Despite releasing eight studio albums over the course of a decade, the live repertoire of Led Zeppelin didn’t actually change all that much. Certain songs came and went from the band’s setlist, but as can be seen by their final show, early era tracks like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Train Kept-A Rollin’ had permanent places within the band’s repertoire.
Through the years, new songs were added to highlight the diversity of the band’s sound, from the majestic prog of ‘The Rain Song’ to the delicate balladry of ‘All My Love’ and the acoustic folk of ‘The Battle of Evermore’. The dry funk of ‘Trampled Under Foot’ and mystical raga of ‘Kashmir’ were live favourites, as were the hard-hitting ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and the rockabilly tinged ‘Hot Dog’, the last of which was one of the final songs the band added to their setlists before disbanding in 1980. But there were certain songs that the band favoured that never made it into live performances.
There was the twisting rhythms of Led Zeppelin IV‘s ‘Four Sticks’, which was attempted live only a single time before being discarded. ‘Good Times Bad Times’, the legendary opening track to the band’s debut LP, was rarely performed in full and only occasionally referenced as part of a medley with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ or ‘Communication Breakdown’.
Occasionally, a specific member’s dislike of a song prevented its inclusion in the band’s stage show. Jimmy Page had a distaste for ‘Living Loving Maid’, while Bonham wasn’t keen on ‘D’yer Ma’ker’, meaning neither were played live by the band.
Physical Graffiti has a number of songs that never got the live treatment from the band. ‘Boogie with Stu’ was an impromptu 12 bar jam with Rolling Stones road manager and session musician Ian Stewart, so it was never really considered to be played live. ‘The Rover’ was rehearsed but only ever teased during ‘Sick Again’. ‘Down by the Seaside’ and ‘Night Fight’ went untouched for unknown reasons, while ‘Houses of the Holy’ was only revived by Robert Plant while touring with The Band of Joy. However, one song never got to be played live, despite being touted as a band favourite, was ‘In the Light’.
The nearly nine-minute track can almost perfectly be split in half. The front half consists of John Paul Jones’ expert keyboard work, weaving in organ and synthesisers while Page bowed an acoustic guitar. The alternately eerie and hard-hitting first section lifts halfway through to reveal an uplifting rock number by the song’s end, complete with ascending major key guitar runs. If played live, the song surely would’ve been a showcase for Jones, but for whatever reason, it was never considered, despite the band members expressing their appreciation for the material.
Page expressed that the song was akin to a sequel of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and told Rolling Stone in 2015 that, “We could have done it”. Page rehearsed the song during his brief collaboration with The Black Crowes, but it was only occasionally played eleven times. In the liner notes to both the original Led Zeppelin Boxed Set and the later included on The Complete Studio Recordings liner notes, Plant described ‘In the Light’ and one of Zeppelin’s “finest moments” and similarly marvelled at why the band never attempted it live. Plant would later include the song during a number of his solo tours.