Jason Bonham Fills Dad's Shoes in Led Zeppelin Film: 'Best Gig I Ever Did'
Jason Bonham is hoping the release of Led Zeppelin's "Celebration Day," which documents the group's 2007 reunion show at London's O2 Arena, will mean good things for his Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience -- although he's hesitant to predict it will.
"I don't go out there to try and say, 'This is as close as you're gonna get to the real thing, and you should be happy,' no," Bonham -- who sat in for his father, the late John Bonham, at the O2 show -- tells Billboard. "I'm not trying to be Led Zeppelin. My view on this is I love playing this music. If people are interested they can come along and share the journey with us. We just want to represent the music to the best of our ability and give something to the people that loved my father and the music so much."
Bonham does, however, acknowledge that his having "Celebration Day" out -- it's been showing in theaters and will be released on CD and DVD/Blu-ray on Nov. 19 -- has jogged fans' appetite for Led Zeppelin music and established the drummer as a valid part of the group's legacy. "There's still an amount of people out there who would probably go, 'Well, it's not the same without John Bonham on the drums -- and I would agree," the younger Bonham says. "But see the film, and then afterwards if I'm playing near you, I think you would be more appreciative of coming to see me after you've seen me play with 'the real thing,' if you know what I mean."
For Bonham -- who also played with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones at Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary concert in 1988 in New York -- the O2 show and now the "Celebration Day" packages are emotionally rewarding souvenirs of what he calls "the best gig I ever did in my life...You know, it's a huge honor to have Led Zeppelin release a product with me on it. There's never been anything out officially, using the name Led Zeppelin, that didn't have John Bonham on it. So for me, that is, wow, the dream I had as a kid. After dad passed away (in 1980), I went, 'Oh, I'll be up there as well. I want to carry on the tradition.' And if there's any way of saying you carried on the tradition, there it is -- you ended up playing with your father's band some 30-something years later."
Bonham continues to do only a limited number of shows each year with the multi-media JBLZE, as he calls it. "It was something I started doing to pass the time, and then it became more than that," he notes. The show's next run begins Nov. 9 in Westbury, N.Y., and will play 10 dates before wrapping up Nov. 20 in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Bonham is keeping tabs on Black Country Communion, the all-star band he's in with guitar hero Joe Bonamassa, Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Trapeze) and former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian. The group recently released its third album, "Afterglow," but canceled its one scheduled live date (Jan. 5 in England) and has no plans to tour while Hughes and Bonamassa have been trading barbs in the music press.
"It's just something I was a little upset about, to say the least," Bonham notes. "Otherwise I would've said, 'Let's hold off the third album until we can tour.' But hopefully we can address the situation and maybe we can regroup at some point next year and tour and get it all back. I always knew Joe was gonna be busy. I always knew that. Joe is a very successful solo artist. But we got to a certain point with the thee albums now (that) it's a shame it won't be touring."