Jason Bonham strives to share Led Zeppelin legacy

By Pat Prince

Later this year, Jason Bonham will embark on a concert tour called “Jason Bonham: The Led-Zeppelin Experience” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the passing of his father, the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Henry Bonham.

“The Led-Zeppelin Experience” will be a complete dedication to the life that Jason had shared with his father, and the band his father championed. Limited-engagement concert dates in North America — a full 30 dates — are planned for this fall.

After attending “Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles” — a celebratory musical production now on Broadway — Jason was inspired to create something extraordinary to celebrate the full Bonham legacy.

Unlike “Rain,” the “Experience” band won’t be dressed in historical garb. The musicians Jason is putting together to represent Zeppelin’s music won’t encompass your ordinary tribute band. They will form into more of a support band to back Jason’s performance into Zeppelin’s well-known catalog.

Behind the drum kit, home movies, photos and other rare footage will be part of the multimedia event. With what promises to be a state-of-the-art sound system and top-notch lighting, the show will be mapped out as a journey into Jason’s personal relationship with his father and Led Zeppelin.

Jason had become upset at some of the initial reaction to the event. Some critics scoffed at the idea, stating that, perhaps, this is an exploitation of a famous musician’s death. But that would be misrepresenting Jason Bonham. His intentions are true. His love for his father is rock solid. He is a pure fan of Led Zeppelin’s music, and he is almost as connected to it as any surviving members of the group.

Recently, we had a chance to chat with Jason Bonham while he was on a press junket in New York City.

DRUMMER JASON BONHAM, shown here drumming during the Led Zeppelin O2 Arena concert in Britain in 2007, will share the legacy of Led Zeppelin with a new generation. The 30-date “Jason Bonham’s Led-Zeppelin Experience” concert series will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of his father, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Photo courtesy Jason Bonham/Ross Halfin

You want to make it clear to the fans that the Led Zeppelin Experience will be more than just another tribute band.
Jason Bonham:
Very much so.

How would you then describe the Led Zeppelin Experience, in your own words?
JB:
It wasn’t really what I set out to do with my life. I love the music so much, and every now and again, I will play it with a great group of people, but after you play it with them, whenever you decide to do it, it becomes a little bit bigger than it was the time before. And especially after the great success of the O2 show. So now, with the spotlight on, I said, ‘Listen, if I’m really going to do this, it’s gotta be bigger than I want it to be. Let’s do everything we possibly can to make it the best experience they (the fans) can have. And that’s when we said ‘Experience, that’s it.’ And that’s what it’s going to be called “Jason Bonham: The Led-Zeppelin Experience.”

And I started to think, what can I put in a show that no other show can have? And … well, a couple of things: your father was in the band, you played with the band, and I really think the music is so special. I really am a fan. I’m not doing it for the hell of it. I really love playing these songs. And it was very sad when it all came to a close, after doing it once (at O2), and got so close to doing it as a tour. It was great. It was a really wonderful time.

So I was repeatedly asked by Annerin (Annerin Productions), who put on the show “Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles.” I went to see “Rain” and saw a whole other bunch of ways to do it, to make it a personal journey — part storyteller, a little bit more theatre.

I figured you’d sit down at the start of the show and by the end, you’ll be up, rocking out. I want it to be a real cool journey. It’s more my life through the music Led Zeppelin, than any kind of timeline. My first memories. What was the first thing that stood out when I first heard Led Zeppelin. My first jam experience playing with them at Knebworth when I was 13. So it’s personal anecdotes and one hell of a show, too. I want it to be as special as it can be.

The fans are so thirsty right now for anything Zeppelin.
JB:
Thirty years on since Dad passed away. Zeppelin has grown and grown — I really do think, the biggest they’ve ever been or the biggest they ever were when they stopped.

Isn’t it amazing? You see teenagers nowadays wearing Zeppelin T-shirts. You don’t get this with any other type of classic rock band, really. This is special.
JB:
No. No, you don’t. And to most teenagers, someone of my age of 40 is an old man — and for them to still look highly at Zeppelin. And every time a teenager finds Zeppelin, it’s like they found a new act. They are like ‘Check this out!’ And then someone goes, ‘Dude, have you seen these guys? They’re like 67 years old now.’ And they’re like ‘What?!’ (laughs).

My son is 14, and he’s just getting into that, you know, ‘Yeah, yeah, my grandfather was in Led Zeppelin’ kind of vibe (laughs). And I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, work it, son, work it.’

It’s not like there’s anything really promoting Zeppelin out there, like The Stones or The Who. Those bands are still touring, promoting their brand. Zeppelin has been inactive for so long. And that speaks volumes, that the music is still so popular.
JB:
Oh, totally. I think so, and to me, I have been more meticulous, probably, on this show, and more anal than I’ve ever been in my life. The only time I was this intense was when I was doing the O2, about what my performance was going to be like. And that was just my part then. With this, I’ll rehearse and play back the rehearsal and listen to the guitar player, or listen to the bass player, and I’ll say, “You know, I don’t like that. I want you to go more like it was in the ’77 jam version of “Sick Again,” when it goes into the solo. I want you to follow that bass line more than the one in ’75.’ So, I’m picking my favorite bits of all the different tours and kind of tell them all what to do. Like I would ever try to do that to John Paul (laughs).

I’ve just been very lucky. And at the same time, I’ve gotten spoiled. You know, when you’ve played with them (Zeppelin) … ah … Ask any drummer — whether or not it’s the drummer related to the original drummer — you say, ‘You wanna go play with Led Zeppelin for six weeks and get to know them?’ I don’t think there’s one drummer out there that would say, ‘No. I’m just gonna continue on with what I’m doing’ (laughs).

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