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Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Celebrating The Music Of Led Zeppelin (no label)

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Celebrating The Music Of Led Zeppelin (no label)

Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston, TX – November 16th, 2010

Disc 1 (69:41):  Opening, Rock And Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Your Time Is Gonna Come, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, The Lemon Song, Thank You, Moby Dick

Disc 2 (79:59):  Good Times Bad Times, How Many More Times, Since I’ve Been Loving You, When The Levee Breaks, The Ocean, Over The Hills And Far Away, I’m Gonna Crawl, Stairway To Heaven, Kashmir, Whole Lotta Love

Jason Bonham’s tribute to Led Zeppelin took in about thirty dates around the thirtieth anniversary of the death of his father John in 1980.  He assembled a band which included James Dylan on vocals, Tony Catania on guitar, Michael Devin on bass and Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards and pedal-steel guitar playing Led Zeppelin tunes for two and a half hours. 

The show was produced by Annerin Productions who specialize in an immersive show which they call “experience entertainment” and who were also behind such acclaimed productions such as  “The Pink Floyd Experience” and “Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles.”

Jason was quoted in the August 16th press release that:  “I remember when I went to see LED ZEPPELIN live in 1979 at Knebworth, there were certain songs that stood out to me and will stay with me forever.  I will also share other big moments in my life, time with my Dad and my relationship with the band. The show is far from being ‘just another tribute band.’ I want to make the show as personal as I can and show how much LED ZEPPELIN means to me.”

Right after the tour was announced, Bonham received a bit of criticism from Ross Haflin, who posted on his website:  “Jason Bonham is doing a Led Zeppelin Tribute Tour of Canada and America, which just shows you what a greedy ‘Breadhead’ Jason really is. I’m sure his father’s turning in his grave. Apparently Jason is now called Bonzo Junior – vomit. He has no shame…”

Haflin’s post bothered me.  Coming as it does from someone whose fame comes from photographing Led Zeppelin thirty years ago, his words really do not carry much weight.  Haflin spends his time bragging about his “friendship” with Jimmy Page, traveling around the world as Page’s lackey, living in his reflected glory and begging for crumbs to fall from his table.  I do not think Bonham absolutely needs the money, and he’s entitled to interpret his loss and his father’s legacy as he sees fit.

Led Zeppelin’s catalogue, much like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones (and other classics like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte), have achieved cultural significance which transcend the original musicians and composers.  “Stairway To Heaven” and “Black Dog” are now cultural property, belonging to all.   

The general mood leading up to the tour was excitement and anticipation and reviews have been very positive.  Praise has been laid upon the close arrangements, the musicianship, and of course the immersive experience in the venue. 

Celebrating The Music Of Led Zeppelin is a no label release containing an excellent, well balanced recording from an ALD.  Bonham points out at the very beginning this show is meant to remember Zeppelin’s music and to reflect upon our loss of his father John. 

Musically, there is very little deviation from the studio counterparts and from well known bootlegs.  In fact, Jason mentions listening to the bootlegs of Zep shows in Houston.  They start off with “Rock And Roll,” “Celebration Day,” the fast riff in “Bring It On Home” and “Black Dog” played identical to The Song Remains The Same soundtrack and film.

Jason tells the story of the first time he heard Zeppelin, when his father was playing the first album at home, and the fright he felt hearing the organ opening to “Your Time Is Gonna Come.”  (And hearing these stories makes me reflect upon my first experience with Zeppelin when I heard “Dancing Days” blasting from my older sister’s room when I was seven years old and being entranced with that guitar melody).   

“Dazed And Confused” is played close to the studio recording except the coda, when they switch to the arrangement found in The Song Remains The Same (including Robert Plant’s injunction to “suck.”)  Jason tells the story of his grandmother Joan, who soon after suffering her third heart attack saw him play with Led Zeppelin at the O2 reunion in 2007.  (She passed away several months after this show on February 11th, 2011 at the age of 81). 

The final song of the first half is “Moby Dick.”  Jason tells the story how, in their house growing up, there was only one drum-kit.  In an interview John said his dream was to play a drum duet with his son Jason in the Royal Albert Hall.

The second half of the show functions more as a jukebox, starting with “Good Times, Bad Times.”  For “When The Levee Breaks” he asks for help and they play the song set against his father’s original drum recording.  “If a million rap stars can use it, why can’t I?  I mean that in a good way” he jokes afterwards. 

One of the surprising choices in the set is “I’m Gonna Crawl.”  Vocalist James Dylan tells Houston it’s one of their favorites.  Melancholy but ultimately full of hope, they deliver a perfect version of one of Led Zeppelin’s most underrated songs.  “Stairway To Heaven” and “Kashmir” are the final two songs of the set.  There is a full two minutes of audience cheering before the encore.  “Whole Lotta Love” is played close to the arrangement used on the 1973 US tour and featured in The Song Remains The Same(with theremin solo but without the “Boogie Chillun’” reference).

Celebrating The Music Of Led Zeppelin will probably be the only silver pressed release from this tour.  It’s both a great recording and great performance.  It’s good to have not only for that, but also for reflecting upon the music of Led Zeppelin and its meaning.

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Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience - Celebrating The Music Of Led Zeppelin (no label), 2.5 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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  1. Avatar of MarkG
    MarkG says
    March 9, 2011, 8:31 am

    Thanks for the review. Please also note for readers and fans that Jason, along with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, reportedly rehearsed for a tour following the one-off Zep reunion show in London December 2007. When Robert Plant decided against any tour, the rest of the musicians were left without a gig or a job. So, Jonesy got involved with “Then Crooked Vultures” and Jimmy went back to, well, whatever he’s been doing for 35 years. But Jason wanted to continue with all the work he had put into rehearsing the Zep catalog for the reunion show. That’s what lead to the “Experience” tour. Quite right to slam the drivel from a washed-up photographer. But my point is that Jason wanted to continue the celebration of his father’s music, and without Sir Percy’s involvement, the “Experience” tour was his best option.

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  2. Avatar of Hager
    Hager says
    March 8, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Thanks for writing this thorough review of a concert experience that I was fortunate enough to experience (although not of this precise show). For me, a DVD of the concert would be most desirable because, as your review rightly observes, the songs were performed in close resemblance to the studio versions. Make no mistake, the group was on fire and each song sounded amazing. But it was the visuals, and especially “Moby Dick,” which set the show apart from anything I ever expected. Overhead from Jason in “Moby Dick” was his father playing the RAH solo while Jason performed it below, and with precision. The crystal clear sound and visuals were overwhelming, and on more than one ocassion during the show Jason had to move the mike away as he choked-up while reminiscing about how much left his life when his Dad passed. And that’s why a DVD of this concert would give collectors the full concert experience that the audio can only partially convey. Home movies of a very young John Bonham skipping stones, of him as a Dad fooling around on vacation, and playing with Jason in the pool, were interspersed with class at poignant moments. So, as fantastic as the band was that night, it was the visual immersion that made the concert event so much more than a show about Led Zeppelin’s music. It’d be nice if that DVD were released, although highly doubtful.

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