Last weekend, I went to see Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside. It was fantastic! I’ll get into the venue later, but the band was perfect. Let’s back up a bit…
I’m a Led Zepplin fan. Always have been, and always will be. We all have a few bands that define our youth, and for me Led Zeppelin is at the top of that list. The first time I saw Robert Plant was the first solo tour he was willing to do Zeppelin material. So, when I heard about Jason Bonham doing a tribute tour – I had to go.
When Led Zeppelin played the O2 Arena a few years ago it was Jason that filled his dad’s shoes. John Bonham was a god to rock drummers. Who better to sit in than his son? To hear Jason tell it, after that show, he wanted more. When it became obvious that a tour with the remaining members of Led Zeppelin was not going to happen, the son decided to fill the void on his own. A tribute to his dad’s band, 30 years after his death.
The band, along with Jason, is James Dylan on vocals, Tony Catania on lead guitar, Michael Devin on bass and Stephen LeBlanc on guitar, pedal steel guitar and keyboards. Last Sunday there was a special guest too. Zoe Bonham joined the band playing harmonica. This band is, without a doubt, fantastic.
This was no ordinary concert, and far from the ‘tribute’ shows you’ve seen. They are not interested in dressing up like a Beatles tribute, although it’s been said that the tour was at least partially inspired by the Beatle tribute show “RAIN”. This was a tribute, not an imitation. It was obvious early on that Bonham was enjoying it as much as the audience. When he introduced songs, or video clips, he sounded inspired. At times, he even seemed emotional. A few times he even turned around and watched the large video screens that played old family footage. It seemed almost therapeutic. At one point he said that he realized he was not the only one that lost someone when his dad died. We all did.
When I left the show I told my wife that this ‘may’ have been the best show I had ever seen. I have thought about that all week, and the conclusion is a tough one. Each concert has it’s own special twist. This one however went above and beyond what I could have hoped for. I wish I could see it again.
Part of what made the show was the venue. The Fox Performing Arts Center holds a special place in my mind. Its storied history is well known, but I grew up in Riverside. When I saw movies as a kid it was usually at the Fox Theater. Just walking into the building brought back memories. After a long absence, the multi-million dollar new Fox Performing Arts Center is a welcome venue. To see shows like this, in Riverside, is amazing.
The staff at the Fox deserves a mention here too. Invisible until needed and then, like magic, right there. A few people tried to squeeze into the front row and almost instantly they were removed. It was a concert with service, ushers, and class.
(A personal thanks to Monica, and Melissa, in the box office.)