Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

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A fairly last minute inquiry from a co-worker happily fit in with a mostly-on-vacation Thanksgiving week for a return to Atlanta’s Tabernacle for an evening of rock and roll, Led Zeppelin style.  There are a number of bands that mimic the 70’s greats, like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Grateful Dead and others.  Some have permission, sets and costumes and the like from the original bands; others make it on their own.  Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience (inelegantly abbreviated as JBLZE for merchandising) is a bit different in that it features the son of Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John Bonham, who played twice with the other members of the band for their rare reunions.  That connection probably draws some in to see the band, like us, but at the end of the day, the music has to count.


The crowd was, expectedly, largely male and generally 50+ in age.  That said, the attendees wore surprisingly few black T-shirts of band names and tours, and in the upper reaches of the venue, most were inclined to keep their seats through most of the show.   The band entered about 8:30 absent an opening act and launched into “Rock and Roll,” a straightforward radio-friendly rocker from their most popular album, Led Zep IV.  In short, it is a good warm up to set the mood and expectations.  One song in, the band established their pieces well: drums, bass, lead guitar and vocals, the last being probably the most critical for the Led Zep sound.


Bonham found singer James Dylan on YouTube doing Zeppelin covers, and years later, he remains a very credible vocalist hitting the nuances and strength of Robert Plant’s delivery, foregoing the stage poses of the latter.  And, I’m not sure how I feel about that because they are a cover band, and it’s not really a Led Zep “experience” if the band isn’t seriously trying to recreate the nuances of the performance.  That said, that he is able to maintain the vocal strain of singing these songs is remarkable and did a fine job throughout the evening.


As for the visual mimicry, not to worry.  There’s Jimmy Sakurai, doing the Jimmy Page thing, with the hair, costume, the trademark leaning posture, the fancy footwork and the guitar licks.  And the smile.  And the rarely observed double neck guitar. 


Highlights for me included the “acoustic” section, including “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and “Going to California,” and the blues covers including “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and particularly “Since I’ve Been Loving You” which featured some of Sakurai’s best guitar work.  He was solid throughout, doing whatever the music dictated - the chords, the fill-ins, the jazzy section of “The Rain Song” and even the sloppiness of some of Page’s longer solos, particularly his live ones.  Regarding that, it might have been interesting to Sakurai clean a several of these up as he obviously has the talent.


Bonham took the lead in speaking to the audience between every few songs.  When a “name” is a major player in a buying/listening decision, it’s a smart move to engage the audience.  He clearly loves the music, the memories and the legacy, and he masters his kit.  The thundering drums of “Kashmir” were a joy live, as were the keyboards that atypically dominate a Led Zep song.  To that end, my evening would have been complete had “No Quarter” been a part of it, but there’s so many songs to choose from, and the band mixes up the lineup from night to night.


The main set concluded with the unavoidable but enjoyable “Stairway to Heaven,” one of many spontaneous or invited sing-alongs during the evening.  Truth be told, I never deciphered the lyrics to many of their songs.  Plant’s voice as an ingredient in the sonic mix suits me well enough when the lyrics don’t exactly add to much.   The band returned after a brief break to finish off a great combo of “Immigrant Song” and, by Led Zep standards, a restrained rendition of Whole Lotta Love.

Scroll to the bottom for the setlist.

As for a few aggravations, there was a time that the Tabernacle was general admission throughout.  It makes sense that economic demand and an optimal business model would end that policy, allowing general admission for the floor area (standing only) and higher prices for the seats in the balconies.  Other than the VIP “best of” seating, all the other seats were the same price, regardless of location.  So, here’s the view from Row G, literally the top row in the theater, as remarkable for it’s viewing “window” as its elevated temperature.


This not a widescreen photograph.  The lower half shows the highlighted heads of those in lower rows, and the black at the top is an inclined ceiling that cuts off the view of the backdrop.  There are video monitors at either side in the photo, which are unhelpfully sized and feature a fixed view of the stage, I.e., there is no camera operator zooming in for a better view. 

Also, while the light show capability of the Tabernacle is as good as anyone’s, those colorful lights that backlight the stage for those on the floor too frequently come to rest at the upper tier, right where we were.  It is what it is, but the seats shouldn’t cost more than general admission, and they should arguably cost less because the sound is diminished both in volume and range.  No ear plugs required, on this night anyway.

Peccadillo #2: 

You’re going to a concert.  You have to accept that people will enjoy their experience the way they want to, like standing to dance for certain songs.  Okay.  But there’s this guy.  It was a cool evening, but that’s not a hat worn for warmth.  It’s an evening concert.  There’s no risk of sunburn.  So, it’s about looking “cool.”  Alright.  Take “cool” to the next level and take your hat off when you find your seat.  No one will be checking you out at that point. 


Then there’s being so into yourself that you’re being rude, like the guy next to me.  You want to video a song with your phone, that’s fine and very common.  I take pictures and try not to be too intrusive for others’ experience.  That said, don’t playback a full minute of it while the artist is talking to the audience – you’re stealing a moment from those around you, and you’re not getting the most out of your own experience.  And, don’t play what you’ve recorded when the band is playing, either, especially when it’s louder than the band.  Does your buddy really want to hear you brag about your video when the band he’s listening to them play live? 

Probably not.  And maybe that’s why you called some other person several times, telling them about the concert while you’re watching it, with real insights like, “the keyboard player stood up and started playing a second acoustic guitar.  That’s so cool!”  Really?  I’m sure whoever it was enjoyed your sing-along as you held the phone towards the stage as well.

Ah well, rant over.  It’s amazing the things that come to mind when you recall your concert experience. 

Other photos: 

The merchandise basement – nice relaxing area, and you can hear the muted concert if you want to lounge around or your legs are getting tired from standing… or, say, you want to call someone or watch your just-recorded concert video.


View from the 3rd balcony walkway (seats are higher).  Sections 200 and 300 are fine, folks.  Ignore the 400’s, for future reference, or, at least know what you’re getting.



  • · Rock and Roll
  • · Celebration Day
  • · Bring it On Home
  • · Black Dog
  • · Over the Hills and Far Away
  • · Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
  • · Ramble On
  • · In My Time of Dying
  • · The Song Remains the Same
  • · The Rain Song
  • · The Ocean
  • · Thank You
  • · Hey Hey What Can I Do
  • · Going to California
  • · Since I’ve Been Loving You
  • · Good Times Bad Times
  • · Misty Mountain Hop
  • · Kashmir
  • · Stairway to Heaven


  • · Immigrant Song
  • · Whole Lotta Love

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