JENNINGS: Buffalo let down by Led Zeppelin ... twice

The Associated PressIn this July 13, 1985 file photo, singer Robert Plant, left, and guitarist Jimmy Page of the British rock band Led Zeppelin perform at the Live Aid concert at Philadelphia's J.F.K. Stadium.

Over the last month we have looked at some of Buffalo’s iconic concerts. In a year when most major tours have postponed or cancelled shows it seemed like the right time to look at two of the most famous cancellations in Buffalo concert history.

Led Zeppelin is one of the most popular bands in the history of recorded music. The band formed in 1968 under the name the New Yardbirds. The band changed its name to Led Zeppelin that same year, owing the name to a conversation held with Keith Moon and John Entwistle during a recording session with Jeff Beck. Both Moon and Entwistle claimed to have come up with the name, Led Zep guitarist Jimmy Page credits Moon.

Over their 12-year history, Led Zeppelin was scheduled to perform in Buffalo four times. The first show took place at Kleinhan’s Music Hall on Oct. 30, 1969. The group performed eight songs, including a version of “Dazed and Confused” that was just under 20 minutes long.

Led Zeppelin returned to Buffalo for a show at the Aud on July 15,1973. The group performed 15 songs, including the iconic “Stairway to Heaven” The show was just over two hours long, and wound up being the last time Buffalo fans would get to see Led Zep perform live.

The band was scheduled to appear at Rich Stadium (currently known as New Era Field) on Aug. 6, 1977, but that show was canceled in late July of the same year due to the unexpected death of Robert Plant’s 5-year-old son Karac on July 25. The group’s show in Oakland the previous night was the original lineup’s last in North America.

The 1977 tour had been plagued with problems, including riots at some shows and the arrest of drummer John Bonham and a member of the Zeppelin crew after an altercation with an employee of concert promoter Bill Graham.

After Plant’s son died, Plant was less enthusiastic about touring, but agreed to tour in 1980 to support the band’s “In Through the Out Door” album. The tour, dubbed “The 1980s, Part One,” included a stop in Buffalo at the Aud on Nov. 1, 1980.

In retrospect, the band had never completely recovered from the 1977 North American tour, and both Plant and Bonham were not enthusiastic about returning to the road. The group had completed a short tour of Europe in the summer of 1980, which included a show where drummer John Bonham collapsed shortly into one of the band’s performances. The official word was that Bonham collapsed from exhaustion, but there was open speculation that Bonham was intoxicated.

On Sept. 24, 1980, shortly after the band’s first rehearsal for the upcoming tour, Bonham died after consuming a massive amount of alcohol. Tickets for the Buffalo show still went on sale, but it only took the band a few days to announce the tour’s cancellation rather than find a replacement drummer.

The three surviving members have rarely performed under the Led Zeppelin moniker, dashing any hopes of a performance in Buffalo.

 

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.

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