There was no bigger band in the world than Led Zeppelin in 1973. Competing tours from the likes of Black Sabbath, David Bowie, or even The Rolling Stones couldn’t match the massive draw of Zeppelin. The band had gone from playing Scandanavian clubs as The New Yardbirds to headlining multiple nights at stadiums and arenas across the globe in less than five years.
Even though their albums were selling by the millions, the band couldn’t escape the negative reviews that were constantly being thrown their way. Led Zeppelin were accused of being pompous, bloated, and derivative by hordes of writers who couldn’t see why this band appealed to so many people. All those writers had to do was go see one of Zeppelin’s shows to understand the pull they had on oceans of fans.
For many years, Zeppelin refused to indulge in gimmicks while onstage. For most of their tours over the course of their career, Zeppelin had no video screens, no smoke, no pyrotechnics, and no lasers. Even their lighting setup was basic, simply illuminating the stage and only occasionally switching colours. The band went for pure efficiency, not wanting anything to come between them and the connection they had with their audience.
When the band was on the supporting tour for their fifth album, Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin had perfected their live shows. That included the rollicking show starter ‘Rock and Roll’, the newly-implemented eerieness of ‘No Quarter’, and the inevitable communion of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. For the only time in their career, Zeppelin had also dropped their acoustic set from their live show in 1973, meaning that it was pure electric power for up to three straight hours.
Although they had become known for their monumental volume and wild blues excursions, Zeppelin also needed some levity in their sets, especially now that the acoustic portion was discarded. The solution was to include ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, the silly keyboard-led romp that had appeared on Led Zeppelin IV. The song also allowed John Paul Jones to show off his keyboard chops, a skillset that had expanded with every subsequent tour.
Robert Plant gets playful during the tumbling verses, ad-libbing responses to his own lyrics, and the rest of the band continues to pound away. With Jones on keyboards, John Bonham’s bass drum is solely responsible for the song’s low end, which he dutifully thumps with full power. Jimmy Page snakes his way through the track, alternating between the central riff and some funky licks thrown in for good measure. The whole band is as tight as they would ever be, able to manoeuvre through the stop-start nature of the song with ease.
Check out Led Zeppelin playing ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ in 1973 down below.