On 9 January 1970, the young Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, from now venerated rock band Led Zeppelin, took to the world-famous Royal Albert Hall stage to deliver one of the most celebrated gigs of their career.
Although the legendary foursome had made their debut here only the year before, alongside Liverpool Scene and Blodwyn Pig at the First London Gala Pop Festival 1969, they were nervous. In six months Led Zeppelin’s fame had sky-rocketed – this show was the hottest ticket in town and attracted fans including John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
‘Albert Hall was a massive gig for us, and we really wanted to do the best we could. It was a magic venue. It was built in Victorian times, and you in there thinking about all the musical history that has preceded you. On top of that, it was something of a homecoming for John Paul Jones and I, because we had both grown up around there. So we were all really paying attention to what we were doing.’
Jimmy Page, interviewed in Guitar World, 2003
The band need not have worried, the two-and-a-half-hour show was a huge success.
Having turned our refined concert Hall into London’s biggest rock venue, ‘the whole of the audience stood on their feet, and at least half the audience jigged and jogged like normally only the dance –freaks do’ (Top Pops Music) – the enthralled audience ‘completely destroyed the ever-weakening argument about British reserve’ (NME).
The band played a for nearly two hours without a break – a set dominated by material from the band’s first two albums, and including a performance of Since I’ve Been Loving You their unreleased third LP, as well as an bunch of ’50 rock ‘n’ roll and blues covers.
Even after two 15-minute long encores, the audience were still on its feet dancing, clapping and calling for more long after the band had left the stage.
‘…it was just like it was at the Albert Hall in the summer [at the 1969 First London Gala Pop Festival], with everyone dancing around the stage. It was a great feeling. What could be better than having everyone clapping and shouting along? It’s indescribable; but it just makes you feel that everything is worthwhile.’
Jimmy Page, interviewed in NME, 1970
The show saw bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones perform Thank You on the Hammond organ – a segment not previously heard on stage, while drummer John Bonham’s three minute solo Moby Dick earned him a standing ovation.
As Germaine Greer, who was in the audience that night, recalls: ‘For 10 years, rock and roll had been working towards something that would combine the extraordinary capacities of electronic instruments with the anarchic energy of youth, and there in the Albert Hall on January 9, 1970, [we] found it.’
‘…the sound came up to me with a force that pummelled me breathless. No other band ever managed to make a sound like that. It was certainly loud, but it was also driving, pushing along with incredible energy.’
Germaine Greer: The Telegraph, 2007
Although video footage recorded at the show was not released at the time, the original material was remastered and released on the Led Zeppelin DVD in 2003. Finally the greater public were able to catch a glimpse of Led Zeppelin dominating the stage in a way that few have either before or since.
We’re Gonna Groove
I Can’t Quit You Baby
Dazed and Confused
White Summer / Black Mountainside
Since I’ve Been Loving You
What Is and What Should Never Be
How Many More Times (medley incl. Boogie Chillen’, Bottle Up ‘n Go, Move On Down The Line, Leave My Woman Alone, Lemon Song)
Whole Lotta Love
Thank You – organ solo
Bring It On Home
Long Tall Sally (medley incl. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Move On Down The Line)