Jason Bonham Displays a 'Whole Lotta Love' for His Dad
Jason Bonham has had an interesting life, to say the least. The son of Led Zeppelin's legendary drummer John Bonham, he has "sat in" for his dad on many occasions, while also fronting his own band and playing with a galaxy of other rock icons including Slash and Paul Rodgers, among many others.
Now, he presents Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, a live homage to his dad's band, which is currently on tour across America. It features a dynamic concert with classic Led Zeppelin songs, rarities never played live by the original band, along with spectacular video and light effects. The band also includes Tony Catania on guitar and theremin, Stephen LeBlanc on keyboards/lap steel guitar, Dorian Heartsong on bass and James Dylan on lead vocals.
Bonham's own historical video footage, photos and stories give the show an intimate feel, and one climax includes a heartfelt duet with Jason performing 'Moby Dick' off 'Led Zeppelin II' side-by-side with a giant video of his late father from Led Zeppelin's landmark Royal Albert Hall gig.
Jason recently shared some memories and thoughts on the show with Noisecreep.
What are your most vivid memories of Led Zeppelin?
So many. As I little kid, I think what I liked best was the 24-hour room service. Can you imagine that for a kid? I also remember always asking my dad why we had to have a policeman at our door whenever we stayed at a hotel. What reason is he here for?, I'd ask. And my dad's answer was always the same - to make sure we behave. Probably my most vivid memory of the band was from Florida's Tampa Stadium in 1977. When they were at there most bombastic. As we arrived I asked my dad who else was playing on the bill. There were just so many people. And he said, just us. And I said, come on, be serious – all this for one band? But it was true. That was the famous show that got cut really short due to rain, and the fans went crazy rioting. I was so scared, just 11 years old. It was chaos. Their manager, Peter Grant, pulled them off I was thrown into a limo right onto Jimmy Page's lap. As terrifying as it all was, Jimmy just held on to me and told me calmly that everything would be all right and not to worry. And it was okay.
What it does feel like for you to be able to carry on the Zeppelin legacy in such a grand and personal way as you do now?
This is an honor. You see, I grew up being around this; it was my life, what I was used to. But I became a fan of Led Zeppelin later in life. You take it for granted when you are in the middle of it, but later, as an outsider – wow. I mean, what can you say about this musical legacy?
Do you ever feel your dad's presence when you are out on stage playing his music?
I never really think about it that way. But at the O2 reunion shows in 2007? Yeah, there was something. I was dressing room, just collapsing after the gig in a total heap. And I really felt him in that moment. I always think of him - he's somewhere. My mom said it best – she said when she sees the other guys in Zeppelin she just imagines that he's in the other room and will be coming in later. He's just still so present for all of us. My kids love to watch YouTube videos of their granddad - he's just right there all the time.
You play many songs Zeppelin never played live – that must help keep things fresh and interesting for you, along with the audience.
Absolutely. I try to keep that very fresh - deliberately – I want to add something and never just do carbon copies. You can't recreate the genius – but you can try to add to it, so that's what we try and do. May night I fall back into the versions I've played for years with the three original guys – it's hard to not do that (laughs). But we never let it become mechanical – we mix it up every night.
Have the guys seen the show yet?
Not yet. In some ways I'd love to have them there to see it. In other ways, I'm not so sure.
You share many personal stories and memories throughout the show.
Paul Rodgers recently came to a show and said afterwards he had never seen anything more honest or heartfelt. That meant so much to me. Because I do want to share my father's legacy with the world. I never got to express to him how really great he was when he was alive. This is my way of saying - wasn't he great; and aren't these songs amazing? And it has become bigger than me – it's almost therapeutic for me and others who come to the show – our chance to breathe life into a part of our lives that we all remember so fondly.
For all the amazing records, is there one Zeppelin album you go back to more than others?
I will always have a soft spot for 'Physical Graffiti' – especially 'Kashmir.' And I listen to so many outtakes we have from that period of the band, and listen to my dad talking with Robert about how to work a song through – listening to my dad count in on 'In My Time of Dying' and it's just amazing. I mean, in those outtakes you just hear the magic of not some mythical outfit, but a real working rock and roll band – an amazing band.
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience fall 2011 dates:
Mon 10/31 Boston, MA The Wilbur Theatre
Tue 11/1 New York, NY Best Buy Theater
Wed 11/2 Hartford, CT The Webster
Fri 11/4 Buffalo, NY Town Ballroom
Sat 11/5 Orillia, ON Casino Rama
Sun 11/6 Gatineau (Ottawa), QC Casino du Lac-Leamy
Mon 11/7 Quebec City, QC Grand Theatre de Quebec
Thu 11/10 Silver Spring, MD The Fillmore
Fri 11/11 Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance
Sat 11/12 Richmond, VA The National
Sun 11/13 Atlanta, GA Center Stage
Wed 11/16 Orlando, FL Hard Rock Live
Thu 11/17 Hollywood, FL Seminole Hard Rock Arena
Fri 11/18 Clearwater. FL Ruth Eckerd Hall