House of Blues Boston
November 27 2019
Review by Joe Patten Photos by JD Cohen
Good Times, Bad Times
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening is a great show full of all the expected Zeppelin hits like Stairway to Heaven and Going to California. As PT Barnum once said, “giving the people what they want”, but at what personal cost? I guess it starts with the difference between an artist and an entertainer.
Since Led Zeppelin stopped touring after John Bonham’s death in 1980, their popularity has only grown. Look at most suburban club listings and there are countless tribute bands on the scene, not only paying tribute to Led Zeppelin but acts such as Bon Scott era AC/DC, Prince, David Lee Roth area Van Halen and Pink Floyd just to mention a few. Every town has a Grateful Dead tribute band, after all. The music public is hungry for the bands they can never see live again so the demand is there.
There has been a growing trend also to bring a “show” to the public for the increased dollar value.
John Bonham was arguably the greatest rock drummer of all time. John Bonham and Led Zeppelin first were artists which may help in understanding why after John’s death the band never really carried on except for a couple of one-off performances. Robert Plant in particular, felt without John, the creative process was not worth carrying on as Led Zeppelin. He didn’t want to become an entertainer.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening as it’s billed, is a very good tribute show with Jason Bonham as the ring leader and entertainer. Make no mistake, Jason is a very good drummer who took up the family business while playing with bands such as Foreigner. For this show he has created a loving tribute to his deceased father, John. He was just 14 when he lost his father and I can only assume the legacy has been hard to live with, particularly as a drummer. This makes the show that much more difficult; is Bonham cashing in on his father’s memory? Is he simply being an entertainer and giving the people a show they have been hoping for, for over forty years? Jason did bring an almost Vegas style show to Boston last night and had everyone singing along and air drumming to his father’s songs.
Jason has surrounded himself with a band of musicians who were very faithful to Led Zeppelin. The show was complete with a guitar player who made every attempt to look, act and sound like Jimmy Page. He was a fantastic entertainer who was just about a spot-on imitation of Jimmy Page. This was a show so complete that they had false song starts to get the crowd going, as in the beginning of “Good Times, Bad Times” and the breaks he threw in the middle of “Kashmir” for effect. The production company did try to stay true to the sound by using older analog gear for mixing and vintage guitars and amps for the band. However just as the band was kicking into “Stairway to Heaven”, the whole left side of the PA cut out. There was that “one” guy who spent most of the song trying to get the mix engineers attention. I’m pretty sure by the chaos behind the equipment rack, they knew.
The band stayed true to the Zeppelin experience but it felt odd for it to be coming from a former member’s son. Others have carried on the family business such as Dweezil Zappa and Zack Starkey. Dweezil danced on the line between artist and entertainer by staying true to the music without totally making it a Vegas show. Zack Starkey could have started a Beatles tribute band to cash in or worse, started a band with the other Beatle offspring. Instead he stayed true to his artistry and became quite possibly a better drummer than his dad Ringo. Overall, this show gave everyone what they were expecting, the hits, the lights and someone named Bonham bashing the drums.
Rock and Roll
Black DogOver the Hills and Far Away
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
In My Time of Dying
The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song
Hey Hey What Can I Do
Since I’ve Been Loving You
Good Times Bad Times
Misty Mountain Hop
Stairway to Heaven
Whole Lotta Love