The Knebworth Festival 1979
were two concerts
performed by the English rock band Led Zeppelin
and other artists at Knebworth House
, in August 1979.
The grounds of Knebworth House near the village of Knebworth
had been a major venue for open air rock and pop concerts
since 1974. In 1979, veteran promoter Freddy Bannister
booked Led Zeppelin to play that year's concerts, which took place on August 4 and August 11. The band had not performed live for two years since the death of Robert Plant
's son during the band's 1977 North American tour
, and they had not performed in the United Kingdom
for four years.
In late July, two low-key warm-up shows were performed at the Falkoner Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark, in the lead-up to the concerts.
Also performing at the Knebworth concerts in 1979 were The New Barbarians (featuring Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards), Todd Rundgren and Utopia, Southside Johnny, Marshall Tucker, Commander Cody, Chas & Dave and Fairport Convention.
According to the official website of Knebworth House, the 1979 Knebworth Festival involved
the largest stage ever constructed, 570 loo seats, 750 feet of urinals and the biggest rock band in the world. Led Zeppelin played their last ever concerts at Knebworth, and it was the end of an era for the Knebworth shows. Both concerts overran, noise complaints were received from 7 miles away. The rubbish team struggled to cope with clearing the arena between the shows. The Police believed that 200,000 people had turned up each night, Sainsburys lost 150 trolleys and Tesco's 75% of their stock, and Lord Cobbold ended up in Court.
These were the final shows Led Zeppelin performed in the United Kingdom until 2007.
The concerts received decidedly mixed reviews, with journalists from major music publications such as New Musical Express
and Rolling Stone
criticizing Led Zeppelin's performances as being sluggish and rusty. With such a long layoff since their last performances in Britain, and in the wake of the punk rock
revolution, Led Zeppelin were now considered to be obsolete in some quarters.
These reviews prompted the ire of Robert Plant, who made sarcastic reference to them on-stage during the August 11 show. However, Plant himself later expressed reservations about the concerts:
Knebworth was useless. It was no good at all. It was no good because we weren't ready to do it, the whole thing was a management decision. It felt like I was cheating myself because I wasn't as relaxed as I could have been. There was so much expectation there and the least we could have done was to have been confident enough to kill. We maimed the beast for life, but we didn't kill it. It was good, but only because everybody made it good. There was that sense of event.
Audio and video recordings
The concerts were officially recorded and filmed, and live images were beamed directly onto a giant screen behind the stage for the benefit of the audiences. For many years, bootleg
copies of this audio and video material circulated amongst fans, but Led Zeppelin never officially released any of the recordings until 2003, when parts of the footage were digitally remastered
and included on the Led Zeppelin DVD
- "The Song Remains the Same" (Page, Plant)
- "Celebration Day" (Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Black Dog" (Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Nobody's Fault but Mine" (Page, Plant)
- "Over the Hills and Far Away" (Page, Plant)
- "Misty Mountain Hop" (Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Since I've Been Loving You" (Jones, Page, Plant)
- "No Quarter" (Jones, Page, Plant,)
- "Ten Years Gone" (Page, Plant)*
- "Hot Dog" (Page, Plant)
- "The Rain Song" (Page, Plant)
- "White Summer"/"Black Mountain Side" (Page)
- "Kashmir" (Bonham, Page, Plant)
- "Trampled Under Foot" (Jones Page, Plant)
- "Sick Again" (Page, Plant)
- "Achilles Last Stand" (Page, Plant)
- "Page Solo" (Page)
- "In the Evening" (Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Stairway to Heaven" (Page, Plant)
- "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Whole Lotta Love" (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, Plant)
- "Heartbreaker" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant)*
- "Communication Breakdown" (Bonham, Jones, Page)**
* Only performed on August 4.
** Only performed on August 11
- Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.