As incredulous as it may seem today, in 1980, Led Zeppelin were petrified at the prospect of becoming culturally irrelevant. The rising popularity of genres like punk and new wave were starting to render the rock ‘n roll heroes of yesteryear obsolete, and it was appearing more and more evident that the band’s onstage antics were beginning to wear thin on audiences – apparently, it only took three years for 20 minute drum solos and violin bow guitar solos to go out of style.
When Led Zeppelin agreed to embark on a 14 date tour around Europe that year, they went about ensuring that the tour would represent them as being a band of the times; not just a dinosaur act from last decade playing out the hits to an aging fan base. The legendary quartet stripped back all the lights and lasers that had adorned their stage set-up in the years prior, and even removed some of their more bombastic tracks like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘No Quarter’ from their set-list, delivering nothing but the hard rocking energy that saw them conquer the world in the first place.
As their final show in Berlin proved, Led Zeppelin were still very much in their prime (bar a few sloppy solos from Page) and John Bonham was still a total dynamo behind the drum kit. Throughout the 14 song set, which you can listen to below, Bonham’s trademark pounding grooves are as potent as ever, with ‘Trampled Under Foot’ and a climactic 16 minute version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ seeing him thrash his kit into oblivion one final time onstage: he really was something quite special. Rest in peace to a true legend of rock ‘n roll.
Find out how to get the classic Bonham ‘When The Levee Breaks’ sound in this Abbey Road session.