L.A. Forum 1988 Mike Millard First Generation Tapes (Wardour-437)
The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – October 7, 1988
Disc 1 (46:53) Intro, Who’s To Blame, Prelude, Over The Hills And Far Away, Liquid Mercury, Wanna Make Love, Band Introductions, Writes Of Winter, Tear Down The Walls, Emerald Eyes, Midnight Moonlight incl. Black Mountain Side
Disc 2 (78:30) In My Time Of Dying, City Sirens, Drum Solo, Someone To Love, Prison Blues, The Chase, Bow Solo / Dazed And Confused, Wasting My Time, Blues Anthem, Custard Pie, Train Kept A Rollin’, Stairway To Heaven
The mid to late 80’s were a great time to be a young Zep fan as both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were actively recording and touring. I devoured the first two Plant solo records as well as both of The Firm records. I was able to see Jimmy live on both of The Firm tours and was awestruck at his playing, I even still have my T-shirts I bought. When the news came Jimmy was making a solo record and the first single Wasting My Time was released, we knew it would be an improvement over The Firm. I eagerly purchased tickets to see Page in Detroit, October 22, 1988. Curious, around the time Page is doing his first solo album, Robert Plant releases Now And Zen and begins playing Led Zeppelin material live. Catching him live in Kalamazoo, MI on May 26 I was blown away by Plant’s hotshot guitarist Doug Boyle and finally hearing live renditions of Zeppelin material.
Having also seen the 1988 Atlantic Records Zeppelin reunion, I was rather shocked about how poorly Page played, after seeing Boyle tear it up live, I wondered if Jimmy’s time had come. I shouldn’t have been concerned, when Jimmy walked onstage that October evening at The Joe Louis Arena, rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to play one of the most intense musical sets I have ever heard, my fears gave away to pure joy. I was lucky enough to work record conventions in Detroit around this time and made contact with a lady who, with her friends, had recorded the concert and sold me a copy. I listened to this tape a lot, still have it and have since transfer it to CD. I have a fond spot for the Outrider tour, in all the recordings I have listened to, Page played extremely well and the set list was an excellent overview of his career to this point.
Needless to say, when The Lost And Found Mike The MICrophone series Volume 47 appeared I was excited to hear not only a Millard recording from this tour, but Jimmy playing in one of Zeppelin’s strongholds, the LA Forum. Like my other reviews from this series, here are the notes that accompanied the torrent and explain the work that was done to the recording:
Jimmy Page, The Forum, Inglewood, CA, October 7, 1988
The hero comes home.
This week’s jewel from the Millard mine captures the return of Jimmy Page to what one might call his home court in America, the Fabulous Forum, for the one LA show on what remains to date Page’s only proper solo tour. In fact, outside of his performances with Robert as Page/Plant, since the end of Led Zeppelin in 1980 Jimmy has only performed 60-70 proper concerts depending on one’s definition, 37 on this 1988 trek.
Jimmy Page back at the Forum for a single show on his one and only solo tour was indeed a momentous occasion for fans and the man himself. “I’m really looking forward to playing tonight, Jimmy says earnestly at the top of the show. “Every time I’ve been here before it’s been fantastic.” You know he meant every word. For Millard, the excitement had to be nearly as high. While he had recorded Page at the ARMS Concert in the same venue in 1983, this was the first full concert appearance by Page in Los Angeles since Led Zeppelin wrapped its six-night Forum ’77 stand on June 27.
Millard of course was hardly alone in terms of anticipation, and the crowd is fully engaged in the show, though in true Mike the Mike fashion, he manages to avoid detrimental audience noise on his recording for the most part. But he did have some recording challenges. As noted above, Mike took a couple of minutes to get his levels right and mics set up, the result of which is a bit of distortion at the start of the show and a few longish dropouts which we have mitigated to the best of our abilities. Also, somewhere in the microphone to tape deck cable chain, which includes a stop at the microphone power packs, something wasn’t plugged in correctly which caused his recording to go out of phase for most of the show. It flips back and forth on part one and stays steadily out of phase for the remainder of the set.
Happily, phase issues are easily corrected by inverting one channel, which only takes a few clicks of the mouse to do seamlessly on a modern digital audio work station. The result after those fixes are applied is a much narrower, nearly mono recording compared to Mike’s typical stereo spread. While pure speculation on my part, the Nakamichi 550 has three microphone inputs, not the usual two: Left, Right and Blend. I have a hunch Mike may have plugged into the blend input which would explain the narrow sound field. Technical difficulties aside, this is an excellent recording and likely one of the best captures of the Outrider tour, which saw Page joined by Jason Bonham on drums (fresh off the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Zep reunion), singer John Miles and bassist Durban Laverde. Mike sounds like he is near his sweet spot and the capture is clear and powerful. Samples provided.
The tour setlist is an interesting blend of songs from Outrider, other Page solo work, a few Firm tracks, plus songs from the Led Zeppelin oeuvre: “Over The Hills and Far Away,” “In My Time of Dying,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Custard Pie,” “Train Kept A-Rolln’” and of course “Stairway to Heaven.” All of the Zep-related songs are played with purpose and having not really heard much from this tour before, I was impressed with Jimmy’s playing. For me, “Over The Hills” stands out with some cool extra riffs in the arrangement. “Custard Pie” is interesting as it was never performed live by Led Zeppelin. Finally, Page made a great decision to perform “Stairway” as an instrumental, letting the song’s magical arrangement and musicality carry the day, while also saving Miles from having to attempt to sing it.
As noted above, Page knew his return to the Forum was special and while the setlist is the standard one for the tour, I’m sure this is one of the best performances he gave in 1988.
The crowd sounds rabid at the begin and the first 26 seconds of Who’s To Blame suffers from overload that to Page’s Tall Cool One Derban Laverde, the sound also floats around a bit during the first 40 seconds but very quickly settles down into a fantastic recording. Reading the issues with the recording in the torrent notes, one can only say technology is amazing. Millard gets an excellent capture, although he certainly didn’t think that way when listening to the playback. Well balanced recording with the instruments and vocals being cleanly defined, there is a bit of crowd noise but this adds to the excitement and this is a very powerful sounding recording.
Like the notes state, Page did not mess much with the setlist, Who’s To Blame and Prelude come from the Death Wish II soundtrack, the latter carried over from The Firm tour. Always loved this material as the Death Wish II soundtrack was in regular rotation in the mid 80’s. Page finishes the beautiful version of Chopin’s Prelude and goes right into Over The Hills And Far Away, the Houses Of The Holy classic, John Miles does a great job with the vocals and Jimmy plays a great solo, and great version of the song. This is a highlight here and was a highlight when I saw him in Detroit, the only time I ever heard this song live. Jimmy does the introductions to the songs, introducing Wanna Make Love as being “from the Outrider album, have you heard that?”. After the song a kid asks Millard about recording, Mike tells him he’ll give him his number after the show, in a hilarious Spicoli like response in, kid says “bitchin”. This takes place at the beginning of Page’s introduction of the band. The excellent Writes Of Winter is captured well, you can hear Page’s playing well, Wah pedal and very nice leads, one of my favorites from Outrider. Page stops the song at 3:44 due to a broken string, “These things happen”, a 40 second delay then Page is ready, he plays a bit of the Writes riff then goes right into The Firm’s Tear Down The Walls. Always dug Tear Down The Walls, great tempo changes and killer riff from Page, again John Miles does a great vocal, sounding a bit reminiscent of Paul Rodgers.
Hands down my favorite track from Outrider is Emerald Eyes, the band play a beautiful version of the song, Miles does a gentle bit of keyboard work here sounding almost like an acoustic guitar. Someone close to Millard calls out for Midnight Moonlight after Eyes, there is a brief pause while a chair is brought out for Page, he is “getting to old for this”. Like The Firm tours, this is a highlight as Page was finally able to get his Swan Song piece into a song he was happy with. Like he did with The Firm, Page incorporates Black Mountain Side into the song. One of his tour de forces in the early 60’s and revived during the 77 tour, Jimmy plays the piece very well and far superior to the usually rough 77 versions, he even throws in the Kashmir riff at the 7:30 mark much to the delight of the few who catch the reference. The song ends rather abruptly as Page has guitar issues.
The second Danelectro and Page breaks out the Physical Graffiti classic In My Time Of Dying, Jimmy mentions that he “hopes they remember this”, based upon the roar of the crowd, they do. Jimmy has a little bit of guitar trouble but is quickly remedied, Mike has another guy start a conversation afterwards that starts with him telling Mike to sit down, he tells him he doesn’t sit down! Mike cools the situation down quickly. Another Death Wish track, City Sirens, is played next, albeit a short instrumental version that serves as a prelude to a Jason Bonham drum solo. His solo is uneventful, he is a very competent drummer by this point yet his solo is a lot of start and stop and sounds like he is playing the intro to Walk This Way, he does play a snippet of Moby Dick as well. The drum solo ends and the band take on The Firm classic Someone To Love and Prison Blues before getting into the highlight of the set. For this tour Page and Co. would incorporate the Death Wish II instrumental with his bow solo as he did with The Firm, after Page’s solo they would go into Dazed And Confused. I can remember the moment this happened in Detroit and being completely blown away, I get the same tingle listening to this version. Page responds to the huge ovation the song gets by saying “That was a surprise wasn’t it?”, a pleasant surprise I might add.
The radio hit Wasting My Time is next, good version that takes a minute to get going and sounds like Jimmy borders on being in tune, this is confirmed after they finish when Page comments about the guitar being out of tune and having a broken string. The acoustic Blues Anthem is another favorite from Outrider, John Miles gives a great vocal, again his vocal rendition honors the original one done by Chris Farlowe. Page introduces the “last number” by playing the riff, Custard Pie is an excellent addition to the setlist, nice and raw and really, well, tasty. John throws in a harmonica solo and Jimmy throws in a quick Black Dog reference. The song is supposed to end the main set but Jimmy quickly gets the Wah pedal going and we get The Train Kept A Rollin’ from his Yardbirds daze, great version. The song works great to get the audience involved singing the chorus. The sole encore is the instrumental version of Stairway To Heaven, Jimmy tells the LA crowd they can listen or sing along with it and the crowd cheer in anticipation, a guy next to him says to Mike “Stairway To Heaven”, certainly oblivious to him recording. There is an issue getting the double neck together, the road manager is on the sh*t list for sure. When they get it together and Jimmy starts the iconic piece, there is a deep ovation over the Forum. The audience sings the vocal lines pretty damn well, thankful this is a bit in the background and gives the song a great atmosphere. Page plays a great solo certainly conjuring up the ghosts of past performances in the hall, cheers are abundant. Jimmy gives a final farewell by again introducing his band, a great night back home.
The full color inserts feature mostly live shots of Page with individual band member pics being taken from the tour program. You get a numbered sticker and picture discs as well, Wardour does make a slight mistake on the rear insert omitting Stairway To Heaven on the track listing. This is an excellent release, the sound quality is certainly one of the best I have heard from this tour and the performance is excellent, all hail Mike The MIC!