The death of Led Zeppelin’s legendary drummer John Bonham would bring an end to the band and one of the most prominent rock acts of the seventies. The stadium-sized rockers had long ruled over a decade in which they delivered album after album of monster jams but the new decade presented a fresh challenge.
The summer of 1980 saw the end of the band’s European tour with the last performance in Berlin proving to be the final time Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham would share the stage. But it had been a tour full of new beginnings.
The tour of 1980 would see the band have to drastically change their act. Led Zeppelin had been the behemoths of the rock world during the seventies but as the music world turned towards the brash and basic staging of punk and new wave, the band were starting to look a little long in the tooth. With 14 nights scheduled for the European summer, Zeppelin needed to streamline their set.
The band had been touring since 1968 and while the show had definitely evolved from the band’s original show, the performance had now become a little static. As such the group cut the fat from the show and avoided anything that felt too over-produced including the reduction of the smoke, lasers, and even their costuming.
It also meant the now-established ritual of John Bonham’s epic drum solo on ‘Moby Dick’, Jimmy Page’s violin bow guitar solo on ‘Dazed and Confused’, and John Paul Jones’ noodling keyboard intro on ‘No Quarter’ were all cut from the setlist. Known fondly as the ‘Cut The Waffle’ tour.
Fret not Zepheads, the band still had a show full of classics as no Led Zeppelin performance was complete without ‘Stairway To Heaven,’ ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. It means that this bootleg from the band’s last performance from John Bonham is still packed full of perfect moments as they open the show with ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’, a stalwart they’ve been performing since 1968.
Despite the lure of a new decade of domination of the rock and roll world beckoning, another classic from the past would close the show. John Bonham would bow out with the stunning performance of ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The drummer would sadly pass away only a few weeks after the show.
Just a few weeks before the show, Bonham had sadly foreshadowed the event as he collapsed three songs into the set and saw the concert canceled. While the rest of the tour went off without a hitch, Bonham died after drinking around 40 shots of vodka in a single night.
The drummer was reportedly at Jimmy Page’s house recording and writing new music and possibly concocting the next batch of tunes to share with a brand new decade. Sadly, with Bonham’s passing, Led Zeppelin would never get the chance and disbanded in December of that year.
Listen below to the final performance of Led Zeppelin’s iconic line-up.