Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, Michigan, USA – April 30, 1977
Disc 1 (66:15) Intro, The Song Remains The Same, The Rover Intro / Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Disc 2 (46:28) MC, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir
Disc 3 (59:51) Over The Top, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll, Trampled Under Foot
After a somewhat sluggish start, the first leg of Led Zeppelin’s 1977 American tour started building momentum as the band worked its way through the Midwest, in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland before ending in fine style with the massive concert at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, a Northern suburb of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. Massive refers to the venue, the stadium which was home to the Detroit Lions from 1975 to 2001 and could house 81,000 people. Massive also refers to the attendance for the concert, 76,200 fans saw the Led Zeppelin, just about 500 more than a performance by The Who a couple years earlier. I saw The Rolling Stones at The Silverdome in 1989 and was in awe at the interior size of the venue, I remember thinking you could fly a small plane around its interior.
While rumors and discussions abound to the existence of a pro shot video from the performance, the only thing that has surfaced is an audience audio recording of nearly the complete concert. It was recorded a fair distance from the stage so it is distant but the music is clear and enough detail is there so all instruments and vocals are audible with just a minor level of hiss present, the recording easily falls into the good range. You certainly get the idea on how large an event the concert was even though the sound is a bit distant, the recording really provides a sense of the atmosphere inside the Silverdome and at a typically crazy late Seventies Rock and Roll concert.
The recording has been issued just one time prior as Hot Rods In Pontiac (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ-13), one of the labels earliest efforts. Since there is only the singular tape and since the master tapes are believed to be lost, what we have is the best we are going to get. There is no huge upgrade to the tape, there are improvements over the old TDOLZ. First off this new title runs at the correct speed, Hot Rods In Pontiac ran about 2% slow. The No Label is also from a better generation tape so it sounds slightly better, a bit louder and clearer with less distortion, again no huge or dramatic improvement. The only cut in the music I could detect is at 9:36 in Over The Top and at the very end missing the Coda.
With the demolition of the Silverdome in 2017, the local press had featured articles about the venue, one such fan had this to say about Led Zeppelin’s 1977 stop, “It was the craziest concert I’ve ever been to, they were lighting fires on the floor of the Silverdome with empty beer cartons. There were people throwing M-80s and half-sticks [of dynamite] off the balcony”. This recording certainly does corroborate his story, Plant asks people to sit down and relax prior to Nobody’s Fault But Mine that falls on pretty empty ears and there are many a loud bangs throughout the concert, Going To California is destroyed by a massive outburst that garner a huge ovation from most in attendance.
Overall the playing is inspired and Page is in fine form, after the first couple numbers the sound clears up nicely and by Since I’ve Been Loving, actually quite enjoyable. Since and an incredible No Quarter are first disc highlights, the latter is really dynamic with John Paul Jones getting a nice solo spot and then enters Page for some of his finest work of the evening. The acoustic set is solid, albeit the aforementioned fireworks and even White Summer / Black Mountain Side is well played. Kashmir catches the audience by surprise and the wave of applause sounds like a wave as it rises from the depths. Achilles Last Stand is quite muscular, it brings to life many of the Neil Preston photos from this concert of Page and Plant doing the synchronized moves during the concert. Another huge ovation and several rounds of fireworks greet Stairway To Heaven, the culmination of the concert. Page’s solo goes somewhere and the start stop section is really good, Bonzo is on and is simply killing it making the hard rock section very satisfying. The encores are standard, Rock And Roll gets the audience to a fevered pitch and they scream for more, Trampled Underfoot seals the deal and the Pontiac triumph is over.
The packaging is typical No Label, full color inserts with live shots from the tour, many from the actual gig itself. Pictures on the CD’s, numbered sticker all housed in a fat boy jewel case. I can now throw away my CD-r copies of Hot Rods In Pontiac as we now have a better version of this most famous show. While this title certainly appeals to the hardcore Zeppelin fan, its sound quality should really only interest them and not the casual collectors.