Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience: John Bonham Honored by Son in Concert (INTERVIEW)
“Growing up my heroes were American motocross riders,” he tells Spinner. “I didn’t want to be a drummer; I wanted to be a motocross rider.”
Eventually, Jason, who has been playing drums since age four, relented and drifted into a music career. He’s enjoyed moderate success with bands such as Virginia Wolf, Bonham, and Black Country Communion, but he is best known for his work with his father’s old band.
He’s filled in for his old man at a couple of shaky Led Zeppelin reunions, and manned the throne for the group’s triumphant concert at London’s O2 Arena in 2007. (That performance was captured on the recent DVD Celebration Day.)
In 2009, he launched his own touring entity. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience is a multimedia tribute to his father and the music of Led Zeppelin. First launched in 2009, Bonham is currently readying the act for another swing through select North America cities.
While it’s noble for a son to honor his father, you have to wonder if Jason, who is now 46 years old and 14 years older than his father was at the time of his death, gets tired of standing in his father’s considerable shadow.
“At some point I got sick of people calling me Bonzo junior,” Bonham says. “But now that I’m older and wiser, I’m just honored to be mentioned in the same breath.”
Still, he was hesitant when Annerin Productions, the company behind touring theater tributes to Pink Floyd (The Pink Floyd Experience,) and the Beatles (Rain — A tribute to the Beatles) approached him with a concept for the show.
That was 2008, a year after the last Led Zeppelin reunion. Singer Robert Plant had already kiboshed a full-scale reunion tour, and Bonham, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones, had plans to ramble on with a new singer. After reportedly auditioning Aerosmith‘s Steven Tyler they came to their senses and threw in the towel.
Understandably, Bonham was hesitant to attach himself to another Led Zeppelin endeavor. Then, after actually seeing Rain – A Tribute to the Beatles, he recognized an opportunity to offer a unique experience for Led Zeppelin fans.
Before signing on, however, he sought approval from Led Zeppelin’s most persnickety member.
“When I started it, I had a big discussion with Robert (Plant.) He said, ‘do it because you want to do it, not because you have to.’ As long as you do it well, and do it with a smile on your face you have my blessing,” Bonham remembers.
On stage with his Led Zeppelin Experience, Bonham leads the band through classic such as “Kashmir,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and his father’s signature drum solo “Moby Dick,” while rare home movies and live footage play on giant projection screens. Between tunes he tells stories of growing up as son of a legendary drummer.
Jason was only 12 when his father’s sudden death triggered the end of Led Zeppelin in 1980. Most remember the elder Bonham as that unbelievably talented drummer that choked on his own vomit and died.
But Jason, who is now 14–years sober, aims to separate the man and the myth.
“Everyone knows these stories about a wild and crazy guy called Bonzo, but at home he was just like any other father; always hollering at me for not doing my homework,” Bonham says. “He might have been in Led Zeppelin, but to me he was just dad.”