Can it be done? Can Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience do their show and not perform Black Dog? Not perform Dazed and Confused? Not even have guitarist Tony Catania use the Theremin?
It can be, and was done Saturday Night at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ontario.
There were problems it seems, both technical and logistical. From a technical standpoint, Tony Catania seemed to be having some issues. Early on he slipped into a solo, hit on a pedal, and nothing. The sound died. At other times he just seemed to be having trouble. The theremin sat on the stage all night un-used, another clue of technical difficulties.
This is not to say Catania didn't play well, or spent all night with a deer in the headlights look, wondering why God was failing him so. All told, the look of "what the..." totalled thirty second or a minute of a two hour show, and if you weren't close enough, weren't watching the guitarist with the intensity only a hobbyist can apply to a professional, then you probably noticed nothing wrong.
[caption id="attachment_1573" align="alignnone" width="422" caption="James Dylan, "Goin Down Now...""][/caption]
The logistical problem was venue related. The casino's love to get 5,000 music fans into their casino who might not otherwise come. But once there, they don't really want them sitting pin the hall watching a show. If they had their choice, you would buy your ticket, then just come to the casino and gamble. So they put a rider in the bands contract, maximum 90 minute show.
After the show, both James Dylan and Stephen Leblanc mentioned that they had to cut songs from the set list. The longer songs took the hit, with Dazed and Confused, it was mentioned by both Dylan and LeBlanc, getting cut. With the tight time, Whole Lotta Love got a short, Over Europe 1980 treatment. It wasn't until the next day I realized Black Dog wasn't played either.
[caption id="attachment_1579" align="alignnone" width="410" caption=""I would like to thank..." "][/caption]
Problems aside, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience didn't miss a note Saturday night. They kept the show rolling, not taking their usual break after Moby Dick, instead rolling along, keeping it moving. And in the end, they packed a lot of songs into a 90 minute set. They packed, it seemed to me, a lot of minutes in as well, as the show ran far closer to 2 hours than 90 minutes by my count.
Dazed and Confused and Black Dog notwithstanding, they didn't miss a trick. Immigrant Song, Rock and Roll, Kashmir, When the Levee Breaks, Stairway to Heaven: they touched all the bases.
[caption id="attachment_1581" align="alignnone" width="432" caption="James and Tony doing Stairway to Heaven"][/caption]
Musically, the band gets better and better, the music of Led Zeppelin, so complicated to perform, seeming to roll off them. They are tighter than last time I saw them, and they are playing with an ease I don't remember. Stephen LeBlanc has become essential to this band, adding lap steel here, an electric guitar part there. Keyboard, acoustic guitar, mandolin, every song is given that extra touch by LeBlanc, who has also developed his theatrical flair.
Dorian Heartsong, the new guy in the band, although he has probably played more shows with them now than Michael Devon has, lays down a perfect groove every time. He fit's in so well he was barely noticeable, which is the highest compliment I can pay to a bass player.
James Dylan was once again, note perfect. Hitting Robert Plant's notes and phrases, without ever sounding just like Robert Plant. If you didn't miss Robert Plant, if you closed your eyes, you still knew it wasn't Plant. The perfect frontman for a cover band, he sings in a way that is flattering to Plant, without being imitative.
Tony Catania, technical issues aside, hit all the notes, strutted and preened ala Page. He plays with energy and plays his part musically. He is as good as anyone doing the Jimmy Page circuit.
As for Jason, he obviously can play the parts, and he did so with energy. He tells his stories, sometimes prowling the stage while doing so. He is amusing, self effacing and a hell of a drummer. Combined with the guys mentioned above, and he is putting on a fabulous show in the name of the father.
If Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience is coming to your town, it's well worth checking out.
* Note: Notices at the Casino informed fans the show was being recorded for possible later use. During the show, auditorium lights often came on as songs were ending, quite obviously to film the crowd reaction.
Is Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience planning on releasing a DVD of the show, or doing a broadcast at some point in the future?