, John Paul Jones and John Bonham are excellent and deliver solid performances throughout all these Chicago shows.
Disc six has the complete show from April 9th. The recording, like the first night, has harsh top end and distortion in places. This is the infamous “food poisoning” incident that had Jimmy unable to continue after the first 60 minutes. There are moments throughout tonight’s show that indicate something was going on with Page. He seems very distracted at times and it shows throughout the recording. He also launches into “Since I’ve Been Loving You” prematurely, waiting for the band to follow, but Jones, not behind the piano, has his bass on expecting “Nobody’s Fault”. Plant passes it off with a joke calling this a blues night. Robert’s voice is strong for “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” and Jimmy takes a different, very spontaneous approach to his solo in “Since”. The main source used for this show is the better sounding tape with slight cuts during “No Quarter”. Empress Valley have spliced in the secondary source for completion. After a rough “Ten Years Gone”, Robert announces they will be taking a five-minute break only to be followed by another announcement telling the fans to hang on to there tickets for a makeup show that apparently would never happen.
The last three discs are from the final night in Chicago and are also featured on silver disc for the first time. The source is somewhat distant, distorted, and lacking top end leaving the recording sounding flat and dull. Listenable, probably a six out of ten as the mix is often cluttered. A better performance than the previous night, Page seems to be recovering. Plant mentions Jimmy’s illness and some comments made by a local radio station claiming Page had been drinking the previous day. Comically, he demands an apology along with a crate of alcohol. The set list has been modified with “Trampled Underfoot” being moved to the middle of the set instead of the encore. Plant’s intro to “Over the Top” cuts directly to the “Moby Dick” ending, missing the entire drum solo.
The DVD contains all known amateur film footage from the event (very fragmented) plus slideshows from the 1977 tour. The music used for the slideshows and menus are from various soundboard sources available from the same tour. Overall, not the greatest soundings tapes and a rocky start to the tour but as with every Zeppelin show, the highlights overshadow the shortcomings. No matter what the condition of the band, songs like “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, “No Quarter” and “Going to California” were always excellent. This set is recommended to the die-hard Zeppelin collectors only. The average collector would consider this a bit of a rough ride. Until new sources or soundboards surface from these nights, this will probably be the definitive and maybe only updated release of these shows. Considering the source tapes; a nice job and an excellent presentation from Empress Valley. (WGPSEC)