Philadelphia Special (LZ-001/002)
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA – February 8th, 1975
Disc 1 (75:39): 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, No Quarter, Trampled Under Foot
Disc 2 (75:34): Moby Dick, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Heartbreaker
Philadelphia Special is a late nineties release of Led Zeppelin’s February 8th gig at the Spectrum. Many claim this is an offshoot the the TDOLZ label, but is in reality an anonymous, one-off release by someone who correctly believes this to be an underrated tape and concert. The recording is fair to good and perfectly listenable. The tape is harder to hear when the audience goes especially crazy, namely during “Rock And Roll,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Black Dog” and “Heartbreaker.” There are several non-destructive cuts on the tape including three small ones in the first minute of “Rock And Roll,” at fifty-six seconds in “Over The Hills And Far Away,” after “The Rain Song,” 13:21 in “No Quarter,” two cuts around the nine minute mark in “Moby Dick,” right before the solo in “Stairway To Heaven” and after “Black Dog.” Another release of this show was released several years ago called Spectrum(Electric Magic EMC-25 A/B) which utilized a second audience recording to fill in the cuts on the first but the volume is boosted too high making it not as enjoyable as this.
Along with the great playing, this show was mentioned in Steven Davis’ book Hammer Of The Gods. It was in Philadelphia, he claims, that the audience were so rowdy that security began beating on some poeple in the front row during “Stairway To Heaven.” Jimmy Page thought about smaking the thugs on the head with his double neck, but thought better of it and continued with the solo. None of this is audible on the tape and there is no mention of it in the press reports, but it would not be surprising if it were true. Some interesting observations written by M. Damsker for The Bulletin state:
“Led Zeppelin brought its unprecedented sound-light spectacle to the Spectrum Saturday night, overwhelming a sell-out audience of some 20,000, with close to three hours of ‘heavy-metal’ rock’n’roll. The four-man British band – in the midst of an American tour, which will reportedly gross in excess of $5 million – has been preeminent among rock’s high-energy supergroups for almost six years. Now, augmented by a system of lighting and amplification higher in wattage than any mounted previously. Led Zeppelin seems to have outdone itself in sheer mind-zapping gut-wrenching intensity.
“The keystone of that intensity – and of Zeppelin’s music in general – has always been the protean guitar playing and consummate blues-rock songwriting of leader Jimmy Page. Apparently recovered from an injury sustained before leaving Britain, when a train compartment door slammed on his left ring finger, Page is extraordinary as ever, and Saturday night he pulled off his virtuoso repertoire of searing, pinpointed licks, and apocalyptic chordings and classic guitar-hero postures with undaunted elan.
“Lead singer Robert Plant, he of the sensual swagger and honey-blond charisma, provides the visual and musical offset to Page’s dominance. As usual, his singing – a trademark blend of shriekwail and heartbroken crooning – grew more commending as the night progressed (and in his customary note-for-note sparrings with Page’s guitar), while the steady throb-and-pound of drummer John Bonham and bassist – occasional keyboardist – John Paul Jones anchored the music’s unsettling modulations.
“Performing a cross-section of new, recent and old material, Zeppelin assaulted its audience with such destructo-anthems as Dazed and Confused, Rock and Roll, the softly lyrical set-ups and explosive resolutions of Stairway to Heaven and No Quarter, the unfamiliar yet engaging dynamism of several songs from their upcoming Physical Graffiti LP. A highlight of the concert was Bonham’s masterly fifteen minute drum solo – worthy of the standing ovation it received – with its other-worldly synthesizer effects.
“As for the unprecedented staging, the mammoth sound system, as promised, provided superb separation, mitigating the nitro-volume with compelling clarity, the lighting – an awesome network of stagebound and remote spots – evoked startling, vividly hued, richly varied visual atmospheres, although the much-heralded laser beam played (from where we sat) an indeterminate role.” (“Led Zeppelin Bring on the Light and Sound”)
Philadelphia is one of the most underrated shows on this tour probably because it isn’t blessed with a fantastic sounding recording. This is the only Philadelphia show ever to be taped and, as it would turn out, was Zeppelin’s final show in the city since concerts scheduled in both 1977 and 1980 were canceled. (There is a ninety minute audience recording, from “Heartbreaker” to “Moby Dick” that circulates as the June 13th, 1972 show at the Spectrum, but there are also claim that it is Portland or Rochester from the same tour). Plant’s voice is still rough, but Dansker is correct in singling out Jimmy Page in his review. He attains a high level and delivers a dynamic show all around by the end of the night.
The tape cuts in as the band hit the stage for “Rock And Roll” and the new song “Sick Again.” Plant delivers his usual spiel, saying “Right, first of all, let me explain what we intend to do tonight. We intend ourselves because the whole art of staying together as a group is to have a really really good time, right? That’s as far as we’re concerned, so we hope that you’ll come along on our little journey too, and to some of the music that we’ve been able to get together in the last six and a half years. We intend to try acd cut across the whole prism of color, of sound, that we’ve been able to get together from very heavy stuff, to very light stuff too. In fact, a crossection. So I hope you’ll bear with us.”
“In My Time Of Dying” is given a preview for the Philadelphia audience, “I don’t even know if FM’s got ahold of it or anything….See how you think.” Footage exists of them playing the song in this show and is posted on Led Zeppelin’s official site. “The Song Remains The Same” is about “every red light area from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Kuwait, Bahrain.” During “The Rain Song” there is some commotion in the crowd and Plant tells the audience to cool it during the song. Afterwards he admonished the crowd, saying, “Listen, can we advocate that people please stay in their seats, and the seat that you’ve got a ticket number for and everything? Because it’s not necessary to see situations like that right under your nose. So can we all keep cool, yeah?”
“No Quarter” again sounds like an expanded version of the song from the previous tour as Page is able to conjure dark, unsettling riffs during the long solo passage. “Dazed And Confused” reaches twenty-eight minutes and is the longest version of the tour thus far. It hints very strongly to the classic versions from past years and the audience seem to like it. The encores are very strong with heavy versions of “Black Dog” and one of the better versions of “Heartbreaker.” Unlike other shows, there are no blues elaborations in the solo but rather is played straight. Philadelphia Special is pressed on two discs and comes in a fatboy jewel case. The artwork is printed on only one side and they use very common Earls Court photos of Page on the front and back. The setlist is printed in order without indication as to where the break is for the different discs. Perhaps a definitive version, with a careful edit of the two sources, will emerge but until this this is a very good production of a great show.