Jason Bonham’s
Led Zeppelin Experience

October 14, 2011
Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Jack Dalton
Photos by Ron Lyon

I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing a legendary drummer's legacy honored through video, family accounts and music, courtesy of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. The Greek Theatre set the tone for what turned out to be a beautiful tribute and a look at the family man John Bonham, who is most often associated with hard drumming and hard partying that ultimately claimed his life at age 32.

The evening's performance started appropriately with the classic song "Rock And Roll," which transitioned right into "Celebration Day" and "Immigrant Song," letting the crowd know, if they didn't already, that we were in for a serious ride back to a time when rock and roll was at its finest. Our attention was focused on three large video screens behind and beside the band, showing the early days of Led Zeppelin followed by Jason sharing some of his personal memories courtesy of family photos and home movies. These portrayed John Bonham as a softer, family man — “Dad” to Jason.

The mood mellowed for "Your Time Is Gonna Come" followed by a perfect, flawless version of "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" where singer James Dylan captured the spirit of the classic vocal. "What Is And What Should Never Be" lead into "The Lemon Song," creating some interaction between Dylan and the crowd.

"Thank You" was accompanied by more family videos before Jason introduced his new bassist Dorian Heartsong who broke right into the intro to "Dazed And Confused" mixed with fog and psychedelic images on the screens behind. Borrowing am trick or two from Jimmy Page, Tony Catania slid a violin bow on the strings of his guitar and wowed the audience with his masterful skill.

Jason then talked about the 1976 Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains The Same and a 1970 film of a concert at Royal Albert Hall (available on the Led Zeppelin DVD), mentioning that growing up, the family only had one drum set in the house, so it was either "me or my Dad" playing. Father and son never got a chance to play together, but through the magic of video, that opportunity came with the classic "Moby Dick." Jason started playing, which was displayed on the video screen for the first half of the song. Then the screen split, and it was the Bonhams, father and son, beat for beat, stick for stick, 41 years apart but never more together. It was emotional and a highlight of the evening.

After a short intermission, Bonham and his band returned to the stage with "The Ocean," "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "Since I've Been Loving You," featuring Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards and Catania lighting up the guitar yet again. During "In The Light," from the Physical Graffiti album, amidst some technical snafus, LeBlanc started on second guitar and transitioned back to the keys without missing a beat to finish the song. He also played the mandolin on "Going To California," rather appropriate considering the locale.

At this point, any lingering thoughts of technical issues were quickly forgotten when Jason brought out his son Jager to start the eternal blues tome, "When The Levee Breaks." The third generation Bonham sat down at the drum kit and gave us a few beats before his dad Jason took over and, with the help of sister Zoe on the harmonica, performed an awesome rendition of a truly great song.

Listening to "Kashmir" was like a return to an earlier time in my life — with eyes closed, I felt like I was at a Led Zeppelin concert. It was a perfect final song to the set. The encore of "Stairway to Heaven," featured Catania with a double-neck strapped around his neck and playing an acoustic on a stand in true Jimmy Page form.

The band left the stage, prompting Bic lighters and cell phones to arise in unison. Back for a second encore, the band fell into “Whole Lotta Love,” with Catania artfully waving his hands in front of a Theremin (a favorite device of Page’s) to create the familiar crying sounds in the song’s middle section.  A tearful and gracious farewell followed with a group bow and the stage went silent.  All in all, it was a wonderful night honoring a rock and roll legend.

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