Led Zeppelin’s U.K. Tour in early 1973 marked a certain end of an era for their British fanbase. This would be the last time you could catch a Zep show at a smaller intimate venue before their meteoric rise into a god-like stadium act. The preceding two live installments of Since I’ve Been Loving You 360 were both stadium-era U.S. performances, but now we step back to the more humble, unpolished, small-time Zeppelin with a bootlegged Southampton University performance from January ’73.
Page impressively negotiates through the intro lickstorm despite a fairly vanilla, dry tone. It even sounds like he throws in a rare fingertap @ 0:25! After a few loud guitar thrusts, Page goes unusually quiet – like so quiet you have raise a hand to hear. Plant follows up with an unusually quiet, low-register vocal, accompanied by a barely-audible Jones and Page. I expected something loud, dense, and wet with delays and compressed overdrives – but I begin to relax as the performance makes me feel like I’m at a local Texas dive, bathed in second-hand smoke while stepping on spent cans of Lonestar. The nakedness of the performance has a satisfying sincerity to it. Page’s tone is pure unadulterated Gibson crunch, and you can practically hear the saturated tube buzz on his Orange Matamp in the background.
A stiff Plant starts to really loosen up on the second verse as he cries out “E’ry body tryin tell me, tell me, tell me, that you did me no good, no no no no no, oh darling, darling, darling!” – you can literally hear Plant run out of breath as he croaks out the last “darling” @ 2:45. Page seems to fall asleep at this part as he lazily slides up and down the fretboard as he responds to Plant (a point where he usually does a violent tremolo pick). Page concludes the second verse with a really soulful croon “I been a-workin been a-workin from seven to eleven every night, ooooh!” @3:00, once again illustrating how Plant never sings the same way twice.
Just before the guitar solo @ 3:35, Plant clarifies that he’s about to lose his “worried mind” for only five minutes, which is the second instance of this. I am curious to know when/where Plant stopped providing this 5-minute clarification since it is not apparent by The Song Remains The Same performance in Madison Square Garden.
Page kicks off the solo as if half-asleep as he kind of pukes up a bunch of trashy riffs accompanied by some occasional open string buzz. He wakes up about 30 seconds in and starts to crank out some of those calculated riffs we start hearing by the more polished American tour in late ’73.
The rest of the song is fairly textbook. The band delivers a cohesive performance which is much improved from a relatively sterile opening. Now keep in mind Zeppelin were still warming up to that familiar big-time arena sound we know and love from The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won. While the performance and the sound quality are obviously weaker, this early bootleg is packed with lovely intimate details such as mic feedback, string buzz, and even some voice cracks from Plant. You can even hear the band introduce a very early version of “Dancing Days” at the very end.
The next round we’ll cover another small-venue U.K. performance from Stoke ’73. Stay tuned!