Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening (JBLZE) kicked off their winter tour in his home state of Florida. Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall was the second stop of the tour and the anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV in 1971! Bonham, who lives in Delray Beach commented on living in Florida, “Just on the other side”, he said. When he’s not touring with his tribute to his father, Jason is behind the kit with Sammy Hagar in “The Circle”. Opening the show with a multimedia video presentation of his father, the band then hit the stage opening with the triple header of “Rock & Roll”, “Celebration Day” and “Black Dog’. Lighting and graphics were great and included a Zeppelin flying around.
Singer James Dylan’s vocals were in top form. Dylan, who Jason found on YouTube back in 2009, was actually considered to replace Robert Plant when Plant decided not to tour, which never transpired. Instead Jason and James started working together on the original Led Zeppelin Experience tribute. Dylan does a great job with Plant’s vocals, keeping to the originals yet bringing his own personality and style.
The fans that come to these shows are mostly die-hard Zepp fans. This would not work if you didn’t have the best musicians playing these iconic masterpieces. Jason brings such Zeppelin credibility besides being Bonzo’s son, he has played with Plant, Page and Jones as well as in Heart’s tribute to LZ at the Kennedy Center Honors. This is probably as close as you’ll get for authentic Zeppelin sound and material other than listening to actual Zeppelin.
The newest player to the tribute is guitarist Jimmy Sakurai from Japan. He has been studying the style of Jimmy Page since he was 17 years old. He has played in several Zeppelin tribute bands including his own called Led Zeppelin Revival. He had Ruth Eckerd Hall mesmerized with his guitar prowess and received several standing ovations throughout the evening. He honored Jimmy Page and then some. He and James Dylan worked well together. You have to love what you’re doing as a musician playing other people’s music and it shows with this group. Of course, they are playing Led Zeppelin, one of the best rock bands ever.
Alex Howland on keys and Dorian Heartsong on bass work the John Paul Jones side of JBLZE. Amazing players who are in the dark too often. Please put more lighting on these two who complete JBLZE. Zeppelin was not the only music on the setlist, there were covers of Willie Dixon, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and “Baby I’m Going to Leave You”, which is actually a Joan Baez cover which Zeppelin made their own. From Physical Graffiti, the cover of “In My Time of Dying” which is a Blind Willie Johnson song that also allows Jason to shine on the drum driven tune. There is a bit of banter from Jason from time to time during the show but mainly it’s all about the music. Almost 3 hours of music, no intermission, “Going to California” brings an acoustic break with the band sitting down for a moment. “Thank You” is a beautiful tribute to John Bonham with photos playing in the background. “Good Times, Bad Times” had almost everybody up out of their seats rockin’ along. The motherload closing set included “Kashmir”, the 70’s anthem of all time, “Stairway to Heaven” and the encore of “Whole Lotta Love” closing the show.
As a baby boomer I never saw Led Zeppelin live, but I had most of their albums. If JBLZE is as close as It gets to hearing the real thing, it delivers! This band is keeping Led’s musical truth and honor. John Bonham is surely smiling down on Jason for carrying on the legacy of Led Zeppelin.
Photos courtesy of Vicky Sullivan / Rock the Lens Photography