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Best of RBR: 74 Things to Love About Alabama: Led Zeppelin Plays Tuscaloosa

Yes once upon a time, major rock gods descended on T-town.

The British Invasion reaches Tuscaloosa.

(This post was a favorite of mine because so many of you shared your experiences of going to big-time concerts at the formerly known Memorial Coliseum. In addition to seeing LZ, some of you got the chance to see Linda Ronstadt, Steve Martin, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Yes, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Elvis Presley and many others. I also got an education on Dr. Jim Salem who taught at the University and provided the review of the concert.)

Does it blow your mind as much as it does mine that Led Zeppelin made a trip to Tuscaloosa in 1973 to perform a concert at Coleman Coliseum (fka as Memorial Coliseum)? Like many of you, this was way before my concert going days, but what a scene that must have been.


This tour took place shortly after the release of Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy. The Tuscaloosa concert was held on Thursday, May 10, 1973. Tickets were an astounding $5 for General Admission and $3 for students. Being general admission, many concertgoers had to wait in line for several hours before the doors would be opened. Barricades were set up in front of the venue and the people were herded back and forth to get in to the building.

Once inside, the crowd was rather mellow (probably with a little help from mother nature). But that mood changed when the lights went down and the thunderous drumming of “Rock and Roll” brought the audience to their feet like a shock of electricity coursed through their bodies.

The setlist Included the following:

  • Rock and Roll
  • Celebration Day
  • (Bring It On Home intro) Black Dog
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • Misty Mountain Hop
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You
  • No Quarter
  • The Song Remains the Same
  • Rain Song
  • Dazed and Confused (incl. San Francisco)
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Moby Dick
  • Heartbreaker
  • Whole Lotta Love (incl. Let That Boy Boogie)

The concert reportedly lasted close to three hours thanks to LZ’s patented improvisations.

Local Review:

Thursday night’s Led Zeppelin concert at Memorial Coliseum was not a University of Alabama activity. For one thing, most university students have gone home. For another, university students are older than teenie boppers.

The place was packed, though, with 15,000 or 16,000 kids who loved Led Zeppelin. They had to. Inside the Coliseum it must have been 100 degrees, with so much moisture that it was practically raining.

How did I sit through all of that? I didn’t. I couldn’t have even if I wanted to. Unless you were a diehard and hot there early (I’m not and I didn’t), there were no seats where the show could be seen.

It was however, a good show. Led Zeppelin brought, I’m told, everything the Stones carried on their famous tour except it was all bigger, better brighter and louder.

The sound system was incredible, the lighting creative. There were even global prisms to surprise everybody at the end of Stairway to Heaven, the new Zeppelin hit.

Otherwise, it was all very depressing to me. I saw too many kids who were going to get into too much trouble, too early, at too great a cost.

Since the concert was obviously not a service to university students (though I did see a handful there), the whole thing raises two questions. Who makes the money? And is it worth the price?

~ Jim Salem, Tuscaloosa News, 5-11-73

LOL, what a pearl-clutching get-off-my-lawn review! I would give great sums of money to jump into a time machine and sweat myself silly to the hard-driving thunder drumming of John “Bonzo” Bonham, the mesmerizing bassline of John Paul Jones, the guitar wizardry of Jimmy Page, and the melodic incantations of Robert Plant.

Were you there? Do you know any one who was? Do share.

On a side note, Neil Young also came to T-town that year performing a concert that he played with the Stray Gators on February 5th, 1973. A live album of that concert was released just this past week called TUSCALOOSA. Eric Clapton played Memorial on April 20, 1979.

On November 14, 1971, Elvis Presley performed an afternoon show at the arena. He returned on June 3, 1975. The last time he performed there was on August 30, 1976, a year before he died. Grateful Dead played a two set (plus encore) show at the venue, their one and only appearance in Tuscaloosa, on May 17, 1977.


Should Coleman Coliseum be open to major concerts?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    Yes. Yes! YES!
    (155 votes)
  • 10%
    Maybe, depends who the act is.
    (20 votes)
  • 5%
    No, they could not fill the arena, too much noise, too much traffic, and GET OFF MY LAWN!
    (10 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (see my fascinating insights in comments.)
    (3 votes)
188 votes total Vote Now