Jason Bonham thrills with Led Zeppelin tribute

A review of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at the Orpheum Theatre on November 2, 2010

, Managing Editor

They’re some big shoes to fill but Jason Bonham fits into them just fine. For most drummers playing John Bonham’s legendary work would come as a daunting task, but for the progeny of the prodigy it’s just something he was born to do. Jason Bonham proved it once again as he stopped at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday as part of his “Led Zeppelin Experience” tour.

Anytime one hears of a Led Zeppelin tribute band it’s natural to be very weary. Nothing about the rock icons’ material is easy to replicate. Luckily this wasn’t your average tribute band, as Jason Bonham is not your average drummer. More importantly, Bonham didn’t have to carry his bandmates, as they proved to be no slouches themselves. Guitarist Tony Catania did an admirable job capturing the psychedelic whirlwind that is Jimmy Page’s sound. At times he reproduced the ax legend’s tones to perfection as well as recreated some of his famous tricks including playing with a bow, the double-headed Gibson for “Stairway to Heaven”, and of course some Theremin work on show-closer “Whole Lotta Love”. Local boy Michael Devin’s busy fingers showed just how underrated John Paul Jones’ contribution to Zeppelin is. Yet, the most shocking surprise was how well singer James Dylan could handle Robert Plant’s ranging vocals. Dylan’s voice wasn’t as overpowering as Plant’s (whose is?) but he’s surely mastered the Plant screech.

As the tour commemorates the 30th anniversary of John Bonham’s death, Jason designed the show to be part concert, part celebration (although the performances were reason for celebration as well). The show featured family videos of the Bonham’s at home and Jason stopped to share stories throughout the evening saying, “A lot of you knew a guy named Bonzo, but I want to let you know about a man named John”.

Bonham balanced the set flawlessly. The stories and videos (especially the one featuring young Jason getting a drum lesson from dad) were heartwarming and intriguing enough that they didn’t seem to slow such a hard rocking show. Still, despite the touching home videos and excellent execution of classics like “Black Dog”, “Dazed and Confused” and “When the Levee Breaks”, there was no better moment than watching Jason Bonham’s six-minute drum solo during “Moby Dick” as clips of John were synced up with his son as they both bashed away in unison.

With a show so surprisingly well done it made it even more disappointing that the atmosphere didn’t live up to the performance. The Orpheum mezzanine was far from filled but the most upsetting thing was that the crowd actually sat for the majority of the show (Do people even sit for “Laser Zeppelin”?!).

Although the audience was underwhelming and dull, Bonham delivered one hell of an “experience”, enough to make the modest crowd sound like a packed house as the band left to Zeppelin-esque fanfare at the show’s conclusion. Way to make poppa proud.

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