History made: Led Zeppelin, Western Springs

By Roy Colbert

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In 1972, Roy Colbert was writing a column for The Evening Star in Dunedin, earning $4 a week less tax, and spending $150 going up to Auckland to see rock concerts. And he flew north to see Led Zeppelin play Western Springs on Friday 25 February 1972.

Led Zeppelin at Western Springs. Photo / Jed Town
Led Zeppelin at Western Springs. Photo / Jed Town

When Led Zeppelin came to Auckland they had already been denied entry to Singapore because of local laws banning males from wearing long hair. The good thing about coming up for concerts was that I got to talk to the bands. The promoters knew me, and that I'd spent all this money coming a long way, so they made sure I got interviews.

I was playing cards when the promoter Barry Coburn called up and invited me to co-promoter Robert Raymond's Remuera house. I thought he was just making conversation, and I realise now they needed pot.

All the band and Peter Grant were there. Robert Plant opened the door - he had a woman in each hand; he literally was balancing a girl in each arm. "I'm Robert Plant and I'm the greatest rock'n'roll singer in the world," was his greeting.

Peter looked evil, just a huge man in a huge chair. John Bonham was very big as well and making a lot of noise. I spoke to Jimmy Page a lot. I was a record geek so I had millions of anal questions about recordings he played on, obscure bands like Cartoone.

They were all pretty shattered - they were at the bottom of the world. I didn't know about the whips in the guitar cases.

These were the drug years - me and my mates constructed the concert around drugs, and I thought we should have some nitrous oxide because they didn't do it in Auckland - we did it in Dunedin all the time. So I remember we had to drive some distance to get a huge cylinder of NO2. We were seated on the bank and got a good seat halfway up the hill, and passed the blue cylinder backwards and forwards along the row until it was empty.

An MC introduced Led Zeppelin. They opened with Immigrant Song - I can't think of a better song to open. Breaking into the opening rumble when the opening vocal started up, it was like a lion roaring in a jungle.

Not too many years earlier The Rolling Stones and The Beatles played 25-minute shows and now a near three-hour show was like a whole life experience. I like all types of music. I liked folk music, and they did folk as well. At the show Plant thanked the crowd for "makin' this the biggest thing that's ever happened in New Zealand".

There were sound effects for Dazed and Confused, and Rock and Roll was much better live. The finale medley in Whole Lotta Love included an extended Boogie Chillun, an excellent Hello Mary Lou, and a riotous rendition of Elvis Presley's Let's Have a Party.

It was an enormously long experience, way longer than anything I had seen before. It was all Page and Plant really - totally complimentary, their two bodies slinky and curving like snakes. Page held the guitar really low and Plant was strutting. They bent into each other.

I was about 22. I'd like to think I was 18 because then I wrote about it for Rolling Stone and I thought I was just like Cameron Crowe, but he was like 16 and I was a grown-up.

I wasn't a huge Led Zeppelin fan - I liked them, but I didn't love them, but it may be the best concert I've ever seen.

Who: Led Zeppelin
Where: Western Springs, Auckland
When: Friday 25 February 1972

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