Led Zeppelin – The Forum, LA: Bonzo’s Birthday Party – 05/31/1973

Led Zeppelin: Bonzo’s Birthday Party
Los Angeles, CA | 05/31/1973

1. Rock And Roll
2. Celebration Day
3. Black Dog
4. Over The Hills And Far Away
5. Misty Mountain Hop
6. Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You
7. No Quarter
8. The Song Remains The Same
9. The Rain Song
10. Dazed And Confused
11. Stairway To Heaven

This is an outstanding bootleg that features the finest of Led ‘Fucking’ Zeppelin at The Forum in LA to celebrate the life of John Bonham (05/31/48 – 09/25/80, RIP).  In appropriate fashion, the show opens up with a swingin’ version of Rock and Roll (the track cuts in late on recording) with a sick drum solo to finish into a rollicking Celebration Day where the band really starts to settle into a groove.  Thank you, John Bonham…  And then Black Dog rears its ugly head.  Robert Plant’s vocals really stand out on this version thanks to the echo effects, screeching caterwauls, and his “Aahhh, aaaahhh” call-and-response with the crowd.  Jimmy Page really starts to shine around the 4:15 mark of the track.

The next highlight, to me, comes in one of the most soulful blues recordings ever, “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You.”  This version does not disappoint.  The dynamics of this song shift tremendously from tragic to lovestruck to angry and just about every other human emotion in between, channeled through Jimmy Page’s textured pentatonic runs.  The soul of the band pours out when the chorus hits, and you can’t figure out whether or not this is a love song or a big ‘Fuck You’ to an estranged lover.  “Ooooh baby, since I’ve been loving you, I’m about to lose my worried mind…”   Only Robert Plant could pull that line off with such bravado.

If, by now, you are wondering how the band could top “Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You,” I have a very simple answer for you…

“No Quarter”

Foreshadowing the apocalyptic terror that lies within the song, John Paul Jones slithers in on the Rhodes electric organ- setting the stage for what is Zeppelin’s eeriest track.  The dense, mythological tones of the music shift into overdrive once the rhythm section slams in- Bonham kicks it off, Jones switches back to bass, and the swaying blues-metal riff that Page lays down oozes darkness, fathom, and war.  After the brooding crescendo, the band settles down and the medieval organ resumes.  Enter Robert Plant…

“Close the doors, put out the light
You know they won’t be home tonight
The snow falls hard and don’t you know
The winds of Thor are blowing cold
They’re wearing steel that’s bright and true
Filled with dreams for me and you
They choose the path where no one goes”

Despite the dark, underlying themes that “No Quarter” is built upon, the band decides to switch gears once again at the 4:37 mark.  Bonham flips into a syncopated, funky drumbeat with Jones creating arid, jazzy overtones on the organ.  Page noodles under the mix beginning around the 5:00 mark with some soft arpeggios that start to take off around the 6:00 minute mark.  The band immerses itself in a whimsical journey of musical exploration.  Jimmy Page soars.  The jam reflects the sound of trimmed-down, Grateful Dead-esque psychedelia flowing back and forth between jazzy-blues and funk-fusion.  Keep in mind, only three instruments are creating this music!!  At the 9:00 mark, the band eases back into the main theme as Jones reluctantly sends us back to the gloomy hills of Thor on the Rhodes.

“Walking side by side with death
The devil mocks their every step
The snow drives back the foot that’s slow
The dogs of doom are howling more
They carry news that must get through
To build a dream for me and you
They choose the path that no one goes
They hold no quarter”

The lyrical allusions to Norse mythology and Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” masterfully conjure the overall essence of the song and are key in bringing the song full circle.  Few bands have ever been able to write a song that can take your imagination away to a mythical battlefield that we’ve only seen in movies or read about in books… Truly a musical epic.

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~ by cdowell4 on February 2, 2010.

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