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Jason Bonham comes to terms with father's legacy

of the Oakland Press

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Jason Bonham considers his Led Zeppelin Experience show to be “a personal story.”

And he’s certainly the guy to do that.

Bonham was just 14 when his father, Zep drummer John Bonham, died in 1980. The shadow of that legacy has been considerable as he’s pursued his own musical career — with bands such as Bonham, Airace, the TV supergroup Damnocracy and Foreigner — and the younger Bonham even struggled with substance abuse. But since his stint in his father’s chair for Led Zep’s 2007 reunion show in London, Bonham feels his path has been righted, and the Led Zeppelin Experience show is an expression of what both is father and the band have meant to his life.

“It’s really a celebration,” Bonham, 44, says of the multimedia show, which includes footage of Led Zeppelin and his father as well as narration to “give a little background on (the songs) and the reason why I’m playing them, and stories about growing up with dad and how Zeppelin has been part of my life from the beginning.

“It’s a good musical journey; it’ll be sad at times ... but it will really be a celebration of everything my father gave to me.”

Bonham, who in 1996 released a tribute album called “In the Name of My Father: The Zepset,” acknowledges that it took a long time for him as a drummer to come to terms with his dad’s legacy whenever he got behind the kit. “When your father is The Man ... you’ve got a lot to live up to,” says Bonham, who has two children of his own. “A lot of drummers have high expectations of you — or they’re ready to criticize you.

“I always did feel a lot of the pressure. Dad was god to me. Every word he said was the gospel, so I’ve really held him on such a high pedestal all my life. But being sober for nine years, you really accept ‘I am who I am.’ If you want to get quirky about that, it’s going to be a bitter life, so I just enjoy it. And I’m proud. When my name now usually gets Googled, Zeppelin comes up — that ain’t bad.”

Bonham’s endeavor has received a thumbs-up from Zep frontman Robert Plant, and he says that approval is also very important to him.

“I’m not going to hide it from them,” says Bonham, who’s also a member of another all-star group, Black Country Communion. “I will invite them to every show I can, because my goal and dream is, wouldn’t it be cool if I did something that they thought was cool — or something they’d at least say — ‘Y’know what? You did that very well. That was a good thing.’ — and they would get up and play with me?

“That’s what I’m doing it for. I’d love it.”

Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $68, $48 and $38. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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