Led Zeppelin beat goes on
Jason Bonham is as amazed as anyone that his “side project” playing his old man’s music has turned into the kind of thing that packs arenas such as Hollywood’s Hard Rock Event Center.
The last time the Palm Beach County resident performed at the Hard Rock was as the drummer for Sammy Hagar and the Circle in September, and after the show he mentioned to Hagar that he’d be back to play the same room in November with his own band on a tour for Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening.
Hagar was surprised, Bonham says.
“He said, ‘How do you do?’ And I said, ‘We sell out.’ He goes, ‘No s---?!’” Bonham says, laughing. “I said, ‘That’s why you pay me the big bucks, Sam.’ ”
Stopping in Hollywood on Friday, the 21-city tour of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening is a showcase of music from throughout the discography of the band his late father, John “Bonzo” Bonham, helped make legendary as, according to the ranking in Rolling Stone, the greatest drummer of all time.
The show offers a mesmerizing visual journey, as well, with giant backdrops of historical photos and video, including a remarkable duet with Bonham performing “Moby Dick” with footage of his father from Led Zeppelin’s landmark 1970 Royal Albert Hall concert.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening has been touring off and on for eight years, but the longtime Delray Beach resident says that those who may already have seen the show are in for a surprise in the form of new guitarist Jimmy Sakurai.
Along with the requisite guitar skills and the lean, mop-topped appearance of Led Zeppelin icon Jimmy Page, Tokyo native Sakurai brings an encyclopedic knowledge of the band’s groundbreaking canon.
“Nobody usually challenges me. But we have these debates now, in the broken English that he can speak, about bootlegs of songs, which versions, which years, what color underwear Jimmy was wearing. This was my argument: ‘You haven’t played with them. I have,’ ” says Bonham, who has performed with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, including their famed 2007 reunion at London's O2 arena.
“So we’ll find the bootleg of the night that he’s referring to,” Bonham says. “He’s right.”
The drummer says Sakurai has re-energized him and forced the band out of the complacency that had been steering arrangements of the songs. The band has now returned to arrangements that are closer to the originals Led Zeppelin used.
“On this tour, I said I want to focus more on the ‘Song Remains the Same’ live versions,” Bonham says. “So we are gonna do the 35-minute ‘Dazed and Confused.’ I’ve seen [Sakurai] do it. It’s note for note, every part, every jam. We’re bringing back ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.’ We’re gonna do B-sides, like ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do.’ ”
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening tour runs through Dec. 8, when its final stop will be in De- troit. That puts the band about 90 minutes from the Michigan town of Frankenmuth, birthplace of Greta Van Fleet, the young rock quartet whose sound has drawn polarizing comparisons to Led Zeppelin. (Greta Van Fleet performs May 7 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. Tickets cost $44.50-$54.50 at LiveNation .com.)
Greta Van Fleet’s first fulllength album, “Anthem of the Peaceful Army,” premiered atop Billboard’s lists of top rock albums and top hard-rock albums on its Oct. 19 release. The thousands who bought the album must not have seen Pitchfork’s hand-wringing review that dismissed GVF’s music as “overly precious retro-fetishism.”
Bonham says the purists aghast at the smudging of the line between musical influence and lazy pilfering have not been paying attention. And, frankly, he doesn’t hear Led Zeppelin in Greta Van Fleet.
“I don’t get it. I don’t hear the resemblance as much to Zeppelin as I do to the Black Crowes or early Geddy Lee, ‘Working Man’ [era] Rush. That’s what I’m hearing musically,” he says.
Bonham thinks critics may be distracted by the visual presentation.
“Funny, I heard them way before people started saying they sounded like Zeppelin. And I didn’t get the Zeppelin thing at first. Until I saw a video of the singer [Josh Kiszka] doing the hand on the hip and the finger and that. Then, I went, ‘Oh, dear. He’s doing the Robert,’ ” Bonham says. “But so did [Black Crowes singer] Chris Robinson put his hand on his hip, and do that. It’s how you perceive it.”
Bonham’s taste in young, Zeppelin-style rock ’n’ roll bands favors Royal Blood and Rival Sons. He says he hopes Greta Van Fleet can withstand the critics.
“I love the fact that young people are into rock ’n’ roll music. So, I hope the pressure doesn’t ruin them. Because they are young musicians, and we want to encourage rock ’n’ roll,” Bonham says.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening will begin 8 p.m. Friday in the Hard Rock Event Center at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 1 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $60, $45, $35 and $25 at MyHRL.com, at all Ticketmaster outlets, including Ticketmaster.com, and by calling 800-745-3000.
Jason Bonham, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and other rock performers will take part in a South Florida-based Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp Nov. 8-11, culminating in public performances at Margaritaville Hollywood Beach and Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Visit RockCamp.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Bonham, son of iconic Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and longtime resident of Delray Beach, says he’s finally met someone who knows more about Led Zeppelin than he does.