Led Zeppelin – Milan 1971 Riot Show (No Label)

Milan 1971 Riot Show (No Label)

Velodromo Vigorelli, Milan, Italy – July 5, 1971

(19:47) Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Whole Lotta Love

The (in) famous Milan 1971 riot during Led Zeppelin’s performance was one of the ugliest incidents in the band’s touring career. Italy in the early 70’s could be a volatile environment, and much like America, the youth seemed in complete odds with the government, who were not afraid to use a strong arm to keep the youth in line. This is one time it all went too far, an impatient audience wanted Led Zeppelin, the authorities were hell bent to control the situation, the results were a full blown riot with the authorities using force and ultimately caused a violet situation that would deeply affect the band for some time.

Amazingly there are three short documents of this event, an average quality recording featuring three songs has circulated since the 70’s on the vinyl titles Blow One’s Cool (Grasshopper GH-104 A-B), Central Park – Milan 71 (Unknown 72169), The Final Option (Various), and Kooyong Tennis Courts (72169 D-E). The fragmented tape has made the rounds on compact disc as well, Stepmothers Club (Mad Dogs 027/8), Short Cuts (Image Quality IQ-035), Casino Royale (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 378-379), and Montreux Casino Fire 1971 (Wendy WECD-240/241). A short time ago a second recording appeared featuring a longer version of Dazed and Confused and Whole Lotta Love on a fan produced torrent by Dadgad Productions. The third source is a very short silent 8mm fragment that is relatively clear and easy to watch, while the Zeppelin portion is about 30 seconds, there is more footage from earlier in the day giving an idea of being inside the venue.

Back to the Dadgad Milan 1971 project that is featured on this release from the No Label company. Dadgad uses the first source for the first two songs, Since I’ve Been Loving You and Black Dog and the second source for Dazed and Whole Lotta Love. The sound on the first recording is good, it is clear enough to hear the individual instruments yet at times the sound overloads the recorder causing distortion. I do not have another version of this recording for comparison, but the sound on this is really good and is an easy listen. The tape for the second source was recorded by Walter W and based upon Dadgad’s notes, is from a second gen copy. The sound of the second source is good as well, a bit more distant and thus clearer than the first source with less of the distortion that plagues the first, it does have a bit of hiss, but overall a very listenable recording. They both compliment each other well and when combined, provide the most complete version of the aborted set circulating.

Even though all we have are fragments, what is here is very good. Led Zeppelin circa 1971 was a devastating live act, visceral and powerful, the Hammer of the Gods. The raw sound of the first source actually adds to the dramatic Since I’ve Been Loving You, Robert’s voice dominates the sounds, when he hits the high notes the tape machine has no chance! Black Dog is a bit worse quality than Since I’ve Been Loving You, Bonzo’s drums are buried, yet John Paul Jones bass is clear, Jimmy’s playing is incredible, he nails it effortlessly with clean fluent leads.

Dazed And Confused clocks in at 16 and a half minutes long, there is a cut at the 2:21 mark, just seconds prior the band abruptly stop and Robert begins to say something just at the cut. Perhaps there were signs of trouble starting, the song finishes with the verse just before the group goes into the bow solo. At times you can hear faint crowd noise, it’s not what you typically hear and was certainly unrest in the audience. The fast instrumental section that follows Jimmy’s bow solo is incredible, fast and very aggressive and so powerful, the band is playing with guts and determination.

From the band’s account of the concert, they began to see the smoke and did not know the audience, and themselves, were being assaulted with tear gas. Unknowingly they launched into Whole Lotta Love which made the audience go even crazier, this is when it was fully unleashed. This is corroborated by this recording. Whole Lotta Love is a mere 1:42 in length, at the 1:27 mark you hear the first explosion, at 1:34 the band abruptly stop and you hear the sounds of bottles breaking and a couple more explosions as the riot begins and the recording ends, it’s almost similar to listening to the Rolling Stones Altamont recording, that of extreme tension.

The packaging is typical No Label, the inserts feature live shots from the actual events, something that really brings the release full circle. For me, where this release fails is in its incompleteness. The label could have easily pulled the version of Dazed and Confused from the first source and added it on, either in its original position or as a bonus track and would have made for the definitive version of Milan 1971.

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