This January, rock fans ‘down under’ will be shaken by the most passionately convincing Led Zeppelin experience yet. And why wouldn’t they; the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience (JBLZE) carries the bloodline of legendary drummer John Henry ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, an icon who passed away at just 32 years old. Son Jason was then 14.
JBLZE will tour Australia and NZ during January and February 2018, in response to unprecedented demand from the legions of Zeppelin fans they lay claim to down here.
Now 51, with a stellar career under his belt, Bonham junior’s critically acclaimed show seems a far cry from the first time he performed. At the tender age of four, Jason was seen deftly twirling drumsticks behind a mini Ludwig drumkit, in a home-movie segment of Led Zeppelin’s benchmark concert film, The Song Remains the Same.
And yet Bonzo’s legacy and the home-made video memories of two generations of drummers come back to life when JBLZE brings the very essence of Led Zep to the stage. Original band member Jimmy Page summed up what Jason contributed to this sound in their collaborative O2 reunion concert in London, not long before Bonham hand-picked JBLZE talent.
“Jason was absolutely monumental in his performance and his playing. From the very first rehearsal right through to the O2 –his knowledge of what made Zeppelin tick musically was incredible – it was wonderful to work with him and communicate musically with him. Nobody else could have done it.”
But the heartfelt accuracy of the JBLZE sound is only one reason recent concerts across the US have sold out in days. The band’s powerful live performance of Zeppelin classics team with Bonham’s historical, personal input to provide concert-goers on a unique story telling adventure. While huge backdrops display iconic art, Bonham’s own home video footage plays, including family-oriented clips from his late father’s archive.
This musical and familial link culminates in Jason’s live performance of Led Zeppelin II’s Moby Dick: on giant screens behind him, footage of dad Bonzo at Led Zep’s landmark Royal Albert Hall gig on January 9, 1970 rolls, while Jason pounds out one of the most legendary drum solos in history in real time.
“This is my story. It’s what my Dad and Led Zeppelin meant to me” says Jason, who despite his years touring with an enviable list of rock-greats, is still regularly “blown away” by the response he’s had from JBLZE audiences during the band’s 7-year lifespan.
“It’s become more than just me playing the songs. The audience are as strong a part of it as anything” he says. “You see generations of different people at the show, from kids to their grandfathers – people that saw them back in the day. It’s been a fantastic journey”
Bonham explains that JBLZE simply tries to capture the magic that was so greatly written and performed by Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and his father. The show is an aural and visual experience designed to take the audience back to a time when they were carefree and happy; a time “when they had more hair!”
Journalist and Editor, David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine, voiced high praise for the audience-wowing, all-sensory approach in a 2010 article: ‘It was a tour de force illusion. It was also sincere theatre…’
A loud, glittering affair on stage, the show’s success is built on carefully laid foundations. It has taken considerable time and thought to bring a band together that Bonham felt could truly do justice to his father’s lifework.
After Jason starred in the world record-breaking Led Zeppelin O2 reunion concert in 2007 (alongside original members guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and singer Robert Plant) it was hoped that the entity might continue, despite Plant’s decision not to join in again. They went as far as auditioning high profile singers like Sammy Hagar, Myles Kennedy and Steven Tyler to continue the legacy. Yet even these lofty options were unsuccessful.
Together they recreate a carefully considered set list of at least 20 songs, featuring all-time classics plus a few surprises. These include: In the Light which was never performed by Led Zeppelin live. Other highlights include cuts from their ground breaking 1969 debut Led Zeppelin (Your Time Is Gonna Come, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You); 1969’s Led Zeppelin II (Thank You, Lemon Song); 1970’s Led Zeppelin III (Celebration Day); 1970’s Led Zeppelin IV (When the Levee Breaks and Rock and Roll); 1975’s Physical Graffiti (Kashmir).
It’s a playlist that Jason likens to “hitting the ball out of the park” time and again for fans. And by all accounts he’s right. EddieTrunk, legendary journalist, radio and TV broadcaster offers resounding applause for Bonham’s genetically-connected experience: ‘I was absolutely flawed by this show…by far the best…they sound unbelievable…I cannot think of ever having heard anybody play Zeppelin better than these guys…’
TOUR DATES – On General Public Sale – 16 October 9am
JAN 27 – MELBOURNE – THE PALAIS – presale starts 13 Oct 9am – ticketmaster
JAN 28 – SYDNEY – STATE THEATRE – presale starts 13 Oct 9am – ticketmaster
JAN 30 – PERTH – CONCERT HALL – presale starts 9 October 9am – perthconcerthall.com.au
FEBRUARY 1 – BRISBANE – THE TIVOLI – presale starts 13 October 9am – ticketmaster