Monday, July 7, 2003

Sad news from Russia: my reaction

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

While taking a holiday weekend off from writing the newsletter and checking my e-mail, I was saddened to learn that suicide bombers took the lives of at least 16 people and injured dozens of others at a rock music festival near Moscow. My heart goes out to the people affected by this unfortunate act.

In another twist of sad coincidence, I realized that the event took place on July 5, on the 32nd anniversary of the most tragic incident at a Led Zeppelin concert. In the 1971 incident, 12,000 people attending a music festival at the Vigorelli bicycle stadium in Milan, Italy, were tear gassed by thousands of police on hand at the government-sponsored festival.

After dozens of canisters of tear gas were fired into the audience, Led Zeppelin finished its set with stinging eyes and then ended up deserting the stage for a tunnel filled with tear gas. As John Paul Jones told the story, roadies were trying to retrieve the band's equipment from the stage when the entire audience was forced to move forward through the stage area. The event resulted in arrests and injuries, and the newspapers sided with the police, calling the festival attendees "ruffians."

On a much more positive note, July 6 marked the beginning of the last leg of the 1973 tour. After a well-deserved month of rest since its last concert in America when the band members had pushed themselves to their physical limits, the group catapulted from a Hawaiian vacation onto the stage of the Chicago Stadium. At the time, Led Zeppelin was refreshed and rejuvenated, having spent a full month away from the touring circuit. And so, the group's ninth tour of North America blasted back on the track.