To say that Led Zeppelin have earned a place in the pantheon of rock music is to say that which few will reject. The only other rock band that is comparable in that degree may be The Beatles, but Zeppelin pursued altogether different soundscapes while the Fab Four set the standard for British Pop. Zeppelin’s enduring mystique and musical virtuosity made waves. I can only imagine what audiences felt when the band broke into the scene, conjuring music in the studio and on stage that was an alien confluence of past sounds. Sonic séances.
The chances of Led Zeppelin touring again are slim, what with Robert Plant’s refusal to be a “jukebox,” as he once put it. This leaves fans in a difficult position.
We want the music.
Enter Jason Bonham. Son of drummer John Bonham, Jason has grown up not only with the legacy of his father but a rabid interest in music himself. The Led Zeppelin Experience could be written off by the particularly cynical as a musician advancing his career with his father’s legacy, but I believe that this project is rooted in Jason’s love for his father: he is not an opportunist, but rather a participant in an ancestral revival through the power of music. One of the best moments of the night occurred when video footage of his father as a child appeared on all of the screens in the Whiskey. Later, during the drum solo in “Moby Dick,” Jason joined his father beat-for-beat for the hammering percussions. The convergence of past and present, father and son, was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve felt at a performance.
Covering two hours of Led Zeppelin is a daunting prospect. Not only do you bear the weight of a musical legacy on your shoulders, but you have to do so with impeccable musicianship. James Dylan reached the high notes that made Plant a legendary vocalist. Tony Catania emulated the fretboard prowess and dexterity that immortalized Jimmy Page as a guitar hero. Alex Howland played dual roles of keyboardist and guitarist, adding that extra depth that makes songs like “Kashmir” so iconic. And of course, bassist Dorain Heartsong (amazing name) set the rhythmic pulse of the evening along with Bonham behind the kit.
My conclusion: With incredible musicality and genuine heart, Jason Bonham and the Led Zeppelin Experience is perhaps the best cover band on the planet.