Thirty three years ago next week I saw Led Zeppelin’s third to last performance with the original four members in Mannhiem, Germany.
Last night I saw the next best thing to seeing the band that reformed for the fabled O2 concert in 2007.
We went to the local concert shed to see Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience open up for Heart. Believe it or not, I had never seen the Wilson sisters perform.
It was a typical hot and humid June night and thankfully we had seats inside the pavilion. The setting sun was still very intense from our seats in the 300 section, near the back of the building. We had our shades on for the first half of Bonham’s band’s set.
Eventually the sun dropped below the tree line and we could begin to see the images on the large video screens on either side of the stage.
The Led Zep Experience ran through a quick set of Zeppelin standards, with Jason occasionally addressing the crowd from behind his kit. The passing and subsequent absence of his Dad, though 33 past, is obviously still an emotional subject.
The band consisted of a trio of hired guns on vocals, guitar and bass. They did a solid, if unremarkable, job with the material. It’s clear that Jason is the star here. Vocalist James Dylan is from the Northern Virginia area, so he had quite a few local supporters. He’s a Plant sound-a-like, even if he is a Daughtry look-a-like.
The band was rounded out by Tony Catania on guitar, and Michael Devin on bass.
Jason, I think Bonzo would be proud.
After a brief intermission, the Anne and Nancy and crew took the stage to the power chords of their signature rocker, “Barracuda”.
Heart ran through set heavy on the hits, with couple of pleasant surprises. Nancy did a solo acoustic cover of Elton John’s “I Need You to Turn to” that was really beautiful. “She’s really underrated as a performer”, I shared with my date, “but she’s in the Hall of Fame”.
Other than the train wreck, “Dear Old America”, it was a solid set with some heavy riffs and the sister’s legendary vocals. No “Dog and Butterfly”, but they did play “Mistral Wind”.
As the final notes of “Crazy On You” rang in the night and faded, the lights dimmed and Jason Bonham’s drum riser was rolled back out on stage for the “encore”.
Anne and Nancy appeared center stage. Anne on acoustic guitar, Nancy on mandolin and they proceeded to play the “Battle of Evermore”, a Zeppelin tune they’ve been covering for probably 30 years or so. It was, if the word can be used on a Led Zeppelin song, sublime.
That was followed by some of my favorite Zep tunes, “The Song Remains the Same”, “The Rain Song”, “The Ocean”, “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven”.
“Stairway” was the closer and they included the choir, albiet a smaller version, that appeared with them on the Kennedy Center Honors awards show honoring Led Zeppelin among others.
Short of seeing Jimmy, Robert and JPJ together on stage again, this is probably as close as a Led Zeppelin fan will get to seeing the band live at this point. Anne Wilson is undisputedly the finest interpreter of Plant’s Led Zeppelin vocals. Finest. Ever. Period.
It’s a show well worth your time.