It all started with a big pile of LPs, which my father let me have along with his old turntable when he switched to CDs. It was not unlike that early scene in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous in which Zooey Deschanel’s character gives her record collection to her little brother, thus turning him into a lifelong fan of 70s rock. So there I was, still only a kid, unearthing the treasures to be found in the classic albums of such mythical bands as Genesis, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Who and, yes, Led Zeppelin.
Now, as big a second-generation Led Zep fan as I may be, I obviously can’t compare to Jason Bonham, who’s not only the son of drummer John Bonham, but who has also stepped into his late father’s shoes on a few occasions, most recently playing alongside Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones during their December 2007 reunion concert at the O2, in London. Which is exactly what sets Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience apart from other tribute bands.
“Obviously one of the major differences is I have been lucky enough to have played with the band a couple of times. Not many of them can say that,” pointed out Bonham during a recent teleconference, adding that his personal memories of his father also inform the show. “You know, this is a man that would grow up to be the Beast, Bonzo, the legendary guy that was one of the first to throw a TV set through a window. But realistically he was my dad and just an everyday guy, really. So within the context of the show I talk a little about him as a personal person, you know, as a guy that I knew, not so much as the guy that you know, as Bonzo, but as my father. I show some of the moments we shared together which were, and are, very cherished now.
“And also I like to touch on the love I have of the music, [of] playing with the guys, [how] every song has a different story,” continues Bonham. “Each song is chosen for a reason. There’s nothing we’ve put there because it was a popular song or whatever. I have a story for each one. But the music does the talking in itself and I just tell a few moments that were not spoken too much about, the reasons I do certain songs in the set and my own personal take on when I played them with Led Zeppelin. So that’s why it’s my, Jason Bonham’s, Led Zeppelin Experience, and this is where I suppose it’s different from the others.”
During this tour, Jason Bonham is joined by Tony Catania on guitar, Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards and Dorian Heartsong on bass, as well as singer James Dylan, who eerily sounds like Robert Plant circa 1970. JBLZE’s setlist usually includes timeless showstoppers like Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway to Heaven, The Rain Song and Kashmir, the last two being Jason Bonham’s favourite Led Zeppelin songs.
According to Bonzo’s son, the people in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago were and remain particularly fond of Led Zep’s music. “The same in the Toronto and the Montreal areas in Canada – both are big Zeppelin towns,” says Bonham. “I’m looking forward to, as I say, getting out there. And while the demand is there I’ll keep doing it. I feel blessed to do it, you know?”
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience plays Metropolis tonight, May 12.
HELP BUILD TULEENI A HOME
This Saturday, three bands from the Montreal folk scene (Sunfields, Mark Berube and The Patriotic Few, Glass Passenger) will play a benefit show to raise funds to build new facilities for the Tuleeni Orphanage, which is located in the village of Rau, in Tanzania. Good music, good cause, good God, let’s go! At Club Lambi (4465 St-Laurent), May 14. www.buildtuleeniahome.org