Heart And Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience At The Greek Theatre
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By Jamie Harvey
I've shed sweat along the trails of Bronson Canyon that border the Greek Theatre before, but as I ascended the hill to my seat in the venue on Aug. 22, it would be the first time I would gaze upon the stage with the hills as a backdrop. The setting, the weather, the company, the music — it would be impossible for the night not to be magical.
People often ask me who my favorite band is, and as I work through one of the world's most complicated questions, sometimes I forget to say Led Zeppelin. It's like being asked what your favorite drink is ... do you forget to say water? Led Zeppelin is as necessary to rock and rollers as water.
Opening the show was Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience, the project of the son of Zep drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham. Sitting far enough away that the details of the figures onstage were fuzzy, one could let their mind wander and pretend that the concert was taking place decades ago, and that this was the real thing. Vocalist James Dylan, who was plucked from YouTube by Bonham in a story of modern-day rock fantasy, hit Robert Plant's high notes well. It was as if "Over The Hills And Far Away" was perfectly timed for the sun setting in L.A. "What Is And What Should Never Be" lulled us further into the night. "When The Levee Breaks" may have been the first Zep song I came to know, and to hear it in that space, in all its glory, was spectacular.
The iconic intro riff to "Barracuda" kicked off Heart's set. Halfway into the song, the audience was mesmerized by the sheer rock and roll power of Ann Wilson's voice and Nancy Wilson's guitar. Heart's catalog meanders from some of the most iconic love ballads of all time to female-fueled rock tracks and heavy yet melodically soulful numbers. As "What About Love?" echoed throughout the amphitheater, I bet every girl in that audience recalled a time when they've cranked that track in someone's name. "Magic Man" kept us grooving, but it was "Mistral Wind" that was my surprise favorite of the night. A deeper cut from 1978's Dog & Butterfly, this melancholy track wandered in the steps of their main influence, Led Zeppelin. A full moon beckoned, adding an extra natural spotlight on the night, as "Dog & Butterfly" showed off the true storytelling, emotion-imbuing power of Heart. Then came a trifecta of greatest hits — "These Dreams," "Alone" and "Crazy On You" — which drove home just how many hits Heart have and how they formulate the soundtrack for any love situation you can think of, be it the lonely, the unrequited, the lustful, the mutual, or the lost.
The third set of the evening made me wonder if Heart doing Zeppelin is better than Heart doing Heart. Jason Bonham returned to the stage to join the Wilsons for six eloquently selected and executed Zeppelin favorites. Beginning with "The Battle Of Evermore," I was transported to a magical place of timelessness. "The Rain Song" reached deep within, and the moment when Heart and Bonham played this song in this space will be one of those show moments that will stick with me forever. "It is the summer of my smiles/Flee from me keepers of the gloom" took on renewed meaning for me this evening. Following "Kashmir," a choir was revealed during the classic "Stairway To Heaven," reminding me of Heart's 2012 Kennedy Center Honors performance that brought tears to Robert Plant. The eight-minute performance was made more bombastic this evening, ending the show on the highest of high notes.
Sometimes I complain about not feeling like I was made for these times, like I missed the best shows from my favorite artists. But on this evening, Heart and Bonham drowned those dreams in their notes of gold.
Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience Set List:
"Rock And Roll"
"Over The Hills And Far Away"
"What Is And What Should Never Be"
"Nobody's Fault But Mine"
"When The Levee Breaks"
"Whole Lotta Love"
Heart Set List:
"What About Love?"
"Kick It Out"
"Even It Up"
"Dog & Butterfly"
"I Need You To Turn To" (Elton John cover)
"Dear Old America"
"Crazy On You"
Heart/Jason Bonham Set List:
"The Battle Of Evermore"
"Misty Mountain Hop"
"The Rain Song"
"Stairway To Heaven"
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)