The Seventies were only nine days old when Led Zeppelin played the Royal Albert Hall, but it was already clear they could become the biggest band of the decade. A year and a half of relentless touring had turned them into an unbelievably tight unit, and “Whole Lotta Love” was peaking at number four on the U.S. Hot 100.
Less than a year earlier, they’d been performing at London venues like Fishmonger’s Hall and Hornsey Wood Tavern, but on June 29th, 1969 they played the Royal Albert Hall alongside the Liverpool Scene and Mick Abraham’s Blodywn Pig. When they returned on January 9th, 1970, they came alone and extended their set to nearly two hours. A professional camera crew captured the entire thing.
“I look at the Albert Hall footage now,” Robert Plant said years later. “And the first thing I notice is how young we are. I look like what I was: a Black Country hippie full of high ideals and low-cost living. I still couldn’t believe where I was. Everything had happened so fast for the group.”
The Who were basically the only rock group in the world playing on the same level as Led Zeppelin at the time, and Roger Daltrey was in the crowd that night at the Royal Albert Hall. “I know why no one wants to play with these guys,” he said afterwards. “They’re too good.”
A week later, the Who resumed their Tommy tour in Paris. Perhaps inspired by the competition, they were the most ferocious shows of their career, as evidenced by Live at Leeds, which they recorded on Valentine’s Day.
The incredible Royal Albert Hall footage sat in the vault for decades, but Led Zeppelin unearthed and painstakingly remastered it for their 2003 DVD. It was the highlight of the entire collection.