Led Zeppelin – The First Night (Boogie Mama)

The First Night (Boogie Mama)

Knebworth Park, Stevenage, England – August 4th, 1979
Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Hot Dog, The Rain Song, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Achillies Last Stand, Guitar solo, In The Evening, Stairway To Heaven, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker

When this video first surfaced during the summer on Watch Tower’s 2 DVD set Secrets Revealed it received many well deserved hosannas and praises.  This was the first time the complete August 4th Knebworth performance surfaced on video.  A two-song fragment, “Ten Years Gone” and “Heartbreaker” had been circulating for many years (being nicked from the 40th Anniversary Atlantic Records party in 1988).  “Hot Dog” from this show was released twenty-five years ago as a video which is completely forgotten today.  That was it until the official DVD was released in the spring of 2003, so this is a welcome addition.  

The Boogie Mama label utilizes the DVD9 dual layer disc technology to fit the entire show on one disc saving us from the burden of getting off our couch to change discs halfway through.

The visuals are presented in 4:3 ratio.  This looks like a videotape several generations from the master.  There are some very clear shots when the band are under white light, but there is significant saturation with red and blue making it fuzzy and difficult to see.  The screen time is also given mostly to close ups of the action which is a mixed bag really.  We can see their concentration but also many of Jimmy Page’s goofy faces (watch especially “Hot Dog”.  What was that all about??).  But this is a fun dvd to have and it is very enjoyable.  The sound is great and they mixed the soundtrack into 5.1 surround sound as best they could.

British fans are more enamored with the Knebworth show for obvious emotional reasons.  They were their final concerts on home soil and among their last ever shows.  I remember hearing this show and the second Copenhagen concert twenty-five years ago and was shocked at how poorly they played.  The intervening years have been kinder with the complete soundboards surfacing and Page’s remastering for the DVD demanding a reassessment.  There is a lot to like here like the extended guitar solo in “Since I’ve Been Loving You” (the fast part followed by a “Tea For One” like solo) and the compact, intense version of “No Quarter”.  I still cringe at the harmonizer on Plant’s vocals in “Misty Mountain Hop”.  I wonder who thought that was a good idea? 

Boogie Mama didn’t include any extras and the menu is clear but stark.  And this comes packaged in a cardboard digipack style sleeve with many photos from the event.  The same videotape was also released on a single DVD9 as Knebworth 4th August 1979 on Silent Sea which is in similar quality.  This is a very good release well worth seeking out in any of its forms because it is fun to watch and is an important part of the history of British rock in general and Led Zeppelin in particular.

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