Led Zeppelin - Live at Madison Square Garden 1973 - The Concert That Changed History

“We played for 3-4 hours in a row... Yes, physically it was real, but emotionally... It was very difficult. After returning from this tour, I could not come to my senses for a long time: I did not understand where I was at all! It was like running across a liana from one city to another ... "

Live at Madison Square Garden 1973: Led Zeppelin Legendary Tour

Live at Madison Square Garden 1973 is Led Zeppelin's ninth North American tour. The first performances took place on May 4, and the last ones only on July 29! The band rehearsed at Old Street Film Studios (London).

The legendary tour was launched in support of the Houses of the Holy album, which soon topped many charts in the world! Shooting a movie, grand theft of royalties, Led Zeppelin's own plane... So how was it? We invite you to go back to the 70s and remember the fascinating story of the journey of a rock band ...

led zeppelin foto dik barnatt
Led Zeppelin. Photo: Dick Barnatt

How it was? History of the tour "Live at Madison Square Garden 1973"

Even before the tour began, the band's manager, Peter Grant, made sure that only large stadiums were booked, hiring Danny Goldberg as an assistant consultant. This played its part, resulting in "Live at Madison Square Garden 1973" breaking all box office records! So, on May 5, Led Zeppelin left behind the iconic Liverpool Four, having gathered 56,800 spectators at Tampa Stadium! In total, the tour brought the band over $4,000,000 (a staggering sum at the time!)

Led Zeppelin – Live at Madison Square Garden 1973
Led Zeppelin – Live at Madison Square Garden 1973

Transformation on stage...

As for theatricality, this time Led Zeppelin went much further, using the most “heavy artillery” on their tour: dry ice, laser effects, huge rear-view screens, hanging mirror balls, pyrotechnics ... The band members did not forget about their own appearance either. . Their stage costumes have taken on a much more flamboyant character, as evidenced, in particular, by Jimmy Page's hummingbird-style jacket and John Paul Jones' Spanish matador jacket!

Page himself commented on this rise in stage theatricality as follows:

“Initially, we wanted the audience to be focused on our music ... We wanted people to be able to capture everything that happens on stage - our spontaneity, various tricks and tricks ... But by 1973 we “grew up” in this regard. We realized that it is the theatricality that helps to bring live performances to the maximum ... "

Filming and robbery...

Led Zeppelin planned to make a movie back in 1969! And the tour "Live at Madison Square Garden 1973" was the most suitable live performance of the group for this ... By the way: Peter Grant was sure that it was the big screen that was the ticket to success, not television. In many ways - because I considered the sound quality of the latter, to put it mildly, unsatisfactory.

Led Zeppelin (1973)
Led Zeppelin (1973)

Few people know, but prior to Live at Madison Square Garden 1973, Led Zeppelin attempted filming in January 1970, at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall! True ... after reviewing the footage a few months later, the band members agreed that this is clearly not what they would like to see on the big screen ...

And so, in the early July morning of 1973, Peter Grant contacted the American director Joe Massot. Both already knew each other, since Massot was Page's neighbor! Previously, the director had already offered his services, but each time he received a cold-blooded refusal from Grant ... But, having appreciated the success of the current tour, the band's manager changed his mind. As he himself said:

“We have been talking about the film for many years, and this tour turned out to be the most successful for filming! Jimmy knew that Massot was interested in this idea ... I called him and he quickly organized a team!

And indeed: Joe Massot hurriedly assembled a team for the last stage of the tour ... Filmed three sold-out shows in Madison Square Garden, but - the release of the project was delayed right up to 1976. Led Zeppelin financed the tape in full, which cost the band a "tough sum": the US live recording alone cost 85,000 $!

By the beginning of 1976, work on the film "The Song Remains the Same" was completed! True - 18 months late and over budget ... Peter Grant later joked:

"This is the most expensive home movie in history!"

In 1976, Atlantic Records organized the premiere of the film. Rumor has it that during the show, Ahmet Ertegun, the president of the label, fell asleep ...

All in all, the music tape performed very well, and its box office receipts amounted to 200,000 $!

But it was not without negative reviews from critics ... Many of them considered the production amateurish, and the content - proud. Oddly enough, the picture turned out to be the most disastrous precisely in the homeland of the group - in the UK. The fact is that Led Zeppelin did not perform there for more than two years due to tax exile ...

But despite all this, many fans of the rock band see the film as an interesting historical document. It is in this tape that Led Zeppelin is captured at the peak of their popularity… Although the participants themselves do not consider their level of live performances of that time to be high…

“It was just average for the time… Especially since the filming took place at the very end of a long and grueling tour…” commented Page.

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page

As for the theft documented in the film, it really took place! The robbery took place at the Drake Hotel in New York, shortly before Led Zeppelin's last show. Richard Cole, the band's tour manager, discovered $203,000 missing from the safe. At first, the police treated him as a suspect. However, the real thief was never found and Led Zeppelin sued the hotel itself.

Led Zeppelin's private jet

At the start of the tour, Led Zeppelin traveled in a small private Falcon Jet. However, being compact and sensitive to air turbulence, it quickly became blacklisted by the group... It happened after the guys and their team encountered severe turbulence on the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Then the decision was made to hire The Starship for $30,000! The band members were taken to the airport by limousine, which is also documented in the film.

Led Zeppelin's private jet
Led Zeppelin's private jet

Led Zeppelin members' impressions of the tour...

The legendary Live at Madison Square Garden 1973 tour couldn't leave the musicians unimpressed... Thus, Jimmy Page commented on the tiring nature of the tour as follows:

“We played for 3-4 hours in a row… Yes, physically it was real, but emotionally… It was very difficult. After returning from this tour, I could not come to my senses for a long time: I did not understand where I was at all! It was like running across a liana from one city to another…”

Jimmy Page, Kezar Stadium
Jimmy Page, Kezar Stadium

In a later interview, the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist recalled:

“What I remember from this tour is how we came to America and played: first 53,000 people in Atlanta and then 55,000 people in Tampa! The reaction of these people to our music was fantastic ... This is the only and probably the most pleasant thing that I clearly remember ... "

In turn, Robert Plant shared his memories of the tour:

“That tour was a highlight in our band's career... It was a highlight for all of us! Like a flash - everything was so fast! The speed at which we were moving, giving all the creative juices - it was all just a mixture of adrenaline, chemicals, euphoria ... No brakes! We couldn't stop what was happening. We didn’t even know what it was… We just kept giving it our all every new show… So much happened in such a short time… And it was phenomenal!”

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