Still Flying (Forever Standard Series FSS 98-002)
(66:03): JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, PA – July 13th, 1985: Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Stairway To Heaven. Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, – May 14th, 1988: Kashmir, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Misty Mountain Hop, Stairway to Heaven. Knebworth, Stevanage, England – June 30th, 1990: Misty Mountain Hop, Wearing and Tearing, Rock and Roll
Before the 2007 reunion for the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert drew universal praise, Led Zeppelin reunions had been labeled an atrocity by former manager Peter Grant. Due to being unrehearsed, nerves and frayed tempers, they were a musical embarrassment and were remembered primarily for their emotional value. There are, however, some good moments.
Still Flying on the budget label Forever Standard was issued in the late nineties. It collects three reunion events, although only the first two can truly be called Led Zeppelin reunions since they both include John Paul Jones. The third show technically was a Jimmy Page guest appearance with Robert Plant onstage at Knebworth.
All three tapes are from excellent broadcast sources in perfect sound quality and is a very good way to get these three audio documents in an affordable edition.
Led Zeppelin consider Live Aid to be so bad that they didn’t give permission for its inclusion on the official Live Aid DVD set released several years ago. It was good to simply see some semblance of Led Zeppelin again, even if they had two drummers. But hearing this tape shows it wasn’t a complete washout. Things start off promisingly with “Rock And Roll.” After Plant’s now famous “any requests?” Page plays some riffs leading into a rough “Whole Lotta Love.” The final song “Stairway To Heaven” was played with an out of tune guitar, and with Plant missing the cue at the end brings a ramshackle version to an end.
The ensuing years have brought much unnecessary finger pointing. Plant blame the rushed nature of the event while Page has recently blamed poor Phil Collins. The video is much more entertaining since it gives the visual cues and impact of their presence in the event.
Three years later, for the 40th Anniversary of Atlantic Records, they played a much longer set. Jason Bonham this time filled in on drums, and they were much more rehearsed. Telecast on HBO and simulcast over the radio, Forever Standard use a very clear recording for this release.
Zeppelin are a bit more adventurous in this set, starting off with “Kashmir.” Plant misses a few verses, but it is very tight. “Heartbreaker” follows and Page makes a mess of the solo before it segues into “Whole Lotta Love.” The middle part of the song is taken from the 1979 arrangement. “Misty Mountain Hop” is much better and is perhaps the highlight of the set. It ends with a perfunctory version of “Stairway To Heaven” which, given Plant’s general reluctance to sing it, sounds very still and formal.
Except for a surprise acoustic arrangement in Japan in 1994, this stands as the very last time “Stairway To Heaven” was performed in public by Led Zeppelin.
The final third contains Page’s guest appearance with Plant on June 30th, 1990. In perhaps the greatest collection of talent ever assembled in one event on British soil, this three song encore comes close to stealing the limelight from Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Paul McCartney.
“Misty Mountain Hop,” with the new ending, is played followed by “Wearing And Tearing” from the final Zeppelin album Coda, issued in 1982. There is some resonance with that track because it was supposed to be issued as a single when Zeppelin headlined Knebworth in 1979. “Rock And Roll” is the final song of the day.
Forever Standard Series is a budget label issuing amazing quality titles which, after more than a decade, still stand up today. Still Flying is still a great way to obtain these three hard to find tapes in excellent sound quality.