Led Zeppelin fans have had much to celebrate of late. Just in time for the holidays, the band has released “Celebration Day,” a DVD of the 2007 reunion show in London. And, tomorrow night, surviving band members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones will receive a 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, DC.
Closer to home, the biggest news for LedHeads like myself was Robert Plant’s surprise visit to Dogfish Head’s Milton brewery on Thursday, where he accompanied his son, a London brewery executive, on a tour of the Delaware-based business.
While not forgotten, I’ll confess that Led Zeppelin hasn’t been top of mind lately. The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, both peers of Zeppelin, continue to play to packed arenas, yet Plant and Page steadfastly refuse to tour as Led Zeppelin. (A note of caution to those who suggest otherwise: You might incur the wrath of Plant, who, when asked about tour rumors, responded thusly.)
Fortunately, we local LedHeads had the next best thing to a reunion tour: Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. The son of legendary drummer John Bonham, Jason is rock ‘n roll royalty. He’s an accomplished drummer and musician in his own right, playing with several bands, including Black Country Communion – a supergroup of sorts with guitar god Joe Bonamassa and Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple fame.
But perhaps Jason’s biggest musical coup was being tapped by Page and Plant to fill his late father’s big shoes as their drummer for the 2007 reunion.
So when The Grand announced Bonham was bringing his Led Zeppelin Experience to Wilmington, I eagerly bought tickets. No ordinary tribute show, he pays homage to the band and to his father with a multimedia musical triumph. (And lest you think he’s cheapening his famous father’s legacy, this Experience is blessed by Page, Plant and Jones, who thought so highly of Bonham that they disbanded the band following his 1980 death.)
Jason Bonham certainly didn’t disappoint. More than 120 minutes of Led Zeppelin’s best, including perennial favorites, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love.” Together with guitarist Tony Catania (whose shredding on “No Quarter” was amazing) and vocalist James Dylan, who channeled Plant with strong vocals and even tighter pants, the band brought energy, talent and SOUND to the theatre. (So much sound, in fact, that five rows from the stage, my cup throbbed to the beat of the music.)
In between songs, Bonham told stories about “Dad,” confiding in the audience that he never had the opportunity to tell his father how great he was – and that this Experience is the conversation they never had. The video accompaniment was a unique touch – the audience roared at the home videos of a toddler Jason dancing to “The Song Remains the Same,” with mum and dad looking on, laughing.
The show’s pinnacle, however, was the lesser known instrumental, “Moby Dick,” which featured an incredible drum solo by both Bonhams. Video footage of John’s performance of the song played, with Jason matching it, beat to beat, and earned a standing ovation from the audience.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience gave us LedHeads the live Zeppelin performance we crave, and together with last week’s in-person appearance by Plant himself, it’s safe to say the band hasn’t had this much play in Delaware since its heyday.
And until Bonham brings his show back to town, I’ll be in my basement, listening to In Through the Out Door through my Beats headphones, hoping Santa brings me a copy of “Celebration Day”…