Rant ‘N’ Roll: Son Of Bonzo

Jason Bonham must hate Robert Plant.

The rightful heir to the Led Zeppelin drum seat, Jason, 47, is the only son of Zep’s only drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham who died in 1980 at 32 from acute alcohol poisoning after downing 40 vodka shots. Jason, dare I say it, is as good as his dad and on the night of December 10, 2007, he proved his mettle when Led Zeppelin famously regrouped in honor of Ahmet Ertegun, the man who signed them to Atlantic Records. The concert took place at The O2 Arena in London and won Jason, lead guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and singer Robert Plant a Grammy Award. The night was so good and so satisfying for both the musicians and the audience, it was made into a DVD (Celebration Day) and talk was ramped up that the quartet, in all their Led Zeppelin glory, would once again tour America, the country that first fell in love with them, when they couldn’t catch a British break.

But talks were quelled when Robert Plant decided to not look back and look forward instead. His delightful Raising Sands album with bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss also won a Grammy and his follow-up album, Band Of Joy, in 2010, was amongst the best of that year. He lives in Austin, Texas, with alt country singer Patty Griffin and has a multitude of projects up his sleeve. Meanwhile, Bonham, Jones and Page unsuccessfully tried to mount a tour with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. They even started writing new material. But it never came to fruition.

Reportedly, Page, Jones and, of course, the younger Bonham still want the multi-million dollar payday of a huge tour. Page hasn’t released any new music in 15 years. And it’s not like these guys hate each other like the Eagles who still tour and rake in the mega-bucks. Talk started up again when word hit that Page was working on re-releasing every single Zep album with new rarities, due this summer. That talk was halted forever, though, when Plant told Andy Greene in Rolling Stone, “A tour would have been an absolute menagerie of vested interests and the very essence of everything that’s shitty about big-time stadium rock. You’re going back to the same old shit. I’m not part of any jukebox.” In the same article, when the Eagles were mentioned, he said, “They’re bored. I’m not bored.”

Thus, Jason Bonham’s dream of fulfilling his destiny popped its bubble.

After playing with UFO, Joe Bonamassa and Paul Rodgers, he finally formed The Led Zeppelin Experience in 2010, a rampaging swaggering Zep show with a younger generation of musicians gleefully approximating every howl, shriek, solo and stomp of a night of Zep.

Bringing his crew into the Sands Entertainment Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the sound was sterling, loud as all hell but it didn’t hurt. Jason’s smart. He found the perfect guys. His singer can get atop those high vocals like Plant hasn’t been able to do for years. His lead guitarist (augmented by a second guitarist/keyboardist off to the side because the Zep sound is of the essence) nailed those iconic lead rides. The bassist was one with Jason’s every twitch. They acted like a monolith, moving the band in different very comfortable directions that they and we in the audience knew oh so well. It was heaven. Rock ‘n’ roll heaven.

Their version of “Since I Been Loving You” was like the Godzilla Blues, a heavy, heavy thumping monster kind of blues that accentuated every last drumbeat. “Kashmir,” “Rock And Roll,” a few deep cuts that were also pretty damn wonderful and some heartfelt between-song words from Jason made for a night to remember. “I was a rebel teen and when my dad tried to get me to show some interest in his band,” he said, “all I wanted for him to do was to take me to see The Police. And he did.”

The only stain on the night was, yeah, I guess they had to play “Stairway To Heaven.” It was the perfect time for a bathroom break.

Jason Bonham, one whale of a drummer, is living out his fantasy of being Led Zeppelin’s man on the stool. But for a stubborn singer, he coulda woulda shoulda been Bonzo for a new generation.

June at the Sands: Boyz II Men 6, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss 11, Kenny Wayne Shepherd 14, Bobby Vinton 15, Earth Wind & Fire 17, TNA Wrestling 19 & 20, Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles 22, “Move Live On Tour:” Julianne Hough & Derek Hough 25, Diana Ross 26, Wynonna Judd & The Big Noise 28, Josh Turner 29.