Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience Verizon Wireless Theater November 16, 2010
Some family businesses involve cleaning out septic tanks, others have you pulling teeth and filling cavities all day. Some have you selling used cars, while others mean slaving in a bakery all day making bread for a healthy contingent of customers.
Jason Bonham's family business means wielding sticks and bashing out some of the most monolithic, studied and earth-rattling drum parts known to man or rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin came to a sad, screeching halt in 1980 with the death of drummer John Bonham, the man who anchored the band's sound with the kind of drumming work that can only be described as heavy, industrial and funky all at the same time. There would be subsequent reunions, but none held the same weight as the original quartet of Bonham, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
Jason Bonham was only 14 when his father passed away. He has spent the last 30 years helping keep the memory of his father alive, with his own music and now with this tour, the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience.
After the band's last major reunion, a one-night gig honoring Atlantic label head Ahmet Ertegun in 2007, many believed that the band would be road-ready by the next year. The younger Bonham held down his dad's place for the 02 Arena show and was amped with the prospect of a full-scale tour.
The tour never came to fruition, and the surviving Zeppers went on to other projects, including Bonham who decided to put together this tour and show with the help of a band performing Zep songs with him handling drum duties.
Tuesday night the Experience pulled through Houston, stopping at Verizon Wireless Theater. It was a night to revisit high-school hangs, back-seat shenanigans, hazy boozy nights, and hear the songs that would forge metal, grunge, and everything in between.
The night was a tribute to the elder Bonham, with the show opening with footage of the drummer as a child and a teen, clean-shaven and short-haired, a far cry from the wooly caveman carrying drumsticks the size of tree trunks that we know from endless hours of concert reels.
It's jarring seeing a bald, bearded body standing in for Plant, but vocalist James Dylan conveyed the rasp of the golden god with ease, only rarely dipping into alt-rock territory. It takes a guitarist and a utilityman to tackle what Jones and Page could do live in their heyday, and that's not including a bass player onstage.
That's still a testament to the band and its architects 40 years and change since their debut.
The group ran through every Zep landmark for near two hours, from the scorched skies of "Your Time Is Gonna Come," the breezy sex of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", to an eardrum-harrowing duet between father and son on "Moby Dick".
Pardon Aftermath, it's kind of hard to pick apart the band's catalog of hits, being a life-long fan and all. They played everything we or anyone would have wanted, short of rolling out the whole of Physical Graffiti, our favorite Zep album.
Bonham and company did pull out "I'm Gonna Crawl" from 1979's In Through The Out Door, a song that, according to Zeppelin fan sites, was never played live. It came out just months before Bonham's passing the next year.
"Stairway To Heaven" and "Kashmir" closed the main part of the set. Those two songs have always duked it out in our heads for the title of best Zep song. Sure, "Stairway" has the history and radio love, but "Kashmir" is the very sound of God moving mountains, dinosaurs marauding, and kings and queens ruling empires.
"Whole Lotta Love" ended the night, in the loudest way possible, right down to the theremin parts and slide guitars. The older guys next to us wouldn't stop howling with joy, and we were wailing away on our imaginary kit for the duration of the song.
The younger Bonham has done his pops well. He's still helping spread the Zeppelin gospel from behind the family drum riser. Somewhere, as Jason put it last night, his dad is jamming with Hendrix.
Personal Bias: It's Led Zeppelin, ya buttstove.
The Crowd: Mostly all older guys and gals, who more than likely saw the band at its best live, plus a lot of families out for a rock show. We spied a few three generation parties too, grandpa, son, and grandson.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Remember when they played this one at the Coliseum? Hell yeah!"
Random Notebook Dump: There is something about Zep that brings out a strange sense of purpose in rock writers. Maybe the mystique or the rumble. All Aftermath knows is that he spent half the show on my phone taking notes or playing air drums.
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Rock and Roll Black Dog Your Time Is Gonna Come Babe I'm Gonna Leave You Dazed and Confused What Is and What Should Never Be Thank You Moby Dick (Duet With Dad) Intermission (John & Jason Bonham film footage) Good Times Bad Times How Many More Times Since I've Been Loving You When the Levee Breaks (duet with John Bonham) The Ocean Over the Hills and Far Away I'm Gonna Crawl Stairway to Heaven Kashmir
Whole Lotta Love