Monday, May 25, 2015

Jason Bonham's Stripped Down Led Zeppelin Experience

“It’s a more stripped down version of the band,” I mentioned to Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience guitarist Tony Catania after their show last Thursday. He was having none of it, pointing out that it’s still a five piece band. And while yes, they are, new keyboard player Alex Howland doesn’t pick up electric guitar, or lap steel, on non-keyboard songs. And while he played acoustic on a couple of numbers, he sits out a few and is much less of a busy player than his predecessor Stephen LeBlanc. That’s neither a plus nor a minus, he’s just a different style of player.
Dorian Heartsong on mandolin

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience rocked the house at Casino Rama. Opening as a four piece with Song Remains the Same before Howland joined them on acoustic guitar for Over The Hills and Far Away. Bonham then mentioned they would do a couple of songs from the first album, introducing Good Times Bad Times and a rip roaring version of I Can't Quit You Baby, which saw guitarist Catania on fire.

Catania was at his best on the blues numbers I Can't Quit You Baby and Since I've Been Loving You, changing tone, moving between pickups, fingers flying around the fingerboard with speed and dexterity of a young Jimmy Page. "It's not just about the notes," Catania told a small group of fans ofter the show. "You have to know the difference between a humbucker and a single coil pickup. That's not something you can teach."
Dorian Heartsong, James Dylan and Tony Catania go acoustic
He's right, Jimmy Page was more worried about feel and sound than technicality, and Catania seems to have gotten better at channeling Page as time has progressed. He was on this night, the shows standout performer.

A couple of the shows highlights were also a couple of the surprises: a one-song acoustic set of Going to California and a surprisingly fun version of In The Evening. Going to California featured Catania on guitar, singer James Dylan and bassist Dorian Heartsong on mandolin taking center stage. In The Evening lost much of the ponderousness of the original, especially in the chorus, and it was a revelation how much that particular song could swing.

Tony Catania Goes to California
After Howland displayed some deft keyboard work on Trampled Underfoot, the band rolled through a fourth album set of songs: Misty Mountain Hop, When the Levee Breaks and Stairway to Heaven, before Kashmir closed out the main set. The band returned as a lean four piece for an encore of Immigrant Song, an audible called out onstage by Bonham, and Rock and Roll.

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience at Casino Rama was an across the board excellent show and it's my feeling, having seen them a number of times, the band is getting better and better. After, talking to some concertgoers in the casino, not a person had a bad thing to say about the show. It was simply an exceptionalnight of music.

Post-show with singer James Dylan

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