Berkeley First Night (no label)
Community Theater, Berkeley, CA – September 13th, 1971
Disc 1 (64:03): Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day
Disc 2 (71:35): That’s The Way, Going To California, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Boogie Chillun’, Hello Mary Lou, Mess O’ Blues, You Shook Me), Communication Breakdown (incl. Gallows Pole)
Led Zeppelin’s seminal seventh tour of the US began in LA, traveled around the country and ended with two dates in Berkeley and two in Honolulu, Hawaii. Both of the Berkeley shows were recorded from the audience and have been issued many times before. The more famous it the September 14th show because of the well known vinyl release Going To California and that it’s the best sounding recording to surface from that tour.
The September 13th Berkeley show is less known and much rarer. It has been released before as Back On the West Coast (Mad Dogs-031/32), Going To California II (Tarantura T2CD-17), California Stampede (Magnificent Disc MD-7102 A/B) and part of the four disc set on Tarantura Going To California (TMQ 0501001 1, 2 / 0501002 1, 2) paired with the second show issued in 2005.
These releases were, in one way or another, problematic with speed problems, scarcity and over zealous mastering. The 2005 Tarantura effort was the best sounding version, running at the correct speed and having a crisp sound to it. But Berkeley First Night is a substantial improvement over the Tarantura. Coming from the master tape, it has much more clarity, depth, and presence than any previous version.
Unfortunately the master tape is still incomplete. A review in the Oakland Tribune stated “when called back for an encore, they went into ‘Been a Long Time,’ also from their upcoming album and again blasted the audience out of the auditorium, ears ringing with the tunes of Led Zeppelin, probably the loudest group to come out of England.” The encores are missing “Rock And Roll,” stopping with “Communication Breakdown.”
All Led Zeppelin concerts from 1971 are intense, semi-violent affairs worth hearing and the first night in Berkeley is no exception. After they are introduced they walk onstage and deliver an excellent performance. The Tribune review states the band “proved itself only to be loud, boisterous and very deafening at their first Bay Area appearance in over a year last week. Filling the Berkeley Community Theater with some 40 amplifiers and speakers, the English group apparently mis-judged its sound projection because its effect was almost unbelievable, and often unbearable…. The concert, which started 20 minutes late, began with the barely recognizable ‘Immigrant Song,’ with Page improvising to the hilt throughout the number and Plant dancing around onstage spastically to the tune.”
“Good evening” Plant says afterwards. “It’s been quite a while. This is something a little lighter, more restrained” he calls “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” There is a short delay because of “a little problem in the tuner. The difference in temperature between an early start and an early finish on the instruments being torn about, bit by bit.”
The first new song of the night is “Black Dog” and as Plant explains, “We got a new album coming out in about three weeks time. There’s been so much messing around trying to get a cover.”
“Dazed And Confused” is about twenty minutes and is described in the review as being “mystic and haunting.” Jimmy Page includes Bach’s bouree in the violin bow segment as well as the loud zeppelin crash common in these 1971 performances. During the improvisation Page plays a country hoedown passage right before the call and response section which he abandons in later tours.
An unknown, very catchy and heavy riff sounding similar to “Out On The Tiles” starts off “Whole Lotta Love.” The medley stretches to twenty minutes long and includes “Boogie Chillun’,” “Hello Mary Lou,” “Mess O’ Blues” and a very long “You Shook Me.” Before the first encore “Communication Breakdown” Plant says: “we’ve come here for three years. Thirty six months in which we’ve grown hair, and we sweat. Tonight, you ain’t sweatin. Sweat!” Plant throws in some lines from “Gallows Pole” during the guitar solo.
Berkeley First Nightis a very good release meant to give this show serious consideration for collectors. It has always been overshadowed by the more famous second night in Berkeley. And while the sound quality is nowhere near as good, it is very good in this edition and reveals an excellent performance. It is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with excellent use of period photographs and is worth having.