St. Paul 1973 (No Label)
Civic Center, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA – July 9, 1973
Disc 1 (67:32) Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 (45:06) MC, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 3 (49:52) MC, Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love (incl. Let That Boy Boogie), Communication Breakdown
The second half of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 North American tour began on July 6 with two concerts in Chicago. The month long break between legs did not help Robert Plant much with his voice being rough for the first few concerts, thankfully the rest of Led Zeppelin was still in fighting shape and much like the concerts at the beginning of the year, they kept it interesting to say the least. This concert from St. Paul, Minnesota comes after the two Chicago dates and while Robert’s voice is rough, a significant improvement can be heard.
I was pleased to see this titled announced as the source for this release is a transfer of the master tape to DAT with sound mastering by dadgad. The concert was recorded by a chap named Jeff A who managed to capture a near complete document of the performance. The sound is distant but fairly clear, there is a bit of distortion due to the boominess of the venue but all the instruments are discernible in the mix. There are a few cuts in the recording, a bit of Stairway To Heaven, Heartbreaker, and Communication Breakdown are effected. Despite the average sound quality this recording is a very good listen as the tape captures the atmosphere perfectly.
This recording has had only one previous release, Complete Performance In Minnesota (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ-043) was released close to 25 years ago. In comparison, this new release from the folks at No Label is a significant upgraded version to the old TDOLZ title. The No Label is louder, clearer with a greatly improved frequency range and when combined with the dadgad remaster, almost pushes the recording into the very good range, almost. It is also more complete, the TDOLZ had the taper chatter at the beginning of the tape edited out, now we get a play by play of the limousines arrival.
There is an excellent and detailed review by G.S. that really hits all the main points of the performance. This new release allows you to really hear and enjoy the band, Robert doesn’t push it and is using more of a talking style of singing as to not push his voice, it does warm nicely as the concert goes on. The opening assault of Rock And Roll and Celebration Day are both good and lead into a superb Black Dog with Jimmy really nailing all the leads, not a note out of place in his “tight but loose” mode, the band received a huge welcome from the Twin Cities. The crowd is a bit too enthusiastic as Robert tells them chill out after Over The Hills And Far Away, there is also several instances of fireworks in the mix, distant expositions that rattle the concentration.
John Bonham’s drums are perfectly in the mix, his drumming during Misty Mountain Hop is a masterful mix of power and timing. The sound is clear enough during the follow up Since I’ve Been Loving You that you can easily hear his hi-hat, his anticipation is incredible as he throws out just the right beat complimenting what Jimmy plays, sometimes before he plays it. This my friends, is a thing of improvised beauty. John also plays some really interesting rhythms during No Quarter prior to Jimmy’s solo, not waiting for cues just really playing as the music leads him yet always staying within the framework of the piece. Jimmy’s solo is unique as well, this concert is full if improvisations, including a nice three way jam before they go back into the main keyboard theme.
Definitely the star of this concert is a brilliant version of Dazed And Confused, just a masterwork of interesting playing in a looser than usual structure. “John Bonham comes to you from the makers of Quaalude’s” is part of Robert’s introduction to the song as they wait from John Paul Jones, when he begins his bass is extremely heavy and the vibrations reverberate from my floor. Dazed begins slow and methodical, the only thing fast are Bonham’s machine gun like fills that punctuate here and there. After the beginning part where the band usually goes into an instrumental that leads into the oriental riffs section, Page plays it completely different with the others keenly listening and responding, when he finally gets into the oriental section and San Francisco it is different at the beginning, the same direction just a different road. There is a psychedelic lead in to the bow solo which is perfectly captured in this recording, the distance of the recording coupled with the hall echo and audience response make for an incredible atmosphere. The soundscapes Page conjures from his Les Paul is exasperatingly eerie and is best listened to at night in low lighting as it sets the mood. The fast section after the bow solo is superb, all four members just give their all, Jones and Bonham laying the foundation with Jimmy soloing all over it and Robert’s spot on scat vocals are jaw dropping. The fast crescendos that lead back into the main theme are wonderful, some familiar, some unique, all awe inspiring. One of the best versions from 1973.
The cut during Stairway To Heaven is at the 2:51 mark right after Robert sings “and it makes me wonder” then begins again right before “In my thoughts I have seen..”. The cut has been cleaned up and is smooth and well handled. The band is given a massive ovation at its conclusion, the band is not done as the “King Of Quaalude’s” still has something to give and the band break into the muscular beginning of Moby Dick. Heartbreaker begins with “been ten years maybe more”, during Jimmy’s solo the taper says “that’s really good”, we can only agree. The band are still feeling the jam vibe making for a great version, the transition into Whole Lotta Love is quite heavy thanks to John’s pounding beat. Robert’s vocals are still a little rough sounding but he pushes it certainly due to the great vibes in Minnesota. The Theremin is well captured in this recording and while just a standard jam of Let That Boy Boogie everything is well played and enjoyed, just listen to the audience response as the band break back into Whole Lotta Love, mega swagger! The very beginning of the jam that leads into Communication Breakdown is missing but it’s just a few seconds, Plant’s vocals are high yet raspy. This is a typical version of the song from this period, they play an extended chunky jam similar to what they used to do during Bring It On Home, it builds in tension before exploding into the final fast aggressive ending. A brilliant concert.
The packaging features inserts with black and white and color photos from the 1973 American tour with Robert Plant being the star on the CDs, some editions come with a numbered sticker, mine is 265, all housed in a fat boy jewel case. This title is a significant upgrade to the old TDOLZ and the performance is superb, one that pushes this concert to be counted among the best of the 1973 North American tour.