Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Review Toronto January 2013

Jason Bonham – Toronto January 2013

Feb 1 2013 – How much Zeppelin does one city need? Well if that city is Toronto, the answer is allot! We get Michael White and The White monthly, we get Ozone Baby,we also get Classic Albums Live,  Led Zeppelin II, and Mothership just to name a few. These tribute bands fill a desperate hunger very nicely, but the real question is how often do we get a real member of Led Zeppelin actually playing a Zeppelin set? It is debatable if Led Zeppelin will ever play again, but one thing is certain, if they do Bonham will be on the drums. No not a cheesy holographic artificial intelligence gimmick that would feature John Bonham on the kit, but instead the drummer of Led Zeppelin in whatever form they exist today is undeniably John’s son Jason Bonham. Have any doubts? Watch the recently released Celebration Day concert movie that we review here  and STFU.

Jason Bonham and James Dylan of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

Tonight Toronto’s Zep hunger got fed in a big way. Jason Bonham is currently touring a multimedia extravaganza in tribute to his father Bonzo. The show features Tony Catania on guitar (whom we interviewed here), James Dylan on vocals, Dorian Heartstrong on bass, and Stephen Leblanc on keys, mandolin and acoustic guitars. We were supposed to interview Jason Bonham a few days before the show but an emergency dentist visit for his son caused the interview opportunity to fall apart, and we have unfortunately not been able to reschedule so far. 

Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience – January 2013 Massey Hall Toronto
Although the show can be considered a tribute show, it is much more than that as Bonham pulls out old family video of the Bonham household and we get a personal insight to the life of John Bonham unlike any we have ever seen before. In between songs Bonham tells stories that up until now were reserved for family fireside chats. The Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience began as an idea after talks of a Zeppelin reunion fell apart in 2008/2009. Robert Plant claimed he was too busy to get back with Page, Jones, and Bonham. With that in mind Bonham decided to go on tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his father’s death. 3 years later the show is still touring based on the same premise.

James Dylan and Jason Bonham in Toronto January 2013

Although this is not the first time we have seen this show (Bonham toured it at the Sony Center in 2010 and The Sound Academy in 2011) this is the first time it stopped at historic Massey Hall. The grandiose history of Massey Hall with its warm acoustics and the music of Led Zeppelin just meshed perfectly to create a potent rock elixir. Needless to say tonight’s show was sold out and it got hot and sweaty.

Tony Catania of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at Toronto’s Massey Hall

Tonight’s show started at 8:10 pm and consisted of a 45 minute first half, a 20 minute intermission, and a 55 minute second half. Roughly 100 minutes of pure Zeppelin ecstasy and the fans were left wanting more. The only complaint I have about the show tonight (and it is a fairly big letdown) was the omission of Moby Dick. The biggest highlight by far 2 years ago at the Sony Center was when Jason played along with a video of his father playing Moby Dick. The notes were identical, the movements were identical and it was truly a spectacle to watch. I am beyond shocked that Moby Dick is no longer part of the show, and can think of no fathomable reason why that would be the case other than it was too strenuous for Jason to perform night after night. Have a look at the YouTube video of that performance to see what we are talking about here.

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Massey Hall Toronto Jan 2013

Aside from the missing drum solo song, the setlist was an great mix of deep cuts and the popular songs. Hardcore Zep fans were very satisfied as they got to hear songs like Sick Again and Your Time is Gonna Come – songs that typical Zep tribute bands don’t play often. I am more than happy to not hear Rock N Roll, Black Dog and Kashmir for exchange for some deeper cuts. The excellent setlist looked like this:

Jason Bonham Setlist Massey Hall, Toronto, ON, Canada 2013, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience

The major highlight was When The Levee Breaks in which Jason asks everyone in the audience after a count of three to yell out “Bonzo”. After a few tries the crowd in one big unison called out for Bonzo and the opening beats of When The Levee Break starts and every single person in the audience stood on their feet. It was similar to the playing of the national anthem at a hockey game – everyone and I do mean everyone stood at attention for this song in which the two Bonhams (one on the screen and one on the drum kit) played a thunderous rendition of the song.

Jason Bonham – Toronto January 2013

Musically the band was impressive. Stephan Leblanc played everything but the kitchen sink in order to round out the magical sound of Zeppelin. The keyboards kept him busy most of the night, but he also showed his incredible dexterity by playing lapsteel guitar, acoustic guitar and mandolin when needed. Next up was the killer bass of Dorian Heartstrong which Bonham introduced as the sexiest man alive. We cant confirm or deny that statement but we can say Heartstrong nailed the bass with the passion of John Paul Jones. Tony Catania claimed in our interview with him that he doesn’t think about embodying Jimmy Page while on stage, but man let me tell you from the audience point of view Catania played and moved just like Zoso. His killer riffs proved that he is clearly the right guy to be on stage with Bonham and the audience gave him their full attention. Robert Plant circa the 2000’s sounds nothing like the Robert Plant circa the 1970’s. James Dylan on the other hand gave us a taste of the golden god (not follicly but vocally). Holy S**T is this guy good! Dylan’s wails were spot on and his voice was front and center all night. Last but not least the drummer and star of the night. Jason Bonham is Led Zeppelin’s current drummer and nothing more really needs to be said. Massey Hall’s foundation might need some maintenance tomorrow as the Bonham thunder shook the hall to it’s core.

Dorian Heartstrong of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

Verdict: 5 out of 5. The editors of T-Mak World love Zeppelin and tonight we were elevated to a higher level with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. This show will almost certainly be on our top 10 gigs of 2013 list and we are still buzzing about the show. In the words of our photographer Steve Mallinson, who had this to say right after the show “F***ing amazing!” My only question is: Where’s that confounded Moby Dick?

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Massey Hall Toronto Jan 2013

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Massey Hall Toronto Jan 2013

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience – Massey Hall Toronto Jan 2013

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