JBLZE has a lot more to it than your average tribute show. As well having the authenticity that comes with being John Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham holds the distinction of having actually playing in the band itself, taking on his father’s drum duties at the famed 2007 one-off reunion.
While that London gig never led to the Led Zeppelin reunion tour many had hoped for (Plant had no interest, while Page, Jones and Bonham Jr actually went down the path of considering replacement singers), it did spark something in Jason that evolved into the act that hit Hindley Street Music Hall last night. Assembling an excellent band aroud him and interspersing the songs with anecdotes about his father, this is a thoroughly enjoyable night for any Zeppelin fan, with some stunning re-creations of the band’s back-catalogue.
Opening with the raw energy of ‘Immigrant Song’, the mix of stage and front of house sound took a minute to settle down, something that really crystalised with space created for those distinctive drum fills in ‘Good Times Bad Times’, and further established with the nuanced ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ and then ‘Ramble On’.
The setlist was thoughtfully balanced: the big Zeppelin moments arranged against some deeper album cuts, and many of the extended arrangements such as ‘No Quarter’, ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Stairway’ held until later.
With much of the focus on the drumming, the huge sound of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ was one of the real highlights, partlicularly with its judicious use of a John Bonham sample against the live drums (curiously though, there was no ‘Moby Dick’ in the setlist).
In a nice contrast to the energy of the music, Bonham chatted laconically from his drum throne between songs, giving some great personal insights into the band and his relationship with his father. In one tale, from later in the night, we hear about teenage Jason enthusing about The Police and telling John that Stuart Copeland was a better drummer.
The encore of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Rock and Roll’ was a fantastic end point for the gig – a high energy celebration of some of the best material rock music has ever delivered.
And Hindley Street Music Hall was an excellent venue for this kind of gig – with an intimacy that suited the trip back in time, but with a stage and sound big enough to house this music.
Last time Jason Bonham’s show toured Australia in 2018, Adelaide was by-passed (which he did apologise for mid-show). The large, enthusiastic crowd on Tuesday night at Hindley Street showed it was well worth the trip this time!
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor