The air guitars were out in full force at Led Zep heaven last night. Thanks to the Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening show.
You might ask yourself why go and pay good money for what really just sounds like a tribute band that is connected by an offspring to one of the greatest rock bands of all time?
The simple answer is that ‘sound’ and ‘hearing’ in this case are two totally different things. From the concert opener Immigrant Song,to the closing song Rock & Roll, everyone in the packed house got their investment returned with interest and then some.
Jason Bonham and his band were simply outstanding and tighter than two coats of paint. Picking tracks from the Led Zeppelin catalogue is hard enough, but to then play them with authenticity and respect is challenging if not impossible when true disciples in the audience know every lyric and guitar lick. Whether it was from Physical Graffiti’s In My Time of Dying or Going to California off Led Zeppelin IV, Bonham and his band managed to give all the songs a pulse that I am sure, given the crowd’s reaction, was true to the cause.
The tracks chosen also highlighted the diversity in the back catalogue that sometimes those who are more spectators than followers of Led Zeppelin forget. Whether it was No Quarter from Houses of the Holy, or Whole Lotta Love from Led Zeppelin II, the band showcased the styles and sound that influenced countless other bands from Black Sabbath to Queen, The Ramones to Aerosmith, and Deep Purple to the Black Crowes.
Jason Bonham, also fondly known as Bonzo’s son, was the link to the past but the heart of the band was singer James Dillon and Jimmy Sakurai (Mr Jimmy) on lead guitar. Both are well worthy of a mention.
Sakurai played his heart out and left it all on stage. Looking around the audience, you could see many guitar players hanging off each chord played, almost salivating with the prospect of getting home after the show to try out chord progressions that they’d never experienced before.
Dillon though was the surprise standout for me. He nailed every song brilliantly. Almost to the point I am sure Robert Plant himself would have been proud. He owned the stage and managed to capture the delicate elements of Stairway to Heaven. As this epic song progressed to its crescendo, he stretched his pipes with ease and had the crowd on their feet singing along and thrashing their air guitars to every note of the song.
In fact, the whole band were great and they clearly enjoyed playing with Bonham, who chatted during the course of the evening reliving the threads of the past including some neat video footage of days gone by, seeing a father and son mucking around, a link to New Zealand via Aunt Dorothy and, of course, reflections of Jason Bonham playing at the O2 Arena with the real deal in 2007. All this and more really showcased Bonham’s passion and love for not only his father’s past but the music and band he was a part of.
So going back to the “why would you bother brigade”, hearing the encore that finished off the two and a half hour set and looking around as the lights came on, there were only wide smiles and backslapping to be had.The audience was actually what the whole night was about.
It was a chance for the true Led Zeppelin fan to come out and experience the closest thing that connected them to the band they loved. They remembered the time they heard their first Led Zeppelin song that changed their life and came along to relive it all again. Sounds like a good enough reason to me.
Click on an image to see a photo gallery by Reuben Raj: