“My father was just like any other father, except that he was in Led Zeppelin. There was Dad, and then there was Bonzo.” It was the first of many heartfelt comments his son Jason would make to the audience about his father. The occasion was the final night of the tour, outdoors at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, on what would have been John Bonham’s 67th birthday. To add to the atmosphere and emotion of the evening even the heavens got into the act, with the full moon slowly arcing over the venue.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience could accurately be described as the most authentic Led Zeppelin tribute band in existence. There are many great Led Zep tribute bands, but this one obviously has the direct bloodline. The songs were presented mostly as they were recorded—no 20-minute extended guitar solos (who really enjoyed those, anyway)? Bonham assembled a first-rate group of musicians for the tour, which consisted of Dorian Heartsong on bass, Alex Howland doubling on keyboards and guitars, Tony Catania on guitar and lead vocalist James Dylan.
With a vast catalog of songs to choose from, the entire two-hours-plus concert was literally a “greatest hits” collection. A light show behind the band and clouds of pot smoke in front made for a faithful reproduction of a Zeppelin concert. Good Times Bad Times, When the Levee Breaks, Misty Mountain Hop, Kashmir,Trampled Under Foot …it was all there, and more.
Dylan sounds so much like Robert Plant it was actually surprising for a moment to hear an American voice, and not a British accent the first time he addressed the crowd. Catania had all of Jimmy Page’s solos nailed note-for –note, including the complex Dazed and Confused, complete with violin bow.
There was no real lull during the evening, but among the best of the best were the vintage home movies of John Bonham as a child that played on the screen during Thank You. The acoustic version of Going to California; with Catania, Dylan and Heartsong (recreating the John Paul Jones mandolin part) seated on chairs at the front at the stage. The bluesy Since I’ve Been Loving You. Bonham saying “this song needs no introduction,” with everyone knowing exactly what song he was talking about. Stairway to Heaven would have been a natural ending to the night, but after saying goodbye the band came back to do an encore of The Immigrant Song and Whole Lotta Love.
Bonham comes across as very personable with a keen sense of humor. He frequently spoke to the audience between songs, and speaking about several of the tour dates that had to be postponed or cancelled due to James Dylan’s health issues he remarked: “James was prescribed steroids. By a vet. And he’s still taking them,” which brought about a great, 5,000 person- strong collective laugh.
In his ending remarks, Bonham turned serious as he spoke of the love he has for the three remaining members of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant was to play the Greek Theatre three days later, and Bonham grew emotional—almost to the point of holding back tears–as he spoke of both the memories of his father and the bond he has with Plant. It was truly a fitting way to end both the evening and the tour.
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Photo Credit: Ron Lyon
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