Review: Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening at Palais Theatre, Melbourne, 24 May 2018
If you’ve never heard of Led Zeppelin, you must have been living under a rock for the past 40 years. The English band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and legendary drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham who sadly died on 25 September 1980.
Regarded as one of the best drummers of all time, Bonham led a life of excess which ultimately seized his fate that September day. Not only did the world lose an amazing musician, but the untimely death saw the end of one of the greatest rock bands in music history.
There was also a very impressionable and talented lad aged 14 at the time, who lost a father. Appearing on stage in shades and a beanie at the glorious Palais Theatre in Melbourne’s St Kilda, the crowd cheered at the welcome site of the legend’s son Jason Bonham, a talented drummer in his own right.
Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening was a reminder of how legendary Led Zeppelin was. Starting the evening with ‘Immigrant Song’ blasting through the stacked Marshall speakers, the crowd were off their seats and dancing. While this song was released almost 40 years ago, it embodied the brilliance of Led Zeppelin’s catalogue.
If you closed your eyes, you would believe you were listening to Led Zeppelin live. Vocals from James Dylan were breathtakingly brilliant and seemed to be cloned from Plant himself. His range and power deserved more than being just a member of the band. It seemed like he took a side step to keep Bonham in the spotlight, but as the frontman should have owned the stage more.
Guitarist Jimmy Sakarai’s performance was a wonderful homage to his hero, Jimmy Page. Decked out in what seemed to be Page’s vintage garb, his presence was strong and left the audience with ringing ears as a souvenir of the aural splendour they witnessed.
Throughout the night, Bonham’s witty repertoire and home videos on the huge backdrop kept the crowd entertained. There were several emotional tributes to Bonham, including a virtual duet as Bonham Jnr played in unison with a video recording of his father. It was a touching experience and one that proved this gig was not just the ultimate Led Zeppelin cover band, but a beautiful family tribute.
Led Zeppelin’s mammoth catalogue of hits obviously couldn’t fit in the two-hour time slot, but what they did play had the mixed aged crowd up, dancing and screaming for more.
Ending the evening with the commonly titled “best song of all time”, Sakarai strapped on his double necked guitar and started plucking the 12 strings to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Finally Dylan emerged as a strong frontman and led the band through a masterful version of the song. Finishing the very loud evening with encores of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’, the crowd was spent.
Last night was a fitting and touching tribute to the late great Bonzo and a big nod to the amazing music that Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham (snr) were celebrated for.
Far from just a cover band, last night was probably the closest diehard fans would come to actually seeing Led Zeppelin live. It was a treat to see, hear and witness.