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19 October 2010 4,906 views One Comment

The first full review for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience has appeared in The Winnipeg Sun by Darryl Sherdan for Sunday’s concert at the Winnipeg MTS Centre.

This superbly written review provides the first real insight to the performance structure and is clear evidence that anyone attending the show is in for a real treat.

Here is a new video of JASON BONHAM’S LED ZEPPELIN EXPERIENCE performing Kashmir from October 14th, 2010 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  For more videos visit the TBL Video Link.

The review is as follows; please check out The Winnipeg Sun for more info and comments.

Whole lotta love for Jason Bonham

At first, I thought the guy two rows down was having a seizure.

One minute, he was sitting there listening to Jason Bonham and his band play Stairway to Heaven. The next minute — when the drums kicked in — the dude just started lurching and flailing. Was he choking on something? Nope. He was rocking out, air-drumming with Baby Bonzo. And when the big power chords of the song’s final movement came along, his arena seat was no longer able to contain his rockgasm. He leapt to his feet — only he was apparently unable to decide whether he should keep hammering the beat, switch to air guitar or just pump his fist in the air and scream “AND AS WE WIND ON DOWN THE ROOOOAD!!!” at the top of his lungs. So he did the only thing he could do: He did it all at once.

He wasn’t alone. He was just one of 4,200 Zeppelin freaks — from head banded kids getting their first live taste to grizzled hippies-turned-IT-guys reliving their Man-Pop halcyon days — who took in Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at MTS Centre on Sunday. And spent much of the 140-minute show screaming, cheering and generally behaving as if they were at an actual Led Zeppelin concert. My, my, my, they were so happy, they sang and danced in celebration. They were in the promised land. Or as close as they’re likely to get in this lifetime, anyway.

You could say the same for Bonham. The 44-year-old son of drummer John (Bonzo) Bonham has had two Led Zeppelin experiences of his own, filling his father’s drum throne at reunion shows in 1988 and 2007. But after singer Robert Plant put the kibosh on a full-scale return — and guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones were unable to find a way to move forward without him — Bonham found himself at loose ends. So he put together this 30-date tour to mark the 30th anniversary of his father’s untimely death after a drinking binge. It’s part rock show, part tribute concert, part multi-media extravaganza — there are some sweet home movies of both Bonhams as youngsters. But mostly, it’s a way for a son to carry on his dad’s legacy.

“Welcome to a night of respect for my father and for Led Zeppelin,” said the bald, goateed Bonham in his David Brent accent. “Everyone knows who Bonzo was, but John was my dad. He was a great dad. Not the beast or the animal everyone talks about.”

Of course, his dad also happened to be the greatest drummer in rock. “We’re all fans and that’s the main thing,” Bonham acknowledged. “It’s been 30 years since my dad passed away, but the music, still today, sounds so fantastic.” And while home movies are nice and all, music was what the fans came for. And primarily what they got. Kicking off with (what else?) the iconic snare-and-hi-hat bash of Rock and Roll, Bonham and co. cranked out a 20-song set that included signature hits, album tracks, blues workouts, bombastic epics and even a couple of deeper cuts for the hardcores.

The first thing you noticed: Singer James Dylan sounded exactly like Plant. As he oughta; he fronts the tribute band Virtual Zeppelin. The second thing you noticed: With his chrome dome, goatee and shades, he looked like he should be fronting a Judas Priest cover band. Hey, are Steel Dragon still around?

Likewise, guitarist Tony Catania sounded exactly like Page. As he oughta too; he played on Bonham’s Zepset tribute album more than a decade ago. He knew every lick and solo by heart — and could even rock the Theremin on Whole Lotta Love, though he apparently drew the line at taking a bow to his sunburst Les Paul. He even had his hair pulled back in a teeny tail like Jimmy (though he really looked more like Furio from The Sopranos). Jonesy’s duties, to his credit, had to be divided up between erstwhile Whitesnake bassist Michael Devin and keyboard / pedal steel / rhythm guitarist Stephen LeBlanc. Both of them filled JPJ’s large shoes without stepping on anyone’s toes.

As for Bonham, well, what can you say? He’s a chip off the old rock. He learned to play at his father’s feet. He’s spent decades collecting, studying and mastering his dad’s beats, fills, grooves and techniques. Sure, he cheats a little by using a second bass pedal. But hey, even if he isn’t quite the force of nature that his old man was — and who is? — there’s nobody more qualified for his job. He proved that conclusively and handily, thundering away behind his green Ludwig traps as the band moved through the slinky Celebration Day before slowing down with I Can’t Quit You Baby, the churchy Your Time is Gonna Come and the bluesy Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. A mighty Dazed and Confused — which evolved from slogging blues to blazing rocker, though the band had to rein in the time a bit — was a smart segue into the funky Lemon Song.

But the real highlight (and literal centrepiece) of the evening was a rendition of the drum solo Moby Dick, with Jason recreating the original solo and then duetting with his father’s 1970 Royal Albert Hall performance on video. “This is something that hasn’t been tried — since yesterday,” he cracked. “And it almost didn’t work then.” Though the video was glitchy, it held together on this night, with both Bonhams thrashing away in unison like a herd of stampeding water buffalo. Jason even snapped a drumstick during the proceedings, but carried on without a hitch. Even better: It only lasted about six minutes, instead of the half-hour solos Bonzo dished up in the ’70s. In any case, I suspect the massive cheers that followed weren’t for Bonham’s brevity but his bravery in attempting the feat — and pulling it off.

After a well-deserved 20-minute intermission, the second act opened with more home movies. First, young Jason drummed to Dr. John’s Right Place, Wrong Time while his dad slapped a conga. Then John played along with Ike and Tina’s Nutbush City Limits while Jason clowned. Then came the piece de resistance — a hilarious clip of Jason shaking his groove thang to Gary Glitter’s Leader of the Gang. “What was I thinking?” he laughed before counting the band into Good Times Bad Times. It took me a minute to notice that now he was playing an orange Vistalite kit identical to the one in the video. Nice touch.

A slow-burning Since I’ve Been Loving You came next, followed by a Black Dog that felt a little rushed, but earned Bonham technical points for mastering its shifting, syncopated time signature. But even he can’t do it all — he laid off during When the Levee Breaks, letting the band rock out to a loop of Bonzo’s original low-slung groove. The only problem: It didn’t change for the refrains, which sounded kinda amateurish. But the audience, now mostly on their feet, had no complaints about The Ocean — which flowed well from funk to shuffle — and the majestic Over the Hills and Far Away. The left-field choice I’m Gonna Crawl came next, followed by a few clips from the Zeppelin reunion show in 2007. Then it was hitsville in the home stretch: Stairway (with Catania on double-neck SG) brought out the lighters. It was chased by the massively grooving Kashmir (with kaleidoscopic Middle Eastern visuals) and an encore of Immigrant Song and (what else?) Whole Lotta Love, with the latter earning all that and more from the rapturous fans.

And why not? Sure, you could be a purist and whine that they’re just a glorified tribute band, and Jason is cashing in on his father’s name, and his so-called Experience really is just a few old videos that don’t reveal much about his father, his life or his career. But I’ll tell you this: I saw Zeppelin twice, in 1977 and 2007. And while this was no substitute, it was close enough for rock ’n’ roll. In fact, these guys probably play Zeppelin tunes with more reverence than Zeppelin did in later years. Catania’s solos were cleaner than some of the ones I’ve heard come out of Page’s fingers. And Dylan can hit the high notes in Immigrant Song, which is more than you can say for Plant these days.

So who cares if they’re a Zep tribute band? They might just be the best one on the planet. After all, one of them has actually played with Zeppelin. And if you closed your eyes and listened very on Sunday, the tune would come to you at last. You could easily forget you were an old IT guy and imagine you were still a young hippie, savouring the real thing back in the day.

No wonder that dude was rocking out.

Review by Darryl Sherdan at The Winnipeg Sun

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

One Comment »

  • ledhed58 said:

    I CAN NOT FRI^!#@$%ING WAIT !! I am one of those old hippie dudes who remembers very clearly how the HAMMER OF THE GODS sounded back in the day and I know Bonzo is proud of his son and he has every right to be…will be seeing the show in Houston on the 16th of Nov and I already know that I will be in ZEPPELIN heaven…Long live the Mighty Zeppelin !!!

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