Led Zeppelin Sunderland Locarno 12th November 1971


My ticket from the gig. Pretty cool graphics.

Led Zeppelin Sunderland Locarno 12th November 1971
So having recovered from my Zeppelin experience at Newcastle City Hall the previous night, I was ready to see the band again at our local ballroom Sunderland Locarno (or The Mecca, as we knew it). Local ace promoter Geoff Docherty had been promising us a Zeppelin gig in Sunderland for some time. By 1971 the band were massive, and it seemed unbelievable that they would come and play at our local Mecca ballroom. But Geoff was true to his word, and delivered the rock gods to us on a Friday night in November. The account of how his persistence landed the Zeppelin gig is well documented in Geoff’s excellent book “A Promoter’s Tale” (Docherty, 2012). Tickets had been on sale at Bergs record shop in Sunderland, for all of 75p. I still have mine, and pretty cool it looks too. Like many others, I rushed home from school, and got over to the Mecca early, to join the queue and get a good spot down the front near our idols. By the time the doors opened there was a massive queue right down the ramp which used to lead into the venue, along the street and over the road to the Wheatsheaf pub, which stood on the corner. Everyone I knew was going; there were lots of friends in the queue with us. I was full of stories of the previous night’s gig and how great Zeppelin were.


Rear of the ticket. I wonder how many people took up the offer of 25p off the lp?

As soon as we got in, we took our places on the dance floor. Those were the days when you would sit cross-legged on the floor watching the band. The Mecca was a medium size ballroom, I would guess it must have held around 1,500 or so people. The dance floor had wonderful plastic palm trees at either side, and there was a revolving stage, although for bigger bands like Zeppelin a wooden platform was built above that. I remember that Zeppelin came on stage quite late, and the crowd immediately rose to their feet and surged to the front, forming a terrible crush. There was some concern about taking photographs, I think they searched us at the door on the way in, and were confiscating cameras. I remember a guy trying to take a photo of Robert Plant just as they came on stage, and the bouncers waded into the crowd to get his camera. Robert intervened, and told the bouncers to leave off the guy to a great cheer from the crowd. The set list was similar to the previous night, but the atmosphere was so much better. I was right down the front close to the band; I could almost touch them and the atmosphere was electric. plant They played an extended version of Whole Lotta Love, incorporating a medley of rock’n’roll standards, such as Hello Mary Lou. I managed to stay down the front for about half of the set, but I was too hot, sweaty and crushed and in the end I gave up and made my way to the back of the hall, and spent the latter part of the concert up in the balcony.
My friend, John, was also at the gig and sent me his memories of the night: “Obviously this was a really big deal for them to play in Sunderland, probably everyone we knew tried to go. They had just returned form Japan and played a 16 date UK tour to close out the year, which included two London Empire Pool concerts, known as the Electric Magic shows; which lasted for five hours and included Stone the Crows and some mixed vaudevillian and circus acts. I can remember queuing up to get in and standing on the ramp that leads up to the entrance with friends. It was the only time I can recall queuing up to get in. I can vividly remember being at the very front at the beginning of the show, I could almost touch the band, at the right hand side of the stage in front of a speaker stack when they played the Immigrant Song. It was so loud and with Plants voice so high, I am embarrassed to say that it was a bit hard to take and I had to move back a few spots. I remember them sitting down for the acoustic set on stools, which was quite unusual for the time and Robert saying something like “we are going to have a cup of tea”. Although I was not a big acoustic fan I thought that section was just great.The fourth album had been released just before the show (it was out on November 8th 1971) and I do not recall Stairway seeming a big deal at the time, but rather Whole Lotta Love was the highlight for most people.”
pageSetlist: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Rock and Roll, Stairway to Heaven, That’s the Way, Going to California, Tangerine, Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, Celebration Day, Whole Lotta Love (medley including Hello Mary Lou, Let the Boy Boogie, and other rock’n’roll standards), Communication Breakdown.
Sadly the Mecca was demolished a year or so ago, and in the spot now stands a massive supermarket. I drove past this morning, and thought of that magical night. The next time I saw Zeppelin was back at Newcastle City Hall, a year later. I’ll write about that show tomorrow.
Thanks to John for the photographs of his classic Page and Plant posters.
Reference: Docherty, Geoff (2012) A Promoter’s Tale: Rock at the Sharp End, CreateSpace Independent Publishing.

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Phil on February 5, 2023 at 5:34 am

    I was at this concert I must have been right beside you and you mate. I was right up at the front, at one point actually underneath the speaker stacks.


    • Posted by vintagerock on February 5, 2023 at 12:36 pm

      An amazing evening Phil. Sounds like you had a great spot although I bet it was very loud! Happy days Peter


      • Posted by Phil on February 6, 2023 at 11:57 am

        Yes it must have been loud but I can’t recall it being painful 🙂 I just remember looking up and watching Jimmy Page playing Stairway to Heaven about 15 ft away from me.

      • Posted by vintagerock on February 6, 2023 at 12:22 pm

        Amazing memories Phil. I wish I had a camera at those Gigs. Happy days Peter

  2. Posted by Julia Scott on March 4, 2023 at 1:10 pm

    I was at there as well right at the front best ever


  3. Posted by C j on April 15, 2023 at 12:00 am

    I was there I remember sitting crossed leg you could almost touch them a far cry to the next time we see them at Earl’s Court


    • Posted by vintagerock on April 15, 2023 at 8:55 am

      It was a pretty special night. I believe it was the last time they ever played a ballroom. From then on we would only see them in massive cattle sheds or open-air. Happy days Peter


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