Led Zeppelin in Montreux
Led Zeppelin 1972
OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY - October 27 & 28, 1972 - THE PAVILLON
It had been especially good for the group, playing in Australia, North America and completing their second tour of Japan, just before arriving at Montreux.
Claude Nobs traveled to London to finalize arrangements. Some members of the band were nursing a cold due the extreme climate changes traveling from Japan and the flight from London to Montreux. A couple of weeks of rest and relaxation was just what they needed to recover from the year’s activities.
The return of Led Zeppelin to Montreux for the third year in a row was especially significant. By now, the band were etched in super-stardom, playing in all points of the globe. The concept of returning to play in a 2000-seat hall and bringing their loads of equipment to such a remote area would normally be inconceivable. Showco sound engineer, Rusty B. was specially flown in from Dallas to oversee the new P.A. system.
Original negative films :
The group showed their loyalty and admiration for Montreux by returning to play two brilliant concerts on October 27th and 28th 1972.
Once again fans from all over the continent scurried to the show, including some international media. A new venue would greet them, The Pavillon, built in place of the fire-ravaged Casino the year before. Their fourth album, released nearly a year earlier, catapulted them even higher in the rock scene.
Only the Rolling Stones could even compare to Zeppelin’s success but with many critics still hammering the band’s every move, it made Zeppelin’s achievements all the more impressive. Throughout their career, every new album was a musical statement revealing their wide variety of tastes and styles. For fans in 1972, their first three albums were combinations of elements that formulated their sound. Led Zeppelin I showcased the members’ styles and influences up to that point in 1968 - blues, rock and folk and when blended together created an instant raw chemistry within the band.
As their influences and styles grew individually, so did their direction as Led Zeppelin. Their second album, Led Zeppelin II, reinforced many of the sounds of the first album but as they played steadily through 1969, it allowed them to expand that much further. Keeping in mind that Zeppelin’s second LP was basically written and recorded on the road makes it all the more amazing. As they grew tired of the "heavy" label placed upon them, the group concentrated on softer sounds most evident on Led Zeppelin III. There was little on their third album that wasn’t already attempted on the first albums; folk acoustic-based songs, blues and rock. The difference here was that more time was available for writing and a heavier emphasis made on their acoustic side due primarily to their trip to Bron-Yr Aur in Wales. Plant hinted at this new direction in an interview in early 1970: "Jimmy and I are going to rent a little cottage near the river Dovey on Wales where we can lock ourselves away for a few weeks just to see what we can come up with when there’s no one else around."
By the time of their latest appearance in Montreux in October 1972, their brilliant fourth (untitled) album had every indication that Led Zeppelin was here to stay and that the remainder of the 1970’s would see the band continuing to grow and change in unpredictable ways. Even with recording for Houses of the Holy completed, it would be five months before it would be finally released. Fans would hear a sneak preview of the new album and many of their old favourites.
Fans at the two Montreux concerts in October 1972 would be treated to four unreleased songs from the new album (Over the Hills & Far Away,Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same - then titled `The Overture’, and The Rain Song). Led Zeppelin rocked the lucky attendants in their most intimate concert of the year. Once again, these dates had been attended by fans from all over Italy, France, Germany and Austria. The local commune was still growing steadily, with Gilles now a full time resident. The outlandish appearance of many of the fans who travelled to Montreux was at first an unwelcome sight. The repulsive reaction quickly changed to a great appreciation, not for a new appreciation for the hippie-like clientele but for the great revenue they pumped into the local economy. Some bars remained full from Saturday morning until 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Most waiters nearly tripled their normal intake, reporting that some customers tipped at one hundred and ten percent.
Led Zeppelin held their image on stage as true as ever. While other acts of the period, such as Alice Cooper and the Stones over indulged in their extravagant stage shows and lighting effects, Zep were basically four guys and their instruments. Reviewers and fans took this to heart and felt they truly were "one of them", with jeans and sneakers the common attire. Some critics felt this would be career suicide, however the group proved their music and talent were more than enough to carry the show.
Varied and multi-textured styles dazzled the crowd as they journeyed through two unforgettable shows. From the hippie-inspired Misty Mountain Hop, electric blues of Since I’ve Been Loving You, extended jams of Dazed and Confused to the country pickin’ Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, it was one of Zeppelin’s best to date. Stairway to Heaven was already an FM radio anthem and fans were wired up into a frenzy. Whole Lotta Love could be the only topper. The band let their hair down for the night and cut loose into a medley of their favourite rock and roll numbers. Seamlessly segueing into one another, Zep jumps from Elvis Presley’s (Let’s Have a) Party, Heartbreak Hotel, I Need Your Love Tonight and others.
“I think we played every song on Elvis’ Golden Discs Volume I”, said Robert Plant. “It’s amazing that you could stir yourself enough to get all the lyrics from that far back and Jimmy managed to do all the solos as well. It was completely spontaneous.”
News of the successful gigs would reach the British media that prepared fans for the rumoured upcoming U.K. tour later that fall. Hometown media praise was sometimes less enthusiastic than in America but these Montreux concerts undeniably reinforced the group’s position of the best rock band in the world. Intensity, coupled with a confident maturity best described this point of their career.
Led Zeppelin did not perform again in Montreux after their 1972 appearance, but did return occasionally on holiday. A partial relief of the U.K. tax burden was a tremendous benefit.
A lengthy tour of Britain closed out the year and into 1973. A final trek across Europe couldn’t have prepared the band better for an enormously successful tour of North America that was soon to follow.
If there was still any doubt as to who ruled the world of rock, Zeppelin made it quite clear as they shattered the attendance record for a single rock act (previously set by the Beatles in 1965) on the band’s second concert of the tour! Led Zeppelin was riding high and it made a small and insignificant show in Montreux only seven months earlier seem even more special
October 27 & 28, 1972 - The Pavillon
Rock and Roll
Over The Hills & Far Away
Misty Mountain Hop
Since I’ve Been Loving You
The Song Remains The Same
(then titled ‘The Overture’) The Rain Song
Dazed & Confused
Stairway To Heaven
Whole Lotta Love (medley: Boogie Woogie, Let’s Have a Party,
Heartbreak Hotel, I Need Your Love Tonight)
To this day, almost 50 years later, music can still be heard every summer on the shores of Lac of Geneva. Music goes on, trends fade away. Montreux remains one of the most sought after Jazz, Blues, Rock Music Festivals in the world. Hippie crowds are gone, a beer is CHF 5.00, the hippie commune folded in 1974. Some became shepherds, others moved on to different horizons and died of overdose in the 80’s.
Montreux still welcomes and appreciates music lovers to this day, while the mood has changed the heart and soul of fans from the days of Zeppelin it can still be felt in the mountain air and echoing sounds of the lake.
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