LED ZEPPELIN – ” Live At Knebworth ” August 11th 1979

Posted: August 11, 2020 in MUSIC
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The Knebworth Festival 1979 consisted of two concerts performed by the rock band Led Zeppelin and other artists at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, England, in August 1979.

Led Zeppelin had not performed live for two years, since the death of Robert Plant’s son during the band’s 1977 North American tour, and they had not performed in the United Kingdom for four years. Their manager Peter Grant decided that the band should perform at Knebworth instead of embarking on a lengthy tour.

The whole [Led Zeppelin touring] operation had become too big. Page’s experience from the 1971 club tour ruled out any small dates. They had played the biggest indoor arena in the UK (Earls Court 1975) four years earlier. As Peter Grant saw it, they had to come back in the grandest style possible. Knebworth was the answer and after negotiations with promoter Freddie Bannister the 4th August date was scheduled with a second date on hold. The demand for tickets for the first date was enormous, leading to the second date being added.

The band’s fee for performing was reportedly the largest ever paid to one single act at that time. In the lead-up to the concerts Led Zeppelin undertook extensive rehearsals at Bray Film studios near London, and attended the venue at Knebworth in order to inspect the site, complete a publicity photograph shoot and perform a soundcheck.  In addition, they performed two low-key warm-up shows in late July at the Falkoner Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Also performing at the Knebworth concerts in 1979 were The New Barbarians, featuring Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards (The New Barbarians played only at the second concert on August 11); Todd Rundgren and Utopia; Southside Johnny; Marshall Tucker; Commander Cody; Chas & Dave; and Fairport Convention. According to the official website of Knebworth House, the 1979 Knebworth Festival involved: the largest stage ever constructed, 570 loo seats, 750 feet of urinals and the biggest rock band in the world. Led Zeppelin played their last ever concerts (in the UK) at Knebworth, and it was the end of an era for the Knebworth shows. Both concerts overran, noise complaints were received from 7 miles away. The rubbish team struggled to cope with clearing the arena between the shows. The police believed that 200,000 people had turned up each night, Sainsburys lost 150 trolleys and Tesco 75% of their stock, and Lord Cobbold [owner of Knebworth House] ended up in Court. For many in attendance it was their first ever concert experience. For many it would be the only time that they would get to see Zeppelin perform live. For that reason alone it holds a special affection in their live history. The first show in particular, with so much riding on it, was perhaps the most important they ever played.[

In an interview he gave in 2005, Plant elaborated on the difficult issues:

I was racked with nerves. It was our first British gig in four years and we could have gone back to the Queen’s Head pub. We talked about doing something like that. But instead we went back in such a flurry and a fluster to 210,000 people in a field and 180,000 more the next day surrounded by Keith and Ronnie and Todd Rundgren. Nobody’s big enough to meet those expectations. But because there was some chemical charge in the air, it worked. It didn’t work for us. We played too fast and we played too slow and it was like trying to land a plane with one engine. But it was fantastic for those who were there.

Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant stated after the event that Led Zeppelin’s performance at Knebworth was “a bit rusty”. In the opinion of many the gigs were a “nervous, rather tentative attempt [by Led Zeppelin] to step back into the limelight … Some of it was breathtaking, some musically woefully inept and sometimes it wavered between the two in the space of a few minutes.” music writer Chris Welch, who also attended the concerts, similarly suggests that:

The two concerts were professionally recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio (engineered by George Chkiantz) and also filmed, with live images beamed directly onto a giant screen behind the stage. The filming was done by the TV International Company under the direction of Chris Bodger.There was a plan for the footage to be used on a television special (this is one of the reasons the band members wore the same clothes on both nights) but this idea was never realised. Only short clips of some of the songs were used by Atlantic Records for promotional purposes.

For many years, bootleg copies of this audio and video material circulated amongst fans. The first audience-recorded bootlegs became available in early 1980, However, aside from the promotional snippets, Led Zeppelin never officially released any of the recordings until 2003, when parts of the footage were digitally remastered and included on the Led Zeppelin DVD.

Led Zeppelin at the Knebworth Festival, on August 11th, 1979.
It was felt it was necessary to include the date in the title because this is the Knebworth concert that wasn’t remastered on the Led Zeppelin DVD.
The video footage is from the Return of the Dinosaurs bootleg. The only available (and therefore best) complete footage of the concert.

Setlist:

1:00 The Song Remains the Same*
6:11 Celebration Day**
9:46 Black Dog
15:22 Nobody’s Fault But Mine
21:25 Over the Hills and Far Away**
27:35 Misty Mountain Hop*
32:53 Since I’ve Been Loving You
41:42 No Quarter [medley]*
56:45 Hot Dog
1:00:45 The Rain Song
1:08:30 White Summer/Black Mountain Side
1:14:20 Kashmir
1:23:44 Trampled Underfoot
1:30:25 Sick Again**
1:35:37 Achilles Last Stand
1:45:25 Guitar Solo
1:51:30 In the Evening
1:59:08 Stairway to Heaven
2:13:59 Rock and Roll
2:23:56 Whole Lotta Love [medley]
2:34:29 Communication Breakdown

The Story: This was pieced together from two different bootlegs, one that sounds flat but perfectly matches the video, and one that sounds The space in-between songs is made up of the former of those two, because the latter basically omits everything that isn’t a song. It took forever to match the good-sounding soundboard to the bad-sounding one (the speeds were slightly off for every song), then match all the audio to the video. It became somewhat trial and error, especially with Kashmir. The good-sounding bootleg had the Kashmir recording at varying speeds, meaning it would match up to the video at one point, then it would gradually get further and further ahead of the video, while accelerating in its increase in speed (if that makes sense). It became way too extravagant to even attempt to match it up, The version of Kashmir that is used is from the flat-sounding bootleg, although it’s honestly acceptable in quality.
You may notice that the overall sound quality of the concert dips after The Rain Song. That’s because of the bootleg, I don’t know why it does that. There’s not much I can do to make the end of the concert sound as lovely as the beginning, without having access to the original soundboard tapes. Regardless, it’s all the best sounding stuff for this concert.

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