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REVIEW: Heart & Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience bring in July 4th with a bang

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At the Kennedy Center Honors last December, rock legends Heart performed a rousing rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in front of the band’s surviving three members. Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980, when drummer John Bonham died accidentally in his sleep. Bonzo (as he was affectionately called) was irreplaceable to the band, but his spirit is carried on proudly by his son Jason Bonham, who joined Heart on drums that night for a moment so powerful that former Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was brought to tears.

 

Well, a light bulb went off in somebody’s head that night, because the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have joined forces for a three-month tour with Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. In the process, they will fulfill the dreams of many a rock and roll aficionado. Think about it: the music of Led Zeppelin brought to you by the offspring of arguably rock and roll’s greatest drummer ever combined with a classic rock band who aspired to follow in Led Zeppelin’s footsteps.Photo: www.sun-sentinel.com

 

It would be Bonham’s band who kicked off the night with two classic tracks off Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album: “Rock and Roll” and “Black Dog.” The epic solo played by Jason’s father on the original recording of the former was practically mirrored by Jason in the song’s outro. While “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” from Zeppelin’s 1976’s Presence and “Houses of the Holy” further exemplified the younger Bonham’s talents, “Rock and Roll” clearly set the tone for the set, which was highlighted by “When the Levee Breaks” and set closer “Whole Lotta Love.”

 

Just prior to “Levee,” a gracious Bonham addressed and thanked the audience, explaining that the best way he feels he can honor his father’s name is by playing his songs to the masses. Moments later, John Bonham’s opening groove of “Levee” came over the sound system before Jason took over and played the rest of the song.

 

While the younger Bonham may have been giving a bad rap over the years, none of Led Zeppelin’s music is being played to audiences consistently on a national stage. Jason Bonham isn’t just a guy living off his father’s name. The guy can flat out slam with the best of them. If you don’t believe me, just watch Led Zeppelin’s reunion concert film Celebration Day and you’ll see what I mean. Moreover, his band was awesome. If you closed your eyes for a brief moment, you would’ve truly thought for a split second that you were actually listening to Led Zeppelin.

  

After a 30-minute break which featured an appearance by the Mummers, Heart took the stage and wasted no time tearing into their 12-song set list- opening with “Barracuda” (from 1977’s Little Queen), “Heartless,” and “What About Love.” A combination of barnburners “Kick it Out” (also from Little Queen), and “Even it Up” were also set highlights.

 

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Though often overshadowed in the vocal department by her older sister Ann, Nancy Wilson took the helm for the Elton John cover “I Need You to Turn to,” and “These Dreams” (their first number one single from their 1985 comeback album). The younger WIlson sister took to the stage with reckless abandon- exuding an enthusiasm combined with the kind of raw energy that women half her age couldn’t come close to matching.

 

Long known as contemporaries of Zeppelin, all you need to do is listen to Heart’s debut album, 1975’s Dreamboat Annie to hear the former’s influence, especially on “Magic Man” and set closer “Crazy On You,” which showcased the remarkable vocal prowess of the now 63-year old Ann Wilson.  

 

The Wilson sisters had covered Zeppelin for years in concert, including their cover of their encore “The Battle of Evermore.” At that point Bonham and guitarist Tony Catania joined the Wilson sisters along with various band members and promptly tore the house down with a five song set- fittingly closing with “Stairway,” long believed to be the greatest rock and roll song of all time.

 

On this occasion however, it was most of the audience brought to tears, as some of their greatest rock and roll wishes came true on a special and historical night at the Susquehanna Bank Center.  

 


  Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience setlist:

Rock and Roll

Black Dog

Over the Hills and Far Away

Since I’ve Been Loving You

Houses of the Holy

Nobody’s Fault But Mine

When the Levee Breaks

Whole Lotta Love

 

 

Heart setlist:

Barracuda

Heartless

What About Love

Magic Man

Kick it Out

Mistral Wind

Even It Up

Dog and Butterfly

I Need You to Turn to (Elton John cover)

These Dreams

Alone

Dear Old America

Crazy On You

  

Encore:

Battle of Evermore

 

 

Heart/Bonham:

The Song Remains the Same

The Rain Song

The Ocean

Kashmir

Stairway to Heaven


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: www.sun-sentinel.com