Led Zeppelin didn’t play every single song that they recorded in the studio during their live performances. ‘When The Levee Breaks’, one of the band’s most iconic blues excursions, famously only saw a few live tries before being permanently banished off the group’s setlists. ‘Four Sticks’ and ‘The Crunge’ also proved to be tricky, with their winding rhythms and atypical time signatures. Apart from a few early-to-mid 1970s performances, neither song was regularly included in the band’s live shows.
A 1977 tour of North America was meant to put the band back on top as America’s favourite rock band. With changing times came new styles: disco, punk, funk, and soft rock were ruling the charts, threatening to make Led Zeppelin look like archaic dinosaurs. Instead, the band came out guns blazing, incorporating a mix of early favourites, arena classics, and new crowdpleasers over the course of their nightly three-hour-plus performances.
During that trek, only a small number of songs from their most recent album, 1976’s Presence, were attempted live. ‘Achilles Last Stand’ was the most successful, while ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’ lit up crowds night after night. ‘Tea For One’ was occasionally trotted out, mostly as a solo for Jimmy Page to spend some time in the spotlight. Otherwise, none of the rest of the album’s tracks was tried out, and after Robert Plant’s son Karac died in the middle of the tour, the triumphant return was quickly cancelled.
When Zeppelin performed what ended up being their final shows in 1980, only ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’ were played, giving Presence perhaps the least amount of exposure to live audiences among all of Zeppelin’s albums. The 2007 tribute concert to Ahmet Ertegun served as a time to trot out a setlist that covered the band’s entire career, including playing ‘Ramble On’ for the first time live.
Another song that saw the light of the stage for the first time was ‘For Your Life’, the second track on Presence. A tight blues rocker concerning the use and abuse of cocaine and other drugs that were floating around Zeppelin at the time, ‘For Your Life’ was a victim of the intense and quick sessions that marked the end of recording Presence. Plant’s voice is buried in the mix, and the song subsequently saw little attention paid to it by fans.
With its inclusion, ‘For Your Life’ solidified Presence‘s reputation as being one of Led Zeppelin’s most underrated albums. It also saved Presence from being completely shut out and ignored for the tribute show, leaving In Through the Out Door as the only Zeppelin album to be ignored wholesale during the Celebration Day show.
Check out the one and only live performance of ‘For Your Life’ down below.