The Celebrating First And Second Days (The Symbols)
Page & Plant spent the better part of 1995 bringing the “Unledded” show to the road. After the final concert in October, they took a break just over three months before bringing the show to the far east after a few warm up dates in South America. Ten shows were booked for Japan including six in the Budokan, “the famous old building” as Robert Plant calls the venue in the first show.
With Tokyo becoming at the time the center for international bootlegging, it is obvious that every show was taped by several sources and there were multiple, competing releases coming out right after the show. This wasn’t lost on the artists either and Plant refers several times to the bootleggers in the audience.
The Symbols released a series of Celebrating sets documenting the shows. All of them utilize excellent sounding tapes which still stand up today as worthy records of the events. They also serve as viable alternatives to the more rare and expensive sets 10 Days Final Edition (Hoochie Coochie) and Live Legend (Black Moon), both which are either impossible to find fifteen years after the shows or extremely expensive.
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – February 5th, 1996
Disc 1 (54:17): Eastern, Immigrant Song / The Wanton Song, Bring It On Home, Heartbreaker, Ramble On, No Quarter, Hurdy Gurdy solo, Gallows Pole, Since I’ve Been Loving You, The Song Remains The Same, Going To California
Disc 2 (61:04): Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Whole Lotta Love, Yallah, Four Sticks, Kashmir, Black Dog, Rock And Roll
The first show in Japan was at the Budokan in Tokyo on February 5th, the first time they played together in Japan in twenty-four years. Other titles document this historic concert such as First Show At The Famous Old Building (Real Dragon), The First Day (Cobla) and First Night In Japan 1996(Pore The Sole) as well as the two boxsets.
For the first night Page & Plant play it a bit safe with the setlist, relying upon what is perhaps the most common pattern. The middle eastern tape starts off as an introduction to “The Immigrant Song” riff leading into “The Wanton Song.” Plant’s vocals are a bit rough during the show.
The Led Zeppelin II medley includes the ninety second fast riff from “Bring It On Home” segueing into “Heartbreaker” which in turn leads into “Ramble On.” As the shows in Japan continue, they will play with this arrangement to include other songs from the album.
“It’s indeed a great honor…Jimmy and I to be playing again here in this famous old building” Plant tells the audience before “No Quarter.” Between this, and the following hurdy gurdy solo and “Gallows Pole,” the replicate the more interesting tunes from “Unledded” live.
In the middle of the set they play “Going To California” which Plant describes as “a song that was written just before 1971. Well maybe it was just before 1931. Anyways, it was one of those periods where it was hard to distinguish the years. And it’s still quite hard” he jokes.
During the “Whole Lotta Love” medley they get into a dreamy version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” in addition to “Break On Through” and “Dazed And Confused,” the two constant inclusions.
“Yallah” is introduced as “”a new platform for the future…we must go into the past, and to go into the past you must change the past and remodel it” summing up their musical ideas in a few phrases. The show ends with the very long “Kashmir” with “Black Dog” and “Rock And Roll” as the common encores. It is a tight, rehearsed opening night and a very good Page & Plant show from the era.
Budokan, Tokyo, Japan – February 6th, 1996
Disc 3 (58:30): Babe I’m Gonna Leave You / Stairway To Heaven, Bring It On Home, Heartbreaker, Thank You, Gallows Pole, hurdy gurdy solo, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Going To California, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Yallah
Disc 4 (56:42): Four Sticks, Egyptian Pharaohs, In The Evening, Kashmir, Tangerine, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll
In addition to the two boxsets, the second night in Tokyo is also found on No Quartet/Fantastic Night In Judo Arena (Aurola Music), The Second Day (Cobla), Unledded Live 1996 (Pore The Sole). The Symbols utilize a very good, detailed tape that is a bit more thin sounding than the previous evening.
And just as the first night was quite standard, on the second night they start to experiment and stretch out a bit more. There is no middle eastern opening tape, but instead Page and Plant come onstage Instead of the middle eastern tape, they start off with “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” used as an opening number for the first time.
A ninety-second segment of “Bring It On Home” is a short introduction to “Heartbreaker” which in turn segues into “Thank You.”
“Hello Tokyo. There you are! Well tonight, ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls, and dogs and cats, and camels. We’ve been trying every night … to do things a little bit different” Plant says before “Gallows Pole.” Nigel Eaton’s is played afterwards as an introduction to “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”
One of the peculiarities of this show is that “Whole Lotta Love,” which includes “In The Light,” is played as the second of three encores instead of played in the middle of the show as on most night. Otherwise, it is another excellent concert, much better than the first night and the third night to follow, one which is filled with many mistakes.
The Celebrating First And Second Days is a clunky name given to the series, if not grammatically incorrect. The idea is good. Page and Plant’s series of shows in Japan is a celebration, not only for a quasi-Led Zeppelin reunion, but for the continuation of writing and performing challenging and uplifting music (something which Plant continues to do).